Back to school time is just around the corner, actually beginning in the next two to three weeks depending on the school district. Kids will be excited to see friends, share summer news, meet their new teachers and begin a new year of studying and learning to help them achieve their goals and dreams. Many of them will be looking forward to the two meals, breakfast and lunch, served at school which many may not have received at home over the summer. If kids live near a school or attended summer classes, the summer food program was available to them if they chose to use it.
At the end of the last school year we were approached by the principal of Marty Indian School for our help. The principal, Gina Curran, searched the web for groups that might be able to help her 95 K through 5 students and found us! Gina grew up in Wanblee SD, one of the areas we help, and at one time was principal of their local school, Crazy Horse. Marty Indian School is located about 240 miles east of PRR near the Nebraska border and on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, members are Western Dakota and part of the Great Sioux Nation. This area is even more isolated than PRR and the students receive few outside donations mainly because of their location and not being a well known school. Their location also makes it difficult to attract and keep teachers long term. There are two housing projects in the area and is where most of the elementary students live. Students in middle school and high school receive room and board at the school and come from the local reservation as well as other reservations (including PR) across SD.
When I mentioned the school to Jerome High Horse he sang the praises of Gina having known her as one of their local kids and the Marty School too as he had relatives that attended there and visited there many times himself. With Jerome’s enthusiastic recommendation and after speaking to Gina, hearing that she really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the kids she was responsible for, we were getting very excited. She was asking for basic needs for her students, needs in our opinion every child should be entitled to! The deal was sealed when Anne Fields, Director of Lakota Friends Circle, was on her way home to Georgia after an eight week stay in Pine Ridge and decided to get off the beaten path and maybe even visit the school and say hello to Gina if she had time. Fate intervened, Anne hit a deer at dusk just outside of town and had to be towed to a local motel. The car couldn’t be repaired for three days so Anne called Gina and along with Gina’s husband (also a teacher at the school) drove her to all the places she needed to go and gave her a tour of the school. Anne was quite impressed with the school and with Gina and her husband and their willingness to show her around not to mention their generous help in her time of need. Anne felt this would be a great place to help and a great fit for our group. We are adding the Marty Indian School to our projects which also includes Wanblee Community projects, Sacred Shawl Society’s domestic abuse shelter for women and their children and the My Space Youth Center in Martin, SD. Please read our past blogs to find out more about these programs.
Classes begin at the school on August 19 but Gina and her teachers are already back preparing for the students arrival. The school receives government funds to purchase school supplies for students so they buy pencils, crayons, glue sticks and all the notebooks they’ll need for the year. What they need is a constant restocking of pencils, crayons, glue sticks (Elmer’s in a bottle if mailing in hot weather) as well as dry erase markers for their boards which is a big expense. Library books for the K -5 level and higher are also needed. While they’re fortunate to have a great library, kids take books home, some of them are never returned and parents can’t afford to replace them. So books are needed for the library, for kids home libraries and for the reading room boarding students (grades 6-12) use when the library is closed. Gina said 30% of their grade 4 students in elementary school are reading at that level and above so they want to maintain that and move others ahead. Unfortunately, by 9th grade 80% of students are only reading at the grade 5 level, something they hope to change with a grant they received to increase their reading proficiency. The bottom line is BOOKS are needed for all grades!
- Pencils, erasers
- Glue sticks or bottled glue if shipping in hot weather
- Dry erase markers for teacher’s boards
- Books for all ages K-12
Many children don’t have adequate clothing so the school has added a washing machine to the nurse’s room so she can wash a child’s clothing that has been worn for a week or more. They need clothing in all sizes to give out to those that need more and to have on hand to dress the student in while theirs is being laundered. A sink has been installed in the “Feather” room (see next blog) so kids can wash their hair. Many students will get lice so teacher’s aides will treat them with the appropriate medicine and then comb their hair with a special fine toothed comb to remove nits (lice eggs), the process takes two weeks to make sure they’re gone. Kids lack many of the basic hygiene items needed to keep themselves clean, they might have running water if the utility bill has been paid which may not happen in the colder months when a decision must be made to pay the electric bill or buy propane for heat. The school likes to fill small Ziploc bags with hotel size shampoo, wash cloth, bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb to hand out to kids they think need them, parents can receive one too. The bags are kept small to be discrete since kids don’t have pencil cases and backpacks to hide them in. Helping kids maintain their dignity is important to the school but it’s also very important to our group. They don’t always have the resources on hand to make these toiletry bags so they depend on donations from people like you.
Clothing and Toiletry Needs
- Jeans and pants
- T shirts and shirts, long and short sleeved
- Hoodies and sweaters
- Dresses and skirts
- Socks and underwear (especially small sizes, they’re still accident prone)
- Mittens, gloves, scarves, hats
- Coats and jackets
- Pj’s and slippers
- Shoes (huge need!) and boots
- Hotel size shampoo and conditioner
- Ziploc bags (probably quart size)
- Comb and/or small brush
- Toothbrush and small toothpaste
Many kids come to school in just a sweater, even in winter so a warm coat would be greatly appreciated. Last year the upper grades received a donation of coats from an organization, unfortunately most of them were too small but they did fit the younger kids who were most appreciative of their misfortune. Pj’s and slippers are something kids don’t usually receive along with pillows and pillowcases. Blankets are always needed and of course sheets, towels and washcloths. We would prefer to send new pillows but everything else can be in gently used condition.
- Pillows (new) and pillowcases
- Blankets, quilts, afghans
- Sheets, twin, full and queen
- Towels and washcloths
Shoes are a BIG need, now where have we heard that before? Children receive a new pair of shoes at the end of the school year from the company “TOMS”. When the new school year begins many kids will be wearing those same shoes that have been worn outside all summer and many will be in terrible condition or outgrown. Last year Gina remembers supergluing the sole of a student’s shoes that had come apart so they could wear them a little longer. Kids can wear used shoes in good condition, new shoes are always a treat, but better to have some protection on the feet than none. Just like the dirty or worn out clothing, if the school has extra shoes on hand to give out to those that need them, they feel they can make a difference to the child and not draw attention to them as being poor. The goal is to make kids feel good about themselves and build self esteem.
Since there’s more information to share and this blog is getting long, part two will follow with more information. There’s plenty of info for you to chew on here and help you get started on the needs. A special shout out to all the wonderful seamstresses at Dress A Girl, can you help us out with clothing for boys and girls?? Thanks to every one of our members of SFK!!!