Teens Volunteering in the Community Have their Own Needs

Spring weather returned to Illinois this week with daytime temps between 65 to 80 degrees. I’ve been taking advantage of the warm weather trying to get leaves raked and the garden harvested and ready for next year’s crop. All this yard work has taken away some of my sewing and crafting time but I’ve still been working on projects that will be highlighted over the next few weeks.

Today I received an email from Marilyn Charging Crow who is organizing the Christmas party in Wanblee. She finally sent me the breakdown list of the ages of children who will attend the party.  The delay was due to the many deaths in her family (both young and old) over recent months which has put party planning on the back burner.  Here is her list:

Approximately half girls and half boys….
0-2 about 50——–25 girls, 25 boys
3-5 about 100——-50 girls, 50 boys
6-9 about 100——-50 girls, 50 boys
10-12 about 200—100 girls,100 boys
14-17 about 40—–20 girls, 20 boys

One group we want to make sure receives a gift is ages 14-17.  This group of teens is going to work with Marilyn and others to help make the party a success for everyone but especially the smaller children and the elders.  Five to Six hundred people might attend, there’s a lot of work to be done to prepare for that many people.  There will be decorations to make, a tree to be cut and decorated, food preparation, presents and prizes to wrap, preparing games and other entertainment, etc., just making Christmas dinner is a big deal for most of us so I can only imagine all the work this will take.  I’m starting to get in the Christmas spirit already, which by the way, is only about 10 weeks away!

Teenagers on the Rez need to feel they have a purpose in life and that what they do is noticed and appreciated and that they are respected as individuals.  Working on projects with good role models gives them a feeling of pride and accomplishment in a job well done.  This builds their self esteem and confidence which empowers them for a better future.   If you watched the 20/20 special on “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” you realize all kids are in need of help but teenagers are at a vulnerable period in their lives and need guidelines to live by as they test the waters (got teenagers?) and emerge into adults.  Knowing that people care about what happens to them and having families that love them unconditionally and accept their successes and stand by them when they fail is critical for healthy development.

Since many teens on the Rez come from dysfunctional homes, life is not all that rosy for them and many find suicide the best solution to their problems.  Teen suicide rates have decreased across the US but has increased in Native American youth. Giving these kids opportunities to work with adults on projects from beginning to end is especially helpful.  Jerome High Horse involves the youth in projects such as cutting and delivering firewood to needy elders, doing repairs on homes for low income people, or putting up home ramps for the handicapped.  In return for their help Jerome feeds them a good meal and they are exposed to a good role model with values, learn new skills, build friendships with other youth, and experience the feeling of giving and improving the life of another while adding value to their own. The Christmas party will  provide the same opportunity for these teens to give back and share a joyous holiday with their community.

Although the last blog listed gift suggestions, Marilyn said what the young adults need and want most are (listed in order of importance) personal items such as shampoo, deodorant, liquid soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary pads,(not tampons)  razors, cologne, gloves, socks, brush/combs and manicure sets.   Some of you may think this isn’t much of a Christmas gift but remember your teen years when you wanted to look and smell your best and imagine if you didn’t have the money to buy a bottle of shampoo.  I”m  making some personal toiletry bags to hold liquid soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, brush and shampoo.  I found this bag on Prudent Baby .  The bags that I made are not lined with oilcoth but cotton to cut the cost and use what I have at home.The cotton fabric is washable. The bags are easy to make and take a little over an hour to sew. I am making bags 14″x12″.  For the next bag I plan to add a small end handle. Join me in making some. We only need 40 (20 girls, 20 boys) so we’re hoping to find people that will volunteer to fill a bag (or two).

The gift bag contents should cost about $15 max and if you find an online source with free shipping that saves time and money.  If you can’t afford to fill a bag send a couple of toothbrushes, a comb or pair of gloves, every little bit helps.  Maybe a group of your coworkers, church or family members would like to pool their resources and sponsor a bag.  Arrange a “sock” or “glove” collection collection at work, school or church.  Please reply here at SFK site if you can help.  Anything listed in the “Teen” section of the previous blog is welcome, the items listed here are just those needed most.  Thanks for helping!

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