Every year I report that it’s been an amazing year, and 2014 was no different!
2014 was the first year that I worked full-time for Lakota Children’s Enrichment without juggling the competing responsibilities of a full-time student. Our growth and reach on and off the Reservation has been tremendous and we look forward to an even stronger 2015.
We’ve been asked to expand some of our programs and to bring programs to other communities, and we’re excited about the prospect of expanding our impact and increasing our audience and volunteer base!
Although LCE continues to fill emergency needs for coats, boots and food, our work has expanded to more directly address the root causes of the high drop out rates (70%), suicides (7-10 times the national average), low self esteem and other negative pressures that keep young people from reaching for the stars. Filling gaps and incorporating the suggestions of our Youth Advisory Board members and community members, we provide opportunities for leadership, while teaching valuable life lessons about self empowerment and the critical importance of perseverance, follow-through and communication.
When the community reported there were no service opportunities — we started funding youth-led community service projects and we began mentoring group service activities. When youth reported that they were reluctant to enter academic contests because they were often overshadowed by communities with greater resources and help – we made our annual writing and art challenge exclusively for the youth of Pine Ridge. Our Game Changers Youth Summits provide youth with a safe space to openly and candidly discuss important topics. In 2014, participation in our Summits increased almost 100% and participation in our Writing and Art Challenge increased by 200%.
We assembled more than 20,000 books for Reservation schools and community groups and will continue to do so, as we steadily receive requests for more books. We continue to provide thousands of sports shoes, boots and coats to families and community organizations. In the schools lucky enough to have Art teachers, supplies are always badly needed – when Art teachers ask for supplies, we send materials.
Hopefully, we can all agree that quality education, opportunities and success should not be tied to heritage, geography or the family into which a child is born. That’s our starting premise and our conviction.
We remain committed to the ideal that for social change to occur, educational institutions across America must become partners in the movement to correct some of the myths that are taught in the name of American History. As hard as it is to believe, some schools still teach a happy Thanksgiving story, teach that Columbus discovered America (1492 and all that), skip over President Lincoln’s order for the mass lynching of 38 Dakota leaders, and promote many other feel-good revisionist stories.
I recently spoke at an elementary school and when I asked the students to define an “Indian Reservation,” hands shot up and the uniform response was “It’s when mommy and daddy call an Indian restaurant to reserve a table for dinner.” Elementary school students all learn about the 50 states, but don’t learn about the 566 federally recognized tribal communities and the 200 more fighting for state and federal recognition.
In combination with popular media and pop culture, the result is an uneducated society that is desensitized to cultural appropriations, discrimination and worse. Racist attitudes and hate crimes remain a part of life for many American Indians, particularly in the Plains states, but elsewhere as well. We need to do better, and a good place to start is by educating all children.
Throughout 2014 I spoke at public events about obstacles facing Native American communities and the responsibility of all Americans to become part of the solution. I spoke at colleges, conferences, civic events, Rotary Club, the Nexus Global Youth Summit at the United Nations, the USA Nexus Youth Summit at Capitol Hill, and many more venues.
In 2014, I received the Woman of Achievement Award from the National Headquarters of Tri-Delta and had the opportunity to speak on a panel with the amazing Leeza Gibbons and some of my amazing fellow honorees, including TED Content Director Kelly Young Stroetzel––now a member of LCE’s Advisory Board!
In 2014, I was named an Ariane de Rothschild Fellow, which took me to the Judge Business School and Kings College at Cambridge University in England, to engage in discussions with global fellows regarding religious pluralism, convergence and tolerance. I worked with mentors to build a proper business plan for Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s expansion in the future. The Fellows will meet again in early-2015 at Cornell University’s Business School, to finalize our business plans and to wrap up our intense dialogues about the cross-cultural work that we all do.
I also had the honor of being named a Cordes Fellow, which brought me to sunny Mexico to represent Lakota Children’s Enrichment in discussions among amazing company! In addition, in 2014 I accepted a position on the Leadership Council of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution.
