Save Earth's Northernmost Newspaper

$11,775 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 162 people in 6 months
Created September 10, 2018

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.
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Dear Donors,

I am happy to announce that when I came home from school today, I saw that we have crossed $11,000 in fundraising for this project! Thanks for all your donations and support.

I also received an update message from Mr. Mark Sabbatini yesterday. I am posting that message below. Please read and share it with your family and friends, and request their contribution so that we can send back to the North Pole some of the joy Santa brings us around this time every year.

Thank you,


Message from Mr. Mark Sabbatini below:

Exactly three years ago at this hour (11 p.m.) I was sitting awake in semi-terror as my fragile apartment building was being shaken by Longyearbyen's worst blizzard in decades. I spent nearly the entire night posting updates about the roof of the school blowing off onto the nearby football field by winds of up to 120 km/h, roads and vehicles being quickly submerged by intense snow, and water and sewage pipes being ripped apart (yet somehow the power stayed on). When I finally fell asleep from pure exhaustion around 7 a.m. the next day the storm had greatly subsided, and I thought the worst thing to come was digging out and assessing any damage to my car.

I was incredibly wrong.

I woke up shortly before noon and staggered into the bathroom in a daze, checking my iPod for storm updates. That's when I got the shock felt on a much more massive scale a short time ago, as an avalanche up to four meters high destroyed 11 homes in the center of town and buried about ten people, two of them fatally.

It was a tragedy that sent a community already reeling from the near total shutdown of the coal mining company that was the town's economic base into a period of uncertainty and transition on a scale defying comparison.

The impacts were also deeply personal, as being the only English-language news source for locals and outsiders needing quick and essential information was a landmark moment for Icepeople in terms of credibility and exposure. But while the next year or so marked a peak for the newspaper, I was suffering immense hardship, beginning two months after the avalanche when I was forced to abandon my apartment because of the damage softening permafrost had inflicted.

Many of you have read about my situation for this Go Fund Me campaign, but as I sit here again writing past midnight about the extreme situations of this extreme location happening to perfectly normal people, my memories on the third anniversary of the avalanche are of the so many people who kept me here to help me fight – and didn't abandon me when I was ready to give up the fight.

Rishi, his family and all of you have been a huge part of that since this summer, when I hit absolute physical, mental and financial rock bottom. The process of rehabilitating broken bones, serious viral infections and literally living day-to-day on whatever possessions I could sell is one that required time and clear thinking – none of which would have been possible without your help.

The near final straw was when I broke my shoulder in two places a month ago and nearly was denied treatment at a hospital on the mainland. But the diligent effort of some local doctors made the difference, and while I was there I received treatment for much of what else was ailing me. In the three weeks since I've returned I've felt better in all senses than I have in a year and, aside from the still-healing shoulder, everything seems back to normal.

As such, I've been able to resume publishing articles consistently and of a quality I'm OK with. Which is important, because right now we're dealing with major issues like a large part of town that was forced out of their homes for the winter due to avalanche worries and how we're gong to house those people when the homes are torn down starting next fall.

And while a weird string of mishaps continue, it seems there's blessings for each one. Somebody stole the keys from my car a few days ago, for example (usually it's safe leaving them in the ignition here), but thanks to a person with an extra snowmobile I'm now getting around in the mind-awakening outdoors (and after being infirm for so long it feels great).

Right now I'm working on my "10 strangest stories of 2018" and "10 biggest stories of 2018" features, which will allow everyone to experience the incredibly diverse and unique happenings here in an easy-to-absorb fashion while recovering from those indulgent holiday meals. Speaking of which, Christmas this close to the North Pole means that of course there's festive events non-stop and being at them this year feels more festive than ever.

My hope for the coming year is all of you will discover the magic that I, Rishi and so many others have experienced here - and that the newspaper he's working so hard to save will be the coolest source for it.

God jul!
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Dear Donors,

Some of you may have already read the article in today's Providence Journal newspaper about our campaign to Save Earth's Northernmost Newspaper. For others, I am providing the link below:


I want to once again thank you for your generous donations and support over the last 3 months. Please share this campaign with your friends, family members and coworkers and encourage them to donate for this cause during this holiday season of giving.

Thank you for your support!

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Dear Donors,

MSN web site posted a wonderful slideshow on Longyearbyen, Svalbard early this morning. I want to share it with you. Please click on the link below to enjoy:


Please share this campaign with your family, friends and coworkers this holiday season, and please encourage them to contribute and support this campaign in any amount. Please also check www.icepeople.net for the latest news from the Arctic!

Best regards,

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Dear Donors,

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Today, I have a good news and a bad news to share with you. The good news is that Mr. Mark Sabbatini was awarded a cultural grant of NOK 75,000 (over US$9,000) by the Norwegian government for his important work! The bad news is that couple of days ago, he slipped and fell again while rushing to a meeting. The fall has caused dislocation of shoulder and fracture of right arm. He is being moved to mainland Norway for medical treatment including surgery. It's amazing to see how committed people like Mr. Sabbatini are to their life's mission, living in remote regions of Earth under harsh conditions. We wish Mr. Sabbatini very speedy recovery.

