Local youth offer proposals at global peace forum

It may be cold and dark in wintry Alaska, but at the Dec. 5 meeting of the Homer Downtown Rotary Club, four local teens spoke about their upcoming trip to tropical Honolulu, Hawaii.

The trip isn’t about sun and surf, however. These four were practicing presentations they and two others will give at the Rotary Global Peace Forum, Jan. 25-27.

Taylor Ellison of Anchor Point gave a presentation she and Katherine Dolma of Homer developed to bring peace through an outdoor camp for children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences. 

“Being outside is peaceful. It makes you happy and it’s so good for your confidence,” said Ellison of the camp for 10- to 12-year-olds. 

Ellison described impacts associated with nature deficit disorder, a nonmedical condition describing what happens when humans are alienated from nature. She also cited research indicating the benefits time outdoors can have on children diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder).  

The camp will be staffed with volunteers, the number of campers will be determined by the facility’s size, and Ellison and Dolma will work with local service providers to identify youngsters who can benefit from the program. 

“So you are proposing to the outside world that this would help bring peace to the world,” said Rotarian Vivian Finley.

“Yes,” said Ellison.

Traven Apiki of Homer, Amelia Tyrer of Homer and Ivana Ash of Nanwalek presented a very different approach to peace. Their idea: Peace Tidal Generators. Their approach: peace through sharing natural resources.

Their arguments for tidal power included its predictability and renewability, its lack of pollution and its adaptability to small communities the size of Homer. Setbacks are the initial cost and maintenance, and the need to avoid negative impacts in marine life.

Best locations in the world for tidal power are areas of extreme tides, such as the Bay of Fundy in Canada and, of course, Alaska. Several countries already have tidal-generated power stations, including Canada, China, France and South Korea.

“I would love to see this implemented here,” said Apiki.

“It’s not impossible,” said Ash’s father, who traveled from Nanwalek to see the presentation.

Scholarship funds from the Homer Kachemak Bay and Homer Downtown Rotary clubs, Steve and Noko Yoshida and Jane Little are making it possible for Apiki, Ash, Dolma, Ellison, Tyrer and McKenzy Haber of Homer to participate in the forum. Other Rotarians have contributed mileage and-or companion tickets to assist with travel costs, according to Finley.

Apiki served as a Conservation Corps intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is currently the vice president of the Alaska FFA Association and the 2013 organizer of TEDxYouth in Homer. 

Ash grew up in Nanwalek in a Sugt’stu-speaking family. She loves to learn and try new things and share her culture, language and ways of living with others.

Dolma’s book “Women Scientists of Kachemak Bay” won her a Girl Scout bronze award at the age of 10. At 12 she won a silver award for her commitment to cleaning Homer’s beaches. EcoLogical, a group including Dolma and friends, won the Presidential Environmental Youth Award for its efforts to reduce waste.

Ellison is a self-professed outdoor enthusiast who used descriptions of personal hiking experiences with family members in her presentation. She also is involved in her family’s business, Water Solutions.

Haber’s accomplishments include speaking at WILD9, creating a teen program for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and winning the Toyota Eco car challenge for sustainable driving. He also won an award for his participation in the Technology 4 a Better World competition.

Tyrer has participated on Homer High School’s DDF (Drama, Debate and Forensics) team for two years, she received the Presidential Achievement award from President Bush for improving her grades from failing to succeeding.

The teens are being assisted in preparing for forum by Haber’s mom, Kat, and by Beth Trowbridge, executive director of Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.  

The Global Peace Forum is an opportunity for people of all ages and different areas “to share ideas and develop strategies to progress toward a more peaceful world,” according to information provided by Rotary.

The Yoshidas, who divide their time between Homer and Hilo, Hawaii, are helping organize the forum for Rotary International President Sekuji Tanaka.

In addition to the forum in Honolulu, one was held in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, another will be held in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 17-19.

The locations were in keeping with Tanaka’s vision to convene Rotarians at locations most impacted by World War II where healing is occurring.

The keynote speaker will be Aung San Suu Kyi, a Member of Parliament of the Union of Burma. Early in her career, she worked in the office of the United Nations Secretariat in New York and was a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for South East Asian Studies in Kyoto University and the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies in Simla. Following her return to Burma in 1988, she was placed under house arrest until 1995, again during 2000-2002 and again from 2003-2010. She is the recipient of more than 120 awards and honors internationally, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. 

For more about the Rotary Global Peace Forum, visit hawaiipeaceforum.org.