My name is Rishi Gokhale and I am 11 years old. I first became interested in the Arctic region when I was in Kindergarten – thanks to “Lazy Town”, a television show that was produced in Iceland. Three years ago, when my Mom and I visited Iceland, I learned about an inhabited archipelago even closer than Iceland to the North Pole. That archipelago is Svalbard, and it’s located midway between the Arctic Circle and the North Pole. Longyearbyen, located at 78 degrees North latitude, is the most populated town in Svalbard with approximately 2,000 residents. It is an ideal location for studying the Environment, Arctic Wildlife, Fossils, Geology, Astronomy and Oceanography. I was amazed when I found out that the 2,000 inhabitants of Longyearbyen, Svalbard are from more than 50 countries around the world, making it a microcosm of humanity! It was fascinating to learn that a small town in such a remote part of the world is nearly as diverse as New York City! Longyearbyen also has the world’s only Global Seed Vault. Seeds from over 140 countries are stored here due to permafrost conditions in the region. Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault could be the savior of humanity in the event of global famine or some other catastrophe.
In July this year, my Mom and I visited Svalbard as a part of our Norway trip. A very helpful lady at the Svalbard Visitor Center in Longyearbyen introduced us to Mr. Mark Sabbatini, who is a Journalist and Editor of “Icepeople” (www.icepeople.net), the world’s northernmost newspaper! Icepeople is a free weekly newspaper, available both online and in print. It reports on news about life, science, nature, the environment, wildlife, adventure, politics and other general weirdness in Svalbard as well as the Arctic region. Mr. Sabbatini is very knowledgeable, kind and generous man, and the people of Svalbard really appreciate his work. For over a decade, Mr. Sabbatini has been the one-man army of Icepeople – doing everything from field reporting, writing, photography, editing as well as online and print publishing of this newspaper. He also personally delivers the print copies of the newspaper to the local community.
For the last ten years, Mr. Sabbatini has published this newspaper mostly with his own funds. Unfortunately, Mr. Sabbatini cannot continue to publish this newspaper much longer without urgent help, due to immense hardship. Last year, he broke his hip in a fall, and had to undergo surgery. As he was recovering from the surgery, Mr. Sabbatini also broke his other hip due to fall on ice - requiring another surgery. It has been a very tough recovery phase for Mr. Sabbatini. He has used up his savings for medical expenses. Mr. Sabbatini was also not able generate income from side jobs during his recovery. Despite all the hardships, Mr. Sabbatini is continuing to publish IcePeople with his fast depleting resources. He will continue for as long as he can, since he believes it’s his life’s work. However, without urgent help, this newspaper from Svalbard, which is so important to humanity for so many reasons, won’t survive much longer.
Mr. Mark Sabbatini’s appeal in his own words to help save the world’s northernmost newspaper is as follows:
“For ten years I've published Icepeople mostly with my own funds because as a lifelong journalist I feel this is the most newsworthy small town on Earth and will be for decades to come. But due to immense hardships now, I cannot continue to publish without immediate and substantial help. In an era when truly independent and non-corporate media are rapidly vanishing, I'm begging all of you to help keep alive a paper that has attracted widespread global attention because it covers serious and silly matters of global importance.”
I sincerely request everyone to generously donate to this noble cause. Donations of any amount are helpful. No amount is too small, and every donation will make a positive difference.
Additional Disclosure Requested by GoFundMe:
My name is Rishi Gokhale. I am 11 years old. I live in Rhode Island, USA with my parents. My mom and I met with Mr. Mark Sabbatini for the first time in the first week of July this year (2018) when a kind lady at the Visitor's Center in Longyearbyen, Svalbard introduced him to me. He is not related to me. He was not known to me or my parents before I met him this summer.
I learned that Mr. Sabbatini has been the sole journalist, photographer, editor, publisher and financial backer of Icepeople.Net - a free, non-profit newspaper, that's the northernmost newspaper on Earth. Mr. Sabbatini has supported this newspaper out of his own savings and income from side jobs for the last decade. Unfortunately, due to series of unfortunate events (including his home getting destroyed by an avalanche 2 years ago, and both of his hips needing surgery due to fracture caused by two separate falls), Mr. Sabbatini has exhausted his savings. I learned that he would be forced to leave Svalbard and the Earth's northernmost newspaper will cease to exist.
Initially, my parents and a few others donated money (more than $1,000) to help Mr. Sabbatini continue the newspaper, but we all realized that the amount needed to ensure long term survival of the Earth's northernmost newspaper is more than what we could contribute ourselves. So, I started this GoFundMe campaign, and I am proud that in the first 35 days, we have raised one-third of our target. What's more amazing is that we had almost no day when we didn't receive any contribution. All funds raised will go to Mr. Mark Sabbatini so that he can continue to stay in Longyearbyen, Svalbard and continue publishing his newspaper both in print and online (www.icepeople.net). As Mr. Sabbatini recovers fully from his two hip surgeries, he will also be able to support his newspaper from the income he'll earn from doing other jobs (tour guide, translator, document editor, book author, photographer, etc.). This fundraising will really help him get back on his feet (both figuratively and in reality).
Since Mr. Sabbatini lives in Svalbard, Norway, and I started this campaign in the US, GoFundMe advised me that I'll need to withdraw funds and transfer to Mr. Sabbatini outside of GoFundMe. Further, since I am only 11 years old (less than 18 years old), an adult (In this case my father) would have to receive the withdrawal and transfer it further to the ultimate beneficiary, Mr. Mark Sabbatini. Due to delays in receiving withdrawals from GoFundMe, my father has already wire transferred an advance amount of $1,000 to Mr. Mark Sabbatini last month since Mr. Sabbatini had urgent need for funds to meet basic expenses. Going forward, as soon as the periodic automatic withdrawal amounts are received in my father's bank account from GoFundMe, he will wire transfer the amount received to Mr. Mark Sabbatini's bank account in Norway. I am going to request Mr. Sabbatini to post an update or a comment every time the funds are received by him so that all donors can be informed of the progress.
Thank you GoFundMe for creating this wonderful platform where the needy can receive funds from the community at large, and where the donors can be sure their contributions are used for the purpose as disclosed by the campaign organizers.