RurAL CAP's first Senior Companion volunteer

Sassa Alexandria Dunn was born October of 1933 and given the Yupi'k name Amarchuli by her mom, Nanny Franklin, and dad, George Andrew. When she was just three years old Sassa's mom passed away and she was raised by her grandma. Sassa remembers having a beautiful childhood filled with laughter, stories and family. Her favorite memories are from her time at fish camp on the Igushik River.

When Sassa was old enough, she moved to Naknek to work. where she made 50 cents per week washing dishes for a local teacher. Once she turned 16, she started working as a nurse's aide in the Naknek hospital. Her most vivid memories are of helping patients who were affected by tuberculosis. Sassa didn't ever attend school regularly. She remembers her grandma telling her that 'school you learn to be lazy, work you learn to move'.

At age 17, a priest in Naknek helped send Sassa to Mt. Edgecume High School for an education, but it wasn't long after she arrived that she turned 18 and chose to move to Anchorage. She worked at Providence Hospital before getting married in the mid-1950s. Once married, Sassa settled on a homestead in the Rabbit Creek area of Anchorage where she raised her 10 children (eight sons and two daughters), who are all in good health today.

Sassa has always lived a life of service to her family and to her community.

She volunteered in her children's schools as well as regularly at local food banks or soup kitchens providing meals for the homeless. Today, at 91 years, Sassa says she is always looking forward to giving back in any way she can so when she heard about the Senior Companion Program at RurAL CAP, she thought this would be a good opportunity to see people in the community and help others. Sassa loves to tell stories, especially Eskimo bedtime stories. One of them is published at the end of this story.

As a Senior Companion, she is hoping to share stories and make new friends. Sassa's advice to others young and old is, "Be kind to everyone and everyone will be kind to you. And help where help is needed."

RurAL CAP's Senior Companion Program is an opportunity for individuals age 55 and older to serve their communities by providing companionship to their peers in need. The program is currently accepting applications. Benefits for qualifying seniors 55+ include paid time off, a tax-free stipend, paid holidays, meal reimbursement, and travel assistance. Call for more information and to apply, 907-717-7932. Check out the online application and learn more at http://www.eldermentor.org. Reach the team via e-mail at asp@ruralcap.org.

Ella Jusczak is the RurAL CAP Elder Services Program Coordinator.

Whee Whanee Whah

By Sassa Dunn

Whee Whanee Whah, her husband and her family of five little chicks lived far away in the mountains near the beautiful blue lakes. As was her husband's daily routine, when the weather got warmer, he would fly long distances looking for insects and pug-ah-looks (worms) for the little family of five. Soon they were growing fat and healthy he didn't mind traveling many miles, for he was very devoted to his little family.

But one evening at sunset he didn't come home. Whee Whanee Whah was very worried, for her little family was very hungry. She comforted them as best she could and promised her hungry five little chicks that at daybreak they shall go along the beach near the village and look for her husband. Maybe he got sick, or he may be injured, she thought.

So, the next day Whee Whanee Whah loaded her little chicks into the little sled and traveled all day toward the distant village, remembering how her husband had marveled at the fat succulent pug-ah-looks to be found under the village fish racks. She was very tired when she reached the deserted village. Oh, good she thought, I don't have to hide from those young boys that like to throw stones at us. She rested at the first fish rack and fed her little chicks all the fat pug-ah-looks they could eat.

After they fell asleep, she pushed the sled along and passed many fish racks with no sign of her husband. Looks like he didn't come here after all, she thought. There was the last fish rack in the distance. "I may as well check that one too," she thought. "I'll load up the sled with some nice pug-ah-looks from there."

When she finally reached the last fish rack, there was her husband lying with the side of his head caved in. Where some young boy's stone had found its target. "Oh no!" she cried, "Someone has hit my husband with a stone and killed him. Who is going to help me feed my little chicks?"

Shortly there was a loud whoosh from nearby and an old crow landed with a loud thud. He said in a deep voice, "I could be your husband. I'm sure I could help you feed them." Pointing to her little chicks sleeping. "No!" she wailed "You will not be my husband. We don't eat garbage. We don't eat rotten food! Now go away!"

So, Crow flew away and Crane flying overhead heard Whee Whanee Whah crying so he swooped down thinking, "Oh what a beautiful woman, even when she is crying." He stepped gingerly toward her and peeked at the sleeping chicks. "Oh lady, I'll be a good husband. I'll provide them with all the food they can eat. I'm a good hunter." She glanced his way and cried even more, "Oh, the likes of you could never replace my husband. We don't eat mice and we don't live in the wet, damp swamps."

So, Crane flew away. Whee Whanee Whah cried all night and at daybreak loaded down the sled with lots and lots of fat pug-ah-looks and started pushing toward the mountains near the blue lakes. There were enough worms for her and her chicks to eat and grow and for them to learn to fly. But to this day, she sings off into the distance for her husband, "Whee Whanee Whah," meaning "I'm Right Here".

 
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