SP is in the second year of a project in the small village of Hooper Bay. Hooper Bay is about 500 miles west of Anchorage, in far western Alaska. It sits on the Bering Sea, about 300 miles from the Bering Strait and Russia. There are no roads to Hooper Bay; it is accessible only by plane or by boat. It is a small village, about 1,100 people, and is almost exclusively (98%) comprised of Yupik Eskimos.In 2005, the school caught fire and burned; the resulting fire also burned 17 homes in the community (when you consider that there are only 40-50 homes in the entire town, that's a lot!). Franklin Graham (yes--he's Billy Graham's son and also the CEO of SP) was in Alaska at the time, and immediately flew to Hooper Bay to evaluate the scene. What he saw then, and what we saw these past two weeks, is hard to believe.Most of the town of Hooper Bay lives in Third World conditions; no running water or sewer systems in their homes, and although most have electricity, some do not. They have oil furnaces to heat their homes, but since the price of oil is $6.00+/gallon, many heat with driftwood collected on the beach. There are dirt roads in town, but only 2 or 3 vehicles. However, the villagers have a huge collection of four-wheelers that they use for transportation. Most of the homes look derelict and abandoned; you are shocked to find out that an entire extended family lives here. For many months of the year, the town is covered in snow and ice, with 18 hours of darkness each day. Abuse, in all of it's various forms, is very prevelant in town, and depression and suicide are major issues, especially among the teens in town.
In this inhospitable place, the Yupik Eskimos have lived for centuries, and they thrive here. It's their ancestral home, where generations and generations have lived. They have no desire to move anywhere else, and SP is committed to making life better. In 2006, SP built 5 private homes for families, and this year is building a combination church/youth center for the village, and a home for the pastor of the local church. These were the two projects that we came to work on.
Today was a travel day: we flew in a small plane from Soldotna to Hooper Bay, and landed in a pouring rain. We spent the rest of the day making ourselves at home in our new accommodations, a series of tents pitched just outside a temporary sewage lagoon built several years ago (and mainly unused). SP has 10 weeks of teams coming this summer, and this is where they live while in town. The two large brown tents are a bathhouse facility and dining facility; the six small tents are for sleeping.