What do you suppose are the items that I get the most emergency calls for from the reservation?
In the winter, you might guess heating fuel. Actually that would not lead the list.
You might guess food or payment of utility bills (electricity, phone). You’d be wrong again.
What about clothing? Nope!
Okay, before you get too upset, I’ll tell you. The greatest number of requests are for the necessities of life that cannot be paid for with food stamps or WIC vouchers. Those items include:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body soap
- Feminine hygiene pads
- Dish soap
- Laundry soap
- Toilet paper
- Trash bags
- Housecleaning products
How many of you cannot afford to buy toothpaste or shampoo after you pay your rent and utilities and buy food? I suspect not many.
ONE Spirit has a program for folks who don’t yet have sponsors (in my areas alone there are hundreds!) to help supply these kind of emergency needs. We don’t have programs for utilities. But the necessities are the kinds of things one time donors can help with.
OKINI is a Lakota word meaning to share material things. That is the name of the program where these needs are listed. We list clothing too, because that is the other thing requested — especially for children. The most requested clothing item? Shoes. I’ll bet you can afford shoes. Can you imagine not being able to buy shoes for yourself or your children?
So how do I handle all these requests? I pass the buck . . . actually, I pass on the information to the OKINI manager. It goes all the way to Norway — thank goodness for the internet! Kari, the OKINI coordinator, puts the items on the list, discretely omitting last names and identifying information. It is a private list, not open to the general public. You wouldn’t want the fact that you needed sanitary pads and couldn’t afford to buy them advertised to the whole world via the internet, would you?!
People who are interested in helping improve living conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation but who do not feel able to become a direct sponsor for a child or elder can contact Kari to become part of the OKINI family. In essence, donors via OKINI are indirect sponsors. They improve the lives of those who want a sponsor but do not yet have one.
So what do you say? Can you afford to buy shampoo or dish detergent or laundry detergent? Can you afford to buy a child a pair or shoes or school supplies? Can you afford to send a book or some yarn to an elder?
If you truly cannot, then I am very sad for you and I hope your circumstances improve soon.
If you said you can afford one of those things, I will give you the information you need to contact Kari and get started in the OKINI program. It will be rewarding. You might even get a thank you note, though there are no promises there.
Worried about shipping costs? It can get expensive to send things off. But the flat rate boxes the US Postal Service offers are great! And many online retailers, like Amazon, offer free shipping directly to the recipient if you meet order requirements. There are ways to keep those costs down.
If you’re still with me, you can contact Kari at her ONE Spirit email address: firstname.lastname@example.org . She will contact you to fill you in.
Kari tells me donations have been slowing down. It may be the economy or the season . . . but I can tell you the requests don’t slow down. The need for these items never slows down for those with such limited resources.
OKINI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . it’s pronounced Oh-key-knee