Akiak Reflection: A Red Cross Volunteer Shares Stories of her Time Spent in the Rural Alaskan Village

By: Rachel Alda, Red Cross of Alaska Volunteer

Group Shot- Rich Yvonne Rachel Steven
Red Cross volunteer Rachel Alda, third from the left, along with Red Cross volunteers Rich and Yvonne, and Red Cross Preparedness Specialist Steven Fisher. 

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to get to visit Akiak, a small village in rural Alaska, with the American Red Cross of Alaska.

Our visit was part of the ongoing Home Fire Campaign, which aims to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by 25 percent. The campaign educates people about fire safety through door-to-door visits and installing smoke alarms at no cost.

Through the help and guidance of Red Cross of Alaska Preparedness Specialist, Steven Fisher, who has prior experience visiting rural villages all over the state, I was able to catch a glimpse of life outside of the “big city” I was accustomed to. This included my first time flying in a 207 aircraft, seeing salmonberry jam being prepared, and staying in school for more than 24 hours, just to name few.

During our short stay there, we met the Campfire counselors. They welcomed us warmly, showed us around the school where we stayed and introduced us to the children of Akiak, who were full of positive energy. I was able to talk to the kids and learn their names, their favorite color, and eventually, all the hottest gossip around camp.

steven and Rachel's name written on pillowcase
A child in Akiak personalizes her pillowcase by writing the names of her new friends from the Red Cross.

As Steven and I established ourselves as familiar faces with the kids, we presented the Pillowcase Project with ease as the kids eagerly participated and demonstrated their knowledge about natural disasters and preparedness.

Our game of Disaster Simon Says, followed by decorating the pillowcases with the kids was the most memorable part of the trip.

I was personally touched when a little girl pulled me towards her pillowcase to show me that she had written our names on hers. To be able to walk around town and see the kids’ faces light up as they recognized us made my day.

Along with meeting the children and educating them about flood, earthquake, and fire safety, we were also able to explore the town by going house to house and installing smoke alarms for those who needed it. The residents welcomed us into their homes with a smile and answered any questions had. In doing so, I was able to learn about their culture through the stories they told us as well as the art and food that we were shown.

Volunteers exiting home
Red Cross volunteers Yvonne and Rich finish installing smoke alarms in a home in Akiak.

Overall, I’m glad that I was able to go on this trip. It opened my eyes to a community different from my own, and I appreciate everything that they have taught me. Hopefully in the future, I will be able to visit more rural villages in Alaska with the Red Cross and experience a new side of the state while informing its residents of preparedness and safety.

senior pic
Red Cross volunteer, Rachel Alda



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