Summer Clothing Project

The 2015 school year will be coming to a close this month which means kids can enjoy sleeping in, playing with friends, and taking a break from homework…….it also means they will need summer clothing and shoes.  Buying summer clothes isn’t something most parents on the Rez think about as they don’t have the finances and since they’re not in school they feel their kids won’t be judged by what they’re wearing.  SFK wants to make sure the kids have some play clothes and maybe a nice outfit to wear for a special outing such as the Pow Wow held during the summer.

Kids on the Rez like to do many of the same things our kids do but often don’t have the  equipment for sports activities.  They love to play baseball/softball, basketball, soccer and other sports which keeps them active and helps with weight control which hopefully leads to avoiding or at least delaying the onset of diabetes so prevalent in the Native American population.  The kids in Wanblee are very fortunate to have the only swimming pool on the Rez so spend time there having fun and cooling off from the hot summer days.  Some kids go camping with their families or attend day camps where they learn about horse and other animal care, if they have the money and transportation to get there.  Older kids may hunt and fish with a family member, most kids like to hike and explore and learn about nature.  They may attend a summer program that teaches kids survival skills passed down from their ancestors.  They look forward to movie nights held outside at the High Horse’s during warm weather so videos and popcorn are welcome .

Kids love to ride their bikes, if they have one, and there’s a bike safety weekend being planned sometime this summer.  They also love to ride horses, in fact this summer they’re planning to take a group of kids on a 4 day ride to Rosebud Reservation camping along the way which will be a great experience for them and something to look forward to.  Evenings in front of a campfire will be a great opportunity for storytelling and learning about their culture and traditions.  Many participate in crafts and other activities with volunteer groups visiting the Rez that come to help with home repairs and other projects in the area.   We’re hoping some of the volunteers are skilled at knitting or crocheting or other needle arts and can help the kids learn a new skill.  Kids love to read and play board games and books can be checked out from the school library when they’re open.  Some kids will have to attend summer school so they can complete their studies and move to the next grade.  Especially important for the kids is the breakfast and lunch they receive there which helps families struggling to feed their children during the summer.

We were going to share summer patterns and ideas with you but decided against it since the group of sewers, crafters and shoppers we have on our Sew For Kids Volunteer group on Facebook doesn’t need any help, in fact they’re teaching and helping us!  To say these ladies are amazing is an understatement, come on over, join us and see for yourself.  They know where the best sales are, where the greatest patterns are, how to make dresses from old shirts, and how to combine fabrics and use trims on clothing that would make any child feel special wearing it.  We have some that are expert “couponers”, thrift store and garage sale shoppers and others that routinely “pick” their friends and families closets looking for donations.

Jerome and Theresa always comment on the quality of goods that come from our group and we’re so thankful everyone follows the donation guidelines.  Word has gotten out around Wanblee about all the pretty dresses and skirts that are made and sent to the High Horse’s and the girls have told them to please let them know if another shipment comes in.  We’ve always striven to send good clothing, outerwear, etc. to the Rez but really didn’t focus a lot on “dress up” clothes until Carol B. J. approached SFK about sending dresses from Dress A Girl Around The World.  They had sent dresses to another part of the Rez but didn’t receive any feedback and were still looking for a place to send to.  Well to make a long story short, the Wanblee girls loved them…..really loved them and eagerly wait for the next shipment to arrive.  Not only have the dresses given the girls something to look forward to but they’ve given SFK some more wonderful volunteers that have, quite frankly, changed our group because of their sewing skills and generous hearts.

Many times the Rez receives donations from large groups or from the trucks that contain clothing that’s soiled (gross!), outdated, torn, with broken zippers and missing buttons, or just inappropriate for their lifestyle.  Families don’t have the skill or resources needed to make the clothing wearable and volunteers don’t have the time or facilities to wash dirty clothing.  Doing laundry on the Rez is always difficult, very few have a washer and Jerome and Theresa have gone through 4 already because they allow anyone in the community the use of theirs if they ask.  Theresa has told me, on more than one occasion, how disheartening it is to receive someone’s dirty laundry as a donation.  People on reservations across the US are already beat down and live a hard life, sending dirty or broken items only reinforces the feeling that they’re seen as second class citizens despite being the first people in this country!  Jerome and Theresa and SFK certainly don’t want to give dirty or inferior clothing to kids who already feel they’re worthless and have no future, living in an area with a high suicide rate makes it even worse.  Their kids are like our kids, they may be poor but they have the same feelings, the same likes and dislikes and want the same fashions they see on TV or when they venture off the Rez.  The saying “clothes makes the man”  does have some merit as looking good on the outside helps you feel good on the inside.  If donations are clean but not suitable to wear they can always be recycled into blankets for the family and zippers and buttons can be saved for repairs or a new garment.  One of the ladies is using old clothing to make rag rugs for people to put on their cold floors.  Being poor takes up a lot of your time as you’re constantly looking for resources to survive.  Enough said but we wanted to tell you why we appreciate all the time and energy you spend making these kids feel special!

We know from the Volunteers Facebook group many of you have been busy sewing or shopping since the Easter party but for those not on the group we’re repeating the needs list again.  The following needed for boys and girls, babies through teens.

Shorts and lightweight pants

Tops – T-shirts and shirts, summer weight, long and short sleeves

Shoes – athletic type for running and sports, flip flops, sandals, etc.

Socks and underwear

Sun hats – most can’t afford sun screen and the summer sun is intense in SD

Outerwear – sweaters, hoodies, lightweight jackets

For Girls – dresses and/or skirts to dress up for Pow Wow events

Swimsuits and towels

Always welcome for the kids…..basketballs, softballs, bats, soccer balls and other sports/outdoor game equipment, videos, books, craft kits or crafting supplies, art supplies, any summer related activities. Items can be sent here.

We’ll be sharing photos of completed projects and purchased donations at the end of the month, so please send them in or post on our flickr site.  We couldn’t do this without you, we have THE BEST volunteers!

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