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Alaska Outdoor Program For Those With Disabilities

Kodiak Island subsistance progam for those with disabilities

“Filling Lives While Filling Freezers!”

The subsistence lifestyle is one that is firmly rooted in places like Kodiak Island, Alaska, and many other rural communities around the country. Harvesting one’s own fish, meat, home-grown vegetables and wild edibles is a cultural tradition that dates back for centuries. For many today, it is not only a chosen “organic lifestyle,” but it is also a necessary means of providing food for one’s self and one’s family. Thanks to the efforts of Hope Community Resource’s Outdoor Pursuits Program on Kodiak Island, many individuals who experience disabilities are also now able to fully participate in this important way of life.

Hope Community Resources is a non-profit organization that provides community support and services to hundreds of individuals and families throughout Alaska who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury and mental health challenges. Hope supports a wide range of individuals including infants, the elderly, and those of diverse, ethnic backgrounds.

Why Subsistence?

Many of those who utilize Hope’s supports and services on Kodiak Island are Alaska Natives who have been displaced from their rural communities and have lost their cultural ties along the way. In addition, there are others who would like to experience the subsistence lifestyle, but have not had the opportunity to do so. Hope’s Outdoor Pursuits Program provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate in activities such as hunting, fishing and trapping in order to become acquainted or reacquainted with subsistence activities that are indicative to a traditional Alaskan lifestyle. Whether one is looking for a day outing or wanting to provide their own yearlong supply of game, fowl and fish, access to the Outdoor Pursuits Program is available for everyone who chooses Hope’s supports and services.

outdoor activites and subsistence program for adults with disabilities
Smiles abound on the Hope Boat!

Safety First

Safety is of primary concern to Hope. Any activity in the great Alaskan outdoors has the potential for risk. Hope prepares and compensates for some of this risk through the extensive education of the primary subsistence staff, who are experienced guides and receive thorough, specialized training, including U.S. Coast Guard approved instruction and licensing for 25-ton boats and Advanced First Responder wilderness training and certification.

What They Do

The Kodiak Outdoor Pursuits Program offers year-round activities accessing the unequaled natural resources and pristine beauty of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Hope’s fully accessible landing craft boat allows many individuals with limited mobility to experience the thrill of the catch and gather the joy of inclusion working next to their Kodiak neighbors in the salmon, halibut, crab, and deer harvests, filling their freezers with fresh, healthy fish and game, and substantially reducing their food costs. Throughout the year, individuals deep-sea fish for halibut, lingcod, yellow eye and sea bass. They also put out subsistence long lines and crab pots to harvest more halibut and delicious crab.

One highlight for the summer is the “Red’s Roundup,” which is a week-long fish camp where participants harvest sockeye salmon from gill nets they build themselves, and then process, smoke, and distribute their catch for the upcoming winter months. Also, throughout the season, there are sport fishing opportunities for all species of salmon and dolly varden in Kodiak’s many rivers. Additionally, participants are provided the opportunity to harvest a variety of berries, mushrooms, and other wild edibles.

A Kodiak subsistence participant processing his fresh catch of sockeye salmon.
A Kodiak subsistence participant processing his fresh catch of sockeye salmon.

When fishing slows down or is not in season, opportunities arise for hunting ducks, rabbits, ptarmigan, and deer. Several gun and hunter safety classes are provided to offer regular shooting practice and ensure proper firearm handling. Highlights for the season include weeklong hunting trips in remote areas of Kodiak where individuals have the opportunity to harvest deer, and in more recent years, a moose hunt on the main land of Alaska has also been added to the outdoor program. Again, such hunting trips ultimately contribute to the participants saving a considerable amount of money for the year by greatly reducing their food costs.

Preparing for an upcoming deer hunt on Kodiak Island, Alaska
Preparing for an upcoming deer hunt on Kodiak Island, Alaska

When the weather does not permit outdoor activities, the Outdoor Pursuits Program offers classes and projects such as boating safety, cold weather survival, preservation and cooking of fish and game meats, as well as gear maintenance. An example of one such project includes the building of a new smokehouse.

Hope Community Resources Outdoor Pursuits Program
Outdoor Pursuits Program members with the beautiful smokehouse they built!
Hope's Outdoor Pursuits participants preparing to smoke their recently caught salmon.
Hope’s Outdoor Pursuits participants preparing to smoke their recently caught salmon.

Through Hope’s Outdoor Pursuits Program, participants grow in self-esteem, confidence, and dignity, as well as strengthening their friendships. They learn many new skills, practice existing ones, and gain the satisfaction of providing food for themselves and others. Subsistence participants experience a deep, cultural connection and take great pride in being valuable, self-sustaining members of their community. As the program motto states, subsistence activities truly “Fill lives, while filling the freezer.”

Your Help is Needed!

Due to large, impending State budget cuts, many of the supports and services that Hope Community Resources offers will soon be diminished…in some cases quite substantially. The outdoor program is one such service that is in need of finical help in order to continue operating, expanding, and offering such vital and unique opportunities for those who live with the challenges of disabilities. If you would like to make a financial donation to help keep this program alive and fully functional, or, if you would like to be a sponsor of the program, please contact Justin Wood, Kodiak Subsistence Coordinator, at 907-539-5108, or email: jwoodhope@gmail.com, or Kris Jez, Director of Public Relations for Hope Community Resources, at 907-433-4910, or email: kjez@hopealaska.org

 

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