I love it here. It’s hard but I love it.
I am in South Dakota on an Indian Reservation volunteering for a program called the Cheyenne River Youth Project. I have been away from home for 3 days, but Tuesday was my first full day volunteering, and being here is quite an adventure.
The Cheyenne River Youth Project gives kids a place to go because often times the environment the kids in this area grow up in is unhealthy. There is a severely high unemployment rate, which leads to other problems.
Since being here, I’ve found that all the kids, whether they are 4 or 18, want to stay at the Cheyenne River Youth Project as long as possible each night. The 4-year-olds might throw a fit while the 18-year-olds just will not leave, but both show how much they enjoy being here.
There is much more to running a nonprofit organization that just playing with kids, but I know that all of the tasks I have been doing including stuffing envelopes for hours on end are just as important to keeping the organization running.
Instead of giving you a play-by-play of my days here, I am going to make two lists—one of things I love, and another of things that are hard:
1. The other volunteers here—as soon as I came in, they were welcoming. They are so easy to talk to and even though I have only been here for two days, they make me feel like I have known them forever.
2. The kids—they are crazy. And I broke a sweat from giving so many piggy back rides, but I found myself smiling almost all the time while I was with them.
3. Not having much stuff—I’m living out of a suitcase and it is surprisingly relaxing. Even if my room is “messy” it can never be as bad as my room at home. Being able to have a clean room is great because whenever I am stressed, I can’t stop cleaning. Since everything is already clean, I won’t waste my time with it.
4. Painting here—a new café is opening, so they need decorations. So far I’ve painted two turtles and it’s nice to have my mediocre painting skills put to good use.
5. The landscape—South Dakota is weird looking. Some places are hilly, but here and Eagle Butte, it is really flat. Overall, there are almost no trees except by the beautiful deep blue rivers. There is tall grass everywhere.
6. Having to take care of myself—Although I have not been the healthiest due to my food situation (see below), I like having the responsibility of doing everything for myself. I can take care of things my own way. Plus I have had to be resourceful. For example, I used a comb to open a package yesterday.
It’s hard to…
1. Eat—I haven’t been to the grocery store yet. I need to wait until Sunday when the group goes. So I am living off a bit of microwave food my mom packed for me. My most unconventional dinner was macadamia nuts and a Reese’s cup. But I also had Easy mac for breakfast this morning, so that’s a little strange too.
2. Be homesick—I miss my friends, family, and even the usual grind of Avonworth. I liked having a schedule and being familiar with everyone.
3. Get to South Dakota—I had to ride in a propeller plane that held 19 people from Minneapolis to Pierre. That was incredibly scary at first, but it turned out ok. I was actually lucky to even get a flight. The tiny airline cancelled my flight three times because they don’t have enough pilots.
4. Discipline kids—Usually if I want someone to do something, I just ask politely and they do it. With kids, they just say no. When they say no, I get stuck. They know I don’t have any real power, so now I don’t know what to do. Hopefully, I will learn how to keep them under control.
Like I said, I love it here. There are things that are hard, but it does not mean I don’t like them. It means I am learning from them.
If you would like to learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project I urge you to visit http://www.lakotayouth.org/.