Traveling to the rural villages of Western Alaska is one of the best ways for our volunteers to connect with our listeners and for our listeners, in turn, to tell us what's happening in their communities. It's so valuable to explore, first-hand, the people and lifestyles that make this region so special.
Public affairs director Matthew Smith recently had such an opportunity; he traveled to the village of Koyuk, where the traditional subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives is still common.
Here's a bit about Matt's fruitful visit, in his own words:
Landing in Koyuk, a small village of 350 people on the southern Seward Peninsula coast, I was ecstatic to see something I missed in Nome: trees!
Koyuk was littered with snow-dusted trees, reminding me of the Poconos of Pennsylvania. As the sun rose over the frozen Koyuk River and peeked over the mountaintops, I knew I'd found a truly beautiful place.
I was in Koyuk to interview two village elders for KNOM's monthly Elder Voices program and to profile recycling in the village. I paged through the family histories and photo albums in the tribal office before leaving to interview Roger Nassuk (NAH-suck), Sr. (photo above). He talked about subsistence living and a near-death experience that rekindled his faith. Afterward, I headed out to interview another elder, Georgiana Anasogak (uh-NES-uh-gock), a bilingual teacher's aide and health aide.
Before leaving Koyuk, I interviewed a new teacher from Texas working in the Head Start (educational) program. I also met a young kindergarten teacher who, like me, had taught English in China. I arrived in time to see her small class putting on skis and heading outside.
After a day of interviews, it was great to become a ski instructor for kindergarteners on the gentle slopes around the school!
Matt's visit to Koyuk - just one of the many fascinating places we serve - was made possible through your support. You'll find more photos of Koyuk below.
It's not enough to count your blessings.
The point is to make your blessings count.
Over the decades, we've been so grateful for the selflessness and high-level expertise of KNOM's engineers. In our small corner of the world, we've been proud to employ some of the best engineers in broadcasting.
One of them is Les Brown. In the wake of the recent passing of Tom Busch - our longtime development director and engineer - Les came "out of retirement" and made an extremely helpful fix-it trip to Nome in January.
In the photo at left, Les - with volunteer newsie Ben Matheson - gives some much-needed care to KNOM's newsroom. The two worked into the wee hours of the night, ironing out the kinks of our news sound board, an essential piece of equipment that's starting to show its age. Les also did invaluable maintenance work at our AM transmitter.
Patience is to let your light shine, even after your fuse is blown out.
Give KNOM a call on any given weekday morning (at 907-443-5221), and you're likely to speak with Betsy Brennan, our development specialist.
Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, Betsy works to keep KNOM's finances on track: whether through corresponding with donors, opening letters, or - as seen above - stamping envelopes!
Thanks to her tireless support - and yours - we're laying the groundwork for our mission's future. In the coming months and years, we plan to expand and renovate KNOM to all-digital studios. We'll have more details soon.
Come to Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.
One of the things that makes KNOM's mission so unique and so vital is its news reporting: especially in moments of local crisis.
We were reminded of our region's challenges recently in the village of Savoonga (seen at left), where unusual weather sparked an extremely long power outage that, in turn, caused a state of emergency.
Volunteer news reporter Ben Matheson explains:
I went to Savoonga in early January to report on recovery efforts within the community following a week of power outages. A later-than-normal freeze-up of the Bering Sea and strong winds caused saltwater to spray and freeze on transformers, bringing widespread outages and damage to houses and public buildings. Close to 50 homes were affected by freezing and bursting pipes.
Despite blizzard conditions, subzero temperatures, minimal daylight, and a difficult location, the community response was impressive. Teams of snowmobilers went out into 50 below (-50º F) wind chills to chop frozen driftwood from the beaches for heating use. City employees helped to distribute gas and emergency supplies. Several men went from house to house to check on elders and children.
On New Year's Eve, the community's regular celebration was postponed, but a group cooked pizzas by flashlight for hours to feed the families who spent the holiday in the shelter of the school.
I spoke with a lineman from the utility who had been working for 10 days in snow, subzero temperatures, and wind chills reaching 40 below. To stay warm, he was bundled up, head to toe, and he had a distinct layer of ice over his body. He was physically tired from climbing utility poles in blizzard conditions for over a week, but he soldiered on, trying to isolate the hardware that was causing problems.
Power had been restored to much of the community by the time I visited. People were happy to share their stories with me about the time the lights and heat went out in the dead of winter.
We were able to tell this extraordinary story thanks to you.
Top three photos at left: scenes around Savoonga, Alaska this January; at bottom: Ben with a few of Savoonga's residents.
Lord, help me to be a friend to all who need me.
Show me how to share Your love.
Teach me to see You in others.
As we go to press, we've just wrapped up our coverage of the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race: a 300-mile competition that runs through the southern fringes of our listening area.
For many mushers and broadcasters alike, the K-300 is a "warm-up" race for the Iditarod, which we'll be proud to cover again this March. Our on-location reporter Leah Radde took the photo above: a musher leaves the starting line in Bethel, racing on the river ice past a phalanx of spectators, taking shelter in their cars from subzero wind chills outside.