DARIEN, Conn. -- Darien residents Jake Greene and Liz Morrissey never thought they would spend two weeks living on an Indian reservation in the middle of the rolling prairies of South Dakota, until they joined the Darien YMCA’s partner, the Sioux YMCA, in the Sioux YMCA Initiative this spring.
The Sioux YMCA Initiative began nine years ago as a way to provide day camp-type programming for the children living in various communities on the reservation. For 12 weeks each summer, the Twin Cities YMCA coordinates the Y staff, who journey to the reservation and conduct programming.
Morrissey and Greene arrived on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation on Saturday, May 23, after driving eight hours from Minneapolis, where they received two days of immersion training and were assigned to Team 1: Courage with a third teammate, Jess Krueger, from the Andover Y in the Twin Cities.
“The welcome we received, both from the kids in the communities and the Sioux Y staff and board members, was incredible,” said Greene. Each day was spent driving miles on the hard packed gravel roads out to the various communities, which included Cherry Creek, Bear Creek, Swiftbird, White Horse and Thunder Butte.
“The three B’s: bubbles, basketball, and bracelets were the key,” said Morrissey. “The kids were excited to have people who were there just to play with them, and we were there to make them happy.”
“There were definitely some moments that were challenging, like when kids would come out to play barefoot, even when there was broken glass and other litter on the ground,” Greene explained. “It’s a different way of life on the reservation, and they lack many of the resources that we take for granted.”
“We were so excited to be able to extend the work of the Sioux Y, especially after seeing the respect the Y has in the community because of all of the amazing work they do,” said Morrissey.
“We all felt a real sense of achievement, and knew we had made an impact on the kid’s lives, even for the two short weeks we were there.”
For more information about the Sioux YMCA Initiative visit www.siouxymca.org.
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