That’s enough about me…. NOW, please, read on for the information you’ve been waiting for!
Maggie Dunne, Founder and CEO
Our amazing Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members are demonstrating to the world that given opportunities for leadership, mentorship and support – the sky is the limit! They are winning national awards, taking on leadership roles in their community and they’re making a difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them.
YAB members have enthusiastically and ambitiously embraced multiple opportunities for leadership training, volunteered as helping hands, and participated in every program that their respective schedules permitted. They worked together, collaboratively, from different parts of the Reservation, from different schools and different families. They are a force!
Although we hesitate to single out members of the team — because everyone supported everyone throughout the year– it is exceptionally noteworthy that in 2014 YAB members received so much NATIONAL recognition:
Our commitment to elevating Native Youth Voices into the national dialogue continued with our Second Annual Writing and Art Challenge. The theme for 2014 was THE VOICES OF THE LAND. The entries blew us away.
Participation for our second challenge was up 200% in 2014! You can read the winning submissions on our VOICES OF THE LAND collection on the online publishing website, Medium (for mobile users this material works best on computer or through the free Medium App). If you can’t access the Medium collection, you can read the winning publications on our website.
At awards ceremonies we celebrated the voices of all students who entered the challenge – they are all winners. We are incredibly grateful that most schools across the reservation embraced this challenge!
Responding to feedback, we expanded the Challenge to include Young Adults – through age 24, either living on the Reservation or off the Reservation at a school. Autumn White Eyes, then a Senior at Dartmouth College, won the Grand Prize with her spoken word entry, “We Are All Related.”
This program is a huge success and the voices of native youth on Pine Ridge have been shared all around the world. We’ve been asked to bring the program to other Lakota Nations and beyond, so we’ll see where that goes! The theme for 2015 is #WeAreHere.
If you are interested in making this your philanthropic project for 2015, please let us know.
Another highlight of the year was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams’ involvement — and her continuing involvement — in Lakota Children’s Enrichment. Laureate Williams was a Judge for our 2014 VOICES OF THE LAND Writing Challenge and then agreed to come to Pine Ridge Reservation to congratulate the winners!
Jody rolled up her sleeves and worked with our team to produce an amazing three-day celebration of Native Voices, at schools and then at a Youth Summit. Jody also managed to squeeze in meetings with tribal leaders, community members and to sit for an interview by Public Broadcasting Radio of SD. We are incredibly thankful for Jody’s support and her continuing guidance and mentorship.
Following the trip Jody said: “All Americans should be educated about the history of failed promises and broken treaties that have contributed to the obstacles facing the Lakota and other first peoples. I look forward to my continued involvement in Lakota Children’s Enrichment’s movement to help support the empowerment of Lakota youth so they can work to develop and enrich the lives of their communities while they help change the way that Americans view injustices in this country.”
Our April Youth Summit took place on Global Youth Service Day, days after the Writing Challenge Award Ceremonies. Headliner Jasmine Mans, (Maggie’s fellow Glamour Magazine Top Ten College Woman-Sister), rocked the house with her heartfelt appeal to youth to reach deep into themselves to find an inner voice and to express themselves.
Also headlining the April Summit was YAB Member Summer Montileaux’s panel discussion about nutrition and ways to eat healthy on the Reservation, as food scarcity creates a significant challenge to the community. Summer led a team in assembling healthy food packages for local families, while Keith Martinez led a service team in writing letters to elders at the Cohen Home for the Elderly. Other YAB teams helped distribute sneakers to community members, soccer cleats went to a school in Wounded Knee and everyone who attended received a Youth Service America Global Youth Service Day t-shirt, materials on nutrition and a Certificate of Accomplishment.
Please let us know if you’d like to sponsor a Youth Summit in 2015 or 2016.
