I just talked to a young mother of 6 children including a 3 month old baby. She and her spouse live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. They have requested that the organization I volunteer with find sponsors for their children.
When I get a request for sponsors, I always call the family to get some particulars. I can make better matches between sponsors and children or elders after I speak with them.
Let me tell you what I know about this family. Mom is 26 years old and Dad is 30 years old. Their children are aged 9, 8, 6, 4, and 2 years as well as a 3 month old. I asked Mom what they need. The girls, aged 9 and 6 need clothes that are not worn out or too small. The boys need shoes. Nothing else. Their food supply was okay right now, though they often run out at the end of the month (that’s next week, if you weren’t aware).
I asked about heat. They heat with propane, as do many on the reservation. Their propane is reading about 5%. The temperature on Pine Ridge, when I checked a couple of hours ago, was 23 degrees. It was windy. The couple and their children live in tribal housing. Eight people live in the small apartment. Mom told me she has an electric heater to help them stay warm because of the baby. But using the heater raises the electric bill, which is already difficult to pay.
The only income they receive is a Dad’s small salary for working for the tribe. Not enough to support 8 people. They do also get TANF (tribal aid to families with children) for the children. Again, not much – not enough. If you have tried to feed, clothe and house even one child, you know how quickly the money goes.
I want to help them but I have a BIG problem. I currently have no sponsors.
I can put the children on the OKINI (Lakota word meaning share) list for some clothes and shoes. Perhaps someone will go by the web site and decide to make a single donation. But what these children really need is someone to help them on an ongoing basis. I can’t give them that right now.
The hardest part of my job is calling families that send in requests for sponsors and being unable to offer a sponsor for even one child.
It’s really difficult to think of that 3 month old baby if the family runs out of propane.
The worst part is that most people in this country have no idea that there are conditions like this right here in the United States.
Would I like you to consider being a sponsor? I certainly would. Do you know what I would like just as much? SPREAD THE WORD. Let people know that living on a reservation in South Dakota is often like living in a third world country. Just colder.