Working side by side with my husband and children, helping, reaching out, and learning from people in a culture vastly different from our own together as a family was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. We are already planning our next volunteer vacation.
"As the evening proceeded, nearly everyone including the visitors participated in traditional dances. It was wonderful seeing my daughters dance in the circle with people from La Push and all over the world."—GCN trip participant
La Push is a tiny fishing village on the Pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula. It is located four and a half hours from Seattle near Forks, WA. The Quileute people were early arrivers to the La Push area. For millennia the Quileute have used long boats to fish whale and seal in the sacred ocean waters. They are the "children of the raven" and have no language relatives in the region. GCN has partnered with the Quileute Tribal Council of La Push, Washington, for over eight years. Since the partnership began, GCN teams have assisted on community projects that focus on maintaining the Quileute culture. Past projects have included building a home for the Self Help Drumming Group, a support group for drug and alcohol recovery, the building of an outdoor amphitheater, gardening and beach cleanup and supporting community elders on projects in their homes.
The GCN team meets at the Seattle-Tacoma airport before noon on the first day of the trip. The team will drive together from Seattle to La Push, approximately a four hour journey.
The journey to La Push may include a ferry ride across Puget Sound. They will stop for lunch and grocery shopping before arriving to meet the hosts in La Push. The team settles into the accommodations and begins to map out plans for their time in community. Throughout the week, the team will work with the community on any number of projects. At the end of the trip, the team will depart La Push early in the morning to catch afternoon flight home from the Seattle-Tacoma airport, or team members may choose to continue on with independent travel plans visiting other attractions in the Pacific Northwest. The GCN experience is time in the host community, which allows for plenty of time to get to know the local community in your own way. Often, team members like to explore the surrounding area for an occasional day trip. Team members have opportunities to hike along the Olympic National Park beaches, and visit hot springs and beautiful waterfalls. It is also possible to hike in Hurricane Ridge and Hoh National Rainforest, both parts of Olympic National Park.
A Day in Community
Team members awake in their communal lodging surrounded by lush forests and sounds of the Olympic National Forest. Crashing ocean waves can be heard while the team enjoys breakfast before setting out in the community. Some projects in the community include refurbishing buildings, gardening, and projects with elders and youth. After a lunch break with the community, team members can continue working on various projects, visit with elders and listen to their stories or explore the breath-taking nature areas. Evenings in La Push may include a salmon bake or bonfire on the beach. The team may participate in a weekly drumming circle with the community. In the evenings, the team will gather to discuss things they learned during the day--traditions practiced by the community, games with local youth and visits with community members. They will sit in group reflection and discussion before resting for the evening.
Program fees cover airport pick-up and transportation, lodging, meals at site and en-route to and from site, cultural orientation and training, a donation to the community project and project administration. Airfare to/from Seattle and costs relating to activities outside of the reservation are an additional responsibility of the individual participant.