Camp Fire Alaska’s Rural Program has been giving kids in rural parts of the state a daycamp-like experience for more than 40 years. This summer the program is serving youth in more than 27 villages, providing education about healthy life choices, including cold-water safety and swim lessons.
Camp Fire is a nonprofit organization that started its rural program to address the needs of remote parts of Alaska, including a rate of drowning 10 times higher than the national average.
“Positive messaging for healthy lifestyle choices in rural communities is extremely important," said Nicole Lebo, Camp Fire’s Director of Program Services. "Unfortunately in this state we’re number one in the worst kinds of things, so youth have a hard road ahead of them. We just want to increase the amount of positive adult relationships that they have, and increase the opportunities they have for different types of programming, that they don’t get to see throughout the rest of the year.”
The small rural villages of Iliamna and Newhalen are connected by a six-mile road and share a school, but are still fairly isolated. “A lot of the rural villages we’re in … because they’re off the road system, are pretty remote, so they only have the people in that community there on a regular basis,” Lebo said.
“They are sometimes disconnected from other communities, disconnected from resources. Typical things like food, or the availability to go to day camp. And so ... having us bring a food program, bring our staff, bring the energy, contributes a lot to the community in the summer,” she said.