3 Homer youths to participate in World Wilderness Congress

For Traven Apiki, a 2012 Homer High School graduate, maintaining a close relationship to the outdoors and encouraging others to do the same is essential.

“Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always been able to see water from my house or been able to walk to it within minutes,” he said. “That’s something I never want to change.”

Apiki has strengthened that connection through internships with the Youth Conservation Corps and the Student Conservation Association. In January, Apiki, Amelia Tyrer of Homer and Ivana Ash of Nanwalek presented their project to use tides to generate energy at the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Now, Apiki is preparing to participate in the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain, Oct. 4-10.

“I’m honored to have been invited to attend and am working hard to raise money to offset the $3,500 cost,” said Apiki. 

Donations can be made online at piggybackr.com, select “browse projects” and scroll to Apiki’s project. He also has partnered with the Sons of the American Legion on a raffle, a portion of the proceeds helping with his expenses.

“He is a member of the Sons of the American Legion and they are helping him to do this by doing a meat raffle,” said Legion spokesperson Tim Clark of a raffle that includes a first prize of 132 pounds of meat from McNeil Canyon Meat Company, second prize of $100 cash, and third and fourth prizes of steak dinners at Post 16. Tickets are $20 each and available at American Legion Post 16 on East End Road. The drawing will be held Sept. 27.

Apiki said the 10th World Wilderness Congress, known as WILD 10, “is the largest gathering of conservationists and global leaders, with more than 50 countries represented and more than 1,200 delegates.” 

For his part, Apiki has made a series of short documentaries to be shown at the event.

“They’re about wild places, to expose children and youth to places they wouldn’t normally see in hopes it will get them outside more, to want to go outside and experience wildlife,” said Apiki, who is using his own experiences as the subject matter. “I’ve been around Alaska, various places that most people never get the opportunity to see.”

Some of those places were shown in the video accompanying Apiki’s lunchtime presentation at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center recently, when he talked about interning with the Student Conservation Association. The video also included photos of Apiki’s volunteer efforts in Galena earlier this year. Galena-based employees with the Koyukuk-Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge and other area residents were impacted when the Yukon River overflowed its banks, destroying more than 100 homes.

“The (Fish and Wildlife Service) was looking for volunteers around the state to help and Traven was interested,” said Marc Webber, deputy manager of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. “He’s a great young man. We were happy to have him.”

Apiki also credits his strong connection with the outdoors to the Shumagin Islands wildlife surveys he helped conduct during his 2011 internship with the Youth Conservation Corps.

“I experienced what wild places really are, places not really touched and altered by humans,” he said. “It kind of opened my eyes to how amazing the wildlife is, all the flora and fauna.”

In September, Apiki will begin his studies at the University of Hawaii in Hilo, where he plans to major in marine biology and Hawaiian studies.

Also traveling from Homer to the World Wilderness Congress are Adi Davis and McKenzy Haber. According to Haber’s mother, Kat, Haber will be presenting at the event three conservation rap anthems he has recorded professionally and Davis has created a conservation blog about wild places.

“I took about a dozen kids to the ninth World Congress in Mexico in 2009 and the anecdotal reports from those kids is that it was absolutely life changing,” said Kat Haber. “They saw a world of people who were actively doing things to take care of the wild places, plants and animals.”

Begun more than 35 years ago, the first World Wilderness Congress was held in South Africa and has continued to meet about every four years in a different country. 

For as many places as Apiki has been, going out of the United States — with the exception of Canada  — will be a new experience.

“I am extremely excited,” said Apiki. “I’ve never been out of the country.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.