For the second year in a row, we sponsored a Tiny Tot dance at the annual Oglala Lakota Wacipi (PowWow), and this year our Youth Board Members honored the dancers, congratulated them after the event, and helped hand out prize money to each little dancer. The culture continues!
At the opening concert on the Thursday night before the Pow Wow, Summer Montileaux and other YAB members circulated a flyer that Summer prepared bringing attention to the risks of HIV/AIDS in South Dakota and on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The flyer also provided information about free testing facilities. The crowd was incredibly responsive and grateful for Summer’s efforts.
Volunteerism continued to flourish, as we hosted our second crop of interns and continued to develop a steady volunteer base on and off the reservation. 2014 resulted in more than 15,000 volunteer hours from people working towards the advancement of our mission. This expanded volunteerism, in turn, means greater awareness and also means that our message is slowly but steadily spreading.
One particularly notable volunteer is Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, who gathered a slew of helpers from California, to gather and send coats and boots to our Youth Board member in the remote area of Wanblee for distribution in the surrounding area!
Other notable VolunTEAM efforts include HollyAnne Joyner Giffin, who took control of our Twitter account and also helped deliver the holiday programs on the Reservation. VolunTEAM Member Nora Steinman continued to master skills as a graphic artist and kept our materials current and appealing to youth, helped deliver programs, supervised youth projects and made our inaugural fundraiser an incredibly memorable, moving and successful event. VolunTEAM member Brooke Mitchell continued to add her artistic flare to our events, making flags, pennants and adding other home-made touches.
On the East Coast, hundreds of volunteers collected books for drives, engaged in days of service and fundraising, helped us package books and other items for shipment, and engaged in volunteer activities and fundraisers to help support our programs.
In Scotland, Washington DC and New York, runners asked their friends to sponsor marathons, half-marathons and a 10K. We could go on and on but we’re restricted by space constraints!
If you are interested in running for Lakota Children’s Enrichment, or donating a life event to help fund our programs, please let us know – we have some awesome running jerseys for our charity runners and other perks!
2014 brought several new partners and solidified relationships with many more. As part of the #GivingTuesday initiative, we applied for and won a year-long membership with the amazing Catchafire! We’re so excited about this partnership, which will help us build an even stronger 2015!
2014 also brought us grants from Ben & Jerrys, two grants from Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and grants from the Have Mercy Ministry Fund, Disney Friends for Change, State Farm Insurance, Rotary Club of Scarsdale, Youth Service America and Festival of Children Foundation.
In 2014 we became Youth Service America’s Lead Agency for South Dakota, and coordinated a host of service activities for Global Youth Service Day. We are honored and please to announce that we will continue this relationship in 2015!
In the fall, the Rotary Club of Scarsdale designated LCE (and four other nonprofits) the primary recipients of their annual fundraising efforts! Over the last two years we applied for and received grants to cover the school awards for our writing challenge, however, going forward we will not have to apply to receive an even larger annual donation! In addition, Rotary Club members and their families regularly pitched in throughout the year, helping us package books for days of service and other fundraising events!
We also formed a partnership with the Eastchester Youth Soccer League and accepted a huge haul of soccer equipment that will ship to a Reservation school in early Spring, 2015.
We continued to fund mini-grants, which we evaluate on a case by case basis. One grant contributed towards Teach For America Teacher Kiva Sam’s proposal to bring students from the Little Wound School on college tours on the East coast. We were pleased to support this proposal, as students rarely have the chance to get to the East Coast and Kiva put together an agenda of sight-seeing and college visits unlike any other in the history of the school! In addition, for the fourth year in a row, we supported Keith Janis’ Math Camp for girls in the Kyle area.
We hope to broaden this program in the years to come.
Please let us know if you are interested in mentoring or supporting a young entrepreneur or funding a special project for youth!
We continued to meet emergency needs on a case by case basis. In addition, we continued to provide communities and schools with new running shoes, boots and coats. Teachers reported that students could not participate in sports wearing the charity shoes shipped to their facilities, so we started purchasing shoes with proper support and insulation for the rugged terrain of the region. Diabetes is an epidemic among the youth and we have steadily provided schools and communities with exercise equipment and sports equipment to promote physical activity.
