Winter 2016 – Forget-Me-Not – Making a Difference in Our Community

Jennifer Yuhas at the Forget-Me-Not booth during First Alaskans Institute’s Elders & Youth Conference in Anchorage. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Jennifer Yuhas at the Forget-Me-Not booth during First Alaskans Institute’s Elders & Youth Conference in Anchorage. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

By Angela Gonzalez

Samuel Johns is Ahtna and Gwich’in Athabascan with family from Copper Center and Arctic Village. He has lived in Anchorage since 2005. Also known as AK Rebel, Samuel is a father, rapper, motivational speaker, performer and founder of the Forget-Me-Not Facebook group. He is also a member of the Ahtna Heritage Dancers.

In December, the RurAL CAP Board of Directors recognized Sam. Sober for eight years, he travels all over Alaska giving motivational talks to young people. At 15 years of age, Sam began writing poetry that he transformed to rap music. He wanted to make a bold statement to youth letting them know they will always be tested with life’s challenges. His music encourages them to face these challenges head on as a way to help prevent substance abuse.

Since its inception in June, the Forget-Me-Not Facebook page has taken off and currently has more than 20,000 followers. Sam came up with the idea after speaking with a homeless woman who approached him asking for spare change. The woman told him she was from Angoon. Sam told her he would do what he could.

The Forget-Me-Not movement supporters perform at Bean’s Café in Anchorage. Photo by Samuel Johns

The Forget-Me-Not movement supporters perform at Bean’s Café in Anchorage. Photo by Samuel Johns

But after he returned home, Sam could only remember the town she was from. He knew there must be a better way to help Alaska Native homeless people connect with families back home who have lost track of them. After about a week, he came up with the idea of using Facebook. He started a group that he named after the Alaska State flower and within a day-and-a-half, more than 3,000 people joined the Facebook page. Sam said, “I just wanted it to be a way to track down people, so I won’t forget.”

The Forget-Me-Not Facebook page allows us to see homeless people as equal human beings, worthy of respect, love, and care. It illustrates how the action of one person can start a powerful movement that changes many lives. Although, Sam is quick to point out that it is not only his page. He says, “It couldn’t have happened without everybody being a part of it. It’s been incredible watching it grow.”

Sam says, “I am no CEO of a corporation, I have no political agenda, I have not been funded by some federal grant and no I am not qualified to do what I have been doing. What I did was take the word “I” out of what I’ve been doing. Then “WE” put our hearts together and made an unforgettable impact in Alaska. I can’t change the world, but we can.”

The Forget-Me-Not movement continues to gain momentum and there is a group of dedicated volunteers who are working to make it a non-profit organization. See photos and updates on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/forgetmenotak/.

Forget-Me-Not collage. Photos courtesy Samuel Johns

Forget-Me-Not collage. Photos courtesy Samuel Johns

Forget Me Not Alaska Facebook Page Description and Instructions
This group is to help reconnect the people in need to their family, friends and culture. What I usually do is offer them a care package to start a conversation and then explain to them about the Facebook group and what it’s meant for. Some may want to let their families know that they are okay. Some may make a request for some of their traditional foods. Some may even ask if they can get help back to their home. If this group helps reconnect people to their families, then we are making a difference.

Before posting their photo, ask them if that photo is okay.

What we need is:
1. A name of the person in the photo
2. Where he/she is from
3. Ask if he/she is Native, if so, what group or tribe they belong to.
4. Ask if he/she wants to send a message to a loved one.
5. Ask if they have a wish.

After you’re done, post all of their info with the photo and see how we come together to help the ones in need. I hope you all are kind and respectful towards anyone that you come across. Thank you everyone. Now let’s all make a difference together.

 

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