First the good news……Gloria in Wisconsin is starting to receive donations for the kid’s Christmas boxes and is really excited about what’s come in so far. We have until November 10th (although November 1st is preferable) to get things to her. If you absolutely need to ship after that your donation will still be accepted but Gloria and Lisa are heading to the Rez in early December and they have a lot of work to do before then. They need to sort everything, compile the individual boxes and then purchase things that weren’t donated. We’re hoping most things will be donated by SFK and other groups so they won’t have to purchase a lot which frees up funds to be used elsewhere. Food for the Christmas party will be provided by Worldwide Hunger Relief based in Wisconsin, the menu is homemade soup, sandwiches and a dessert.
The Halloween party is definitely a go, made possible through your monetary donations for the food and all the goodies you’ve sent, some of which will be used for prizes. Most of the Halloween parties our kids attend serve only snacks and drinks, but on the Rez kids rarely get a good meal so Jerome and Theresa felt this was a good opportunity to fill them up with some nourishing food. The day will also provide some fun activities for the kids like cake walks, a haunted house, etc. Kids mainly go to school to learn but on the Rez, school is also a place that provides them with food, especially important on Monday’s as they probably haven’t had much to eat all weekend at home and Friday’s when that may be the last full meal they get until the school week starts again. For many kids there won’t be another meal waiting for them once they return home, they’ll have to wait until breakfast is served at school the next morning to eat. In this country of plenty no child should have to skip a meal because there’s nothing to eat, but this is one of the harsh realities of Rez life. Schools are worried about maintaining the food program and with all the cuts Washington has made to education they have good reason to be concerned. Crazy Horse school in Wanblee should have around 500 students but due to all the cuts they only have 200 as they simply don’t have the resources to teach all the grades so kids are being bused to area schools, some of them off the Rez.
Speaking of food, I asked Jerome the other day how the garden went this year and he said they had some losses after a hail storm but were still able to grow enough corn, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and beets to make up some produce bags for families in need. There are plans for expansion next year and hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate. They would love to start raising chickens but need the housing, feed, fencing, etc., plans are in the works to see if this can become a reality. Raising their own eggs would be a great way to add some high quality protein to their diets, a dozen eggs costs between $3 and $4 locally, which is expensive, but most don’t have the funds for gas or the transportation to make the 2 hour plus drive to buy them for $1 at the big box stores. There’s lots of grassland there for chickens to forage on and this could also be an ideal way to prepare a plot for a new garden, plus chickens “make” lots of high nitrogen fertilizer. One of Hearts of the Sacred Spirit’s programs is supporting sustainable food practices and they were able to help with the garden this year by providing the fencing, tools and seeds, hopefully enough donations will come in next spring so they can start raising chickens. None of their programs would be possible without your generous donations, please donate if and when you can, no amount is too small.
Now the bad news….. The early October snow storm left 100,000 head of cattle and many horses dead across the Dakotas. Ranchers with losses OFF the Rez will be compensated but not so ON the Rez! Jerome says a non-profit has been formed to encourage farmers and ranchers across the nation to donate animals to them so ranchers on the Rez can begin to rebuild their herds.
The daycare programs are slated to close October 30th, leaving workers unemployed and struggling to feed their families and keep them warm this winter and leaving families who use their services without childcare for their kids while they work or try to better their future by attending college. Older kids also used the service showing up after school and waiting to be picked up after their parents returned from work. Daycare is a subsidy program and funds have been cut so there’s no money to keep it going, January of 2014 will determine if Washington will provide the funding so they can reopen.
Not only are the daycares closing but the lunch food program for elders is being closed as well. For many this was the only meal they would receive all day, a lot of elders are raising grandchildren and some have been known to save their lunch and give it to the kids instead of eating it themselves. With government cuts in general assistance monies, checks are gone leaving the elders with no income and now no food. Also a concern is a possible cut to the commodity program which is another subsidy program. Commodities were stopped during the govt shutdown.Those that don’t qualify for food stamps can use this program which provides some food for at least a few weeks out of the month.
Suicide prevention program( Sweetgrass) on the Rez has already closed as the funding was not renewed. These programs are crucial to troubled kids, giving them hope for the future, teaching other ways to deal with problems and showing them they are valued human beings with a purpose and that ending their lives isn’t an option. Some folks know how important this program is to the youth and have kept it going in spite of the cuts, even going without pay. Since SFK, Hearts and many others have been helping Jerome and Theresa with activities for the kids, there hasn’t been a single suicide in Wanblee. Activities like movie nights, sewing circles, holiday parties, picnics, etc. give kids hope and that there are people out there who care about them and their future.
Another service that’s suffering is the ambulance service which was started many years ago by Theresa’s parents in a converted station wagon. Theresa’s mother still helps with the laundry and she’s in her late 80s, her father moved on to the Spirit world a few years ago. It’s since been upgraded of course and many locals still take the EMT courses and volunteer to help. Theresa said while they have the basics like resuscitation equipment and gurneys, they desperately need medical tape in 2 and 4 inch sizes, Celox, Arm Slings, Nasal Cannulae, ABD Pads, Hot Packs, Cold Packs, Ace Wraps, ACCU CHEK test strips, lancets, adhesive bandages, and any type of cleaning supplies. If you know of anyone in the medical supply business or where we can get these items at cost, or better yet a free donation, please let us know. Any donations are considered a charitable donation through Hearts and is completely tax deductible. Please help if you can, I’ve donated towels and coffee for the ambulance workers in the past. Each area of the Rez definitely needs a functional ambulance service.
And if all that wasn’t enough grief for the Rez, winter will be here before heating programs such as LIHEAP get any funding or maybe not off the ground until the January 2014 government session, so there may not be any heating assistance for families through the tribe until then. This means families will have to keep the heat on low and conserve, hard to do when you’re cold and live in a poorly insulated home with ill fitting or missing windows and doors. Your donations of warm clothing and blankets and monetary contributions to Hearts Winter Warmth Program will help families stay warm this winter. Hearts will do some home winterizing, buy wood stoves for those that need one and help other families with one time assistance of wood or propane if funds are available. Your donations to Hearts will help purchase food and keep the heat on this winter, please note your donation is for the Winter Heating Assistance Program.
Such is life on the Rez, seems they are always taking one step forward and two back. Hang in there with us everyone, it will take many of us together doing whatever we can to help our friends that have been so adversely affected by all the government cuts. We’re so thankful for all you do to help make life a little easier for kids and their families on the Rez. Keep working on those Christmas donations, Happy Halloween to all those ghosts and goblins out there. BOO to you too!