After we reached $10,000 in fundraising on November 10th, I have noticed that the pace of contributions has slowed down. Please note that Mr. Sabbatini still needs additional funds to secure the long term future of the Earth's northernmost newspaper. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, please share this appeal with your friends, family members and coworkers, and help us reach close to our goal. Mr. Sabbatini and I sincerely appreciate your donations and continued support for this project.

Below is a personal message Mr. Sabbatini sent me over a week ago (before his recent injury) by e-mail. I am also attaching 3 pictures Mr. Sabbatini sent me. These pictures show life in Longyearbyen, Svalbard during the long polar night. I hope you like them.




Message from Mr. Mark Sabbatini below:


On Nov. 2, 2008, my life changed forever when I moved to Longyearbyen to start Icepeople. There were only a few days left where there was a bit of midday twilight before total darkness set in until near the end of January. While a "normal" person might think a new life marked by darkness, bitter cold, blizzards and isolation as a stranger in a tiny island town far north of everywhere would utterly chill the soul, what followed during my first polar winter was pure magic (which I wrote about in this article for The Guardian:


Incredibly, just two months ago it seemed impossible I could somehow remain here long enough simply to celebrate that 10-year mark, let alone keep publishing my newspaper beyond it. But thanks to Rishi and all of you, I'm not only celebrating the beginning of my second decade here, but feeling the glow of hoping I'll be here for all the traditional and unexpected news that will light up the long night. There's still some distance to cover – to truly cover long-term costs beyond publishing during the next couple of months...a perfect example is maintenance/supplies for things like two photocopiers I have to print the newspaper (literally thousands of dollars, but that will offers many months of publishing for the cost of a few weeks of paying others for it),

What makes the dark season so amazing as both a journalist and a person who loves Svalbard? Consider the stories told by these pictures, which will be among the many articles being published in the coming days:

• Most people will look at the Northern Lights over the mountains and see a breathtaking Arctic landscape. But, as with some much in Svalbard, there's a harsh reality in all that beauty. The photo shows one of several areas in Longyearbyen near mountains that are exposed to extreme risk of avalanches due to extreme storms now being caused by climate change, and as a result will likely be evacuated during major storms this winter and no longer occupied after being demolished before next winter. This is the primary reason for the town's severe housing crisis I've written about so often the past couple of years and will be doing for some time to come.

• People often ask how I can stand living in the never-ending darkness and how do people cope. As the photo of local university students around a bonfire under yet more Northern Lights shows, people here embrace the polar night and the natural elements, rather than trying to cope with them. We'll cut holes in the sea ice to go for a polar dip and then retreat to super-heated traditional wood saunas in Sami tents on the beach, explore ice caves where the icy weather provides the optimal exploring conditions (it's not like the sunlight leaks in during the summer when the ice itself is leaky), and make the two-hour snowmobile drive to the Russian settlement of Barentsburg so we can 'dis their locally-made beer compared to the microbrewery here (while indulging in their vastly superior vodka...although in huge moderation for drivers since the police have DUI snowmobile checkpoints and our .01 BAC limit is the toughest in Europe, and the penalties are massive). Full disclosure: the last time I was at a boozy Barentsburg evening I was the only person who went home sober ( http://icepeople.net/2017/06/29/cool-comrades-barentsburg-greeting-visitors-with-a-huge-facelift-but-residents-wariness-and-unseen-decay-linger/).

• Of course, even the heartiest souls aren't going far in our worst storms, which is why almost every day between now and when the sun returns there's an amazing assortment of events and activities. The past couple weekends included the world-famous Dark Season Blues festival (which I got to volunteer for the first time after applying every year I've been here and it was awesome), a new weekend choir festival, and a traditional "Kunstpause" festival of arts and music. On Saturday there was also a sports exchange where Longyearbyen and Barentsburg residents competed in a variety of events from basketball to chess. Meanwhile, on a hard news note, there's intense emotions as coal mining employees begin dismantling the mines here permanently, the city tries to figure out a budget for the coming year where local residents have been facing skyrocketing fees due to massive housing and infrastructure needs, and residents in "avalanche prone" homes try to figure out where they'll live this winter.

The pace of things from now until spring is as electrifying as the Northern Lights, which is why the opportunity all of you are giving me is so energizing. In addition, the funds you've donated have allowed me to seek additional funds in grants awarded at this time of year that will multiply the benefits. So I offer all of you my warmest wishes as we plunge into our coldest months...and hope you'll feel the full spirit of Svalbard by following this page and my newspaper heading into the holidays.


P.S.: Much as I'd like to sound unceasingly "winning," one bit of "full disclosure" is due: a lingering illness I've had in recent months took a turn for the worse during the past couple of weeks, seriously limiting what I was able to do during one of my favorite times of year (which was as much a bummer as the crummy feelings from the illness itself). But the fact is the illness was lingering because I felt I couldn't take any time to rest because of my financial hardships, which obviously in the end made things worse, Again, if not for Rishi and all of you, I'd have never been able to suffer that collapse and had the necessary time to recover sufficiently so I can do what I love again with feeling.
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$11,775 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 162 people in 6 months
Created September 10, 2018
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Rajive Johri
11 days ago
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