Simply Smiles

A week on the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation

For the last 150 years, the Lakota people have been forced to live on desolate land that has no jobs and no economy to support them. Unemployment is 98%. The great majority of the children are victims of traumatic experience from their dysfunctional family lives; alcohol and drug abuse are rampant. The children have no hope for a future. Teen suicide is high. It took generations to create the horrible conditions; it will take generations to correct them.

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SIMPLY SMILES is a non-profit organization that strives to provide validation and empowerment in the lives of Lakota children by providing after school and summer day camp experiences. Simply Smiles believes that improving the impoverished situation on the Reservation depends on giving the Lakota children a future by having them experience positive relationships with caring adults. Each week, from May to October, 25-30 volunteers arrive at Simply Smiles to work with the staff and the Lakota children. Scholarships to higher education at local institutions and schools in Connecticut are available for eligible children.

For more information: www.simplysmiles.org/volunteer-crst/

On May 12, 2018, North Congregational Church member Stephen Egbertson, travelled to LaPlant, South Dakota to spend a week with 29 other volunteers and 4 Simply Smiles staff, working on projects to improve the Simply Smiles facility and to host over 50 Lakota children each afternoon for day camp activities. Simply Smiles believes that by forming positive relationships with caring adults, the Lakota children will experience empowerment and validation as individuals, strengthening their sense of self-worth.

Along with the day camp sessions with the children, mornings were spent performing construction jobs to improve the facility for future volunteers and campers.

Project 1: Building a walkway over the sod and mud to reach the bunkhouse and latrine.

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Project 2: Building a latrine for the staff and volunteer bunkhouses

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Project 3: $60,000 worth of new clothing of all types and sizes donated by a large clothing company was unpacked, sorted and distributed to the children and adults of the reservation.

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