We are particularly interested in developing a partnership to provide a steady supply of proper running shoes and soccer cleats to schools. If you’re affiliated with a shoe or boot manufacturer or would like to make this your philanthropic project for 2015, please let us know!
Over the Summer, we met with a student attending Stanford University, who asked us to put together a #CultureNotCostume campaign, to help college students and others facilitate positive and constructive dialogues about cultural appropriations of any kind. Our goal was to explain – in a nice way – why schools and other community organizations should not sponsor Cowboy and Indian Parties or other events that would promote behaviors considered offensive to any culture, and to encourage people to listen to each other and to respect other’s cultural priorities.
The #CultureNotCostume campaign went moderately viral (by our standards) and resulted in hundreds of thousands of media impressions, hundreds of shares on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and resulted in pledges from groups across the country to listen, learn and respect other cultures. We’ll continue to expand this program over the next year.
We continued to support holiday parties in numerous communities, this year with a little help from some new friends!
We sent hundreds of gifts and books to Inila Wakan (Keith) Janis for an annual Christmas Eve Holiday Party at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Kyle, and we delivered carloads of additional gifts from a shopping spree in Rapid City and other sources.
Meanwhile, Rockyford was rocking with the tunes of Scatter Their Own for the first teen holiday party, organized by Youth Board member Summer Montileaux. Teens are the most “at risk” group and are often left out of holiday festivities. Summer proposed that LCE support young adults this year and she applied award money she earned from ABC/Disney towards this project. LCE provided hundreds of gifts and books for teens, ranging from headphones and ear buds to perfume, shampoos and scarf sets.
Next we were off to Wanblee to meet with new Youth Board member Caitie, who assembled a list of children who did not receive gifts this year. We delivered hundreds of toys to Caitie for children in the Wanblee, Potato Creek and Corn Creek.
A grant from Running Strong for American Indian Youth detailed to the Rockyford party allowed us to more generously than ever support efforts in other communities. Our impact was also hugely boosted by Friends of the Lakota Nation and Love Light and Melody, which supplemented our own contributions with hundreds of pre-wrapped gifts for children of all ages. In addition, Brad Corrigan threw in a pile of Dispatch t-shirts for the Rockyford teen party!
Holy Guacamole! Our inaugural fundraiser was a huge success! Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams and Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports, headlined the event which was held at Westerleigh, the stone residence of Steven and Diana Steinman, in Greenwich CT. The Steinmans underwrote the costs of the event to ensure that all money raised went to LCE and its programs. People from as far away as California attended the fundraiser and speakers included Peter Balakian, Jasmine Mans, Jody Williams, Brandon Steiner, Keith Martinez and Maggie Dunne.
The Scarsdale Rotary Club presented our first annual gift to LCE, a newly-designated Rotary charity. Adding to the celebration, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams stepped up to the microphone and personally matched the Rotary’s contribution and challenged others to do the same!
Later, in December, we teamed up with SoulCycle to hold a local fundraiser in Scarsdale, NY, which was a tremendous success. In the spirit of #GivingTuesday a donor matched ticket sales and we doubled the impact of generous donors.
You might have noticed we have an amazing website. We’d like to acknowledge the support of Eric Greenberg, who Maggie met at the Nexus Global Youth Summit in 2013. Eric offered to subsidize the development of a proper website, a process that took most of 2014 and which would not have happened without Eric’s incredible generosity and commitment to our mission. In 2014 our content reached millions of viewers across social media.
Meanwhile, we maintained New York offices in pro bono office space provided by Doug Metz, the President of the Scarsdale Agency, an insurance company. Legal services were provided by Pro Bono Partners and Richard Levine, CPA, donated accounting services.
It takes a village – a generous village – and we’re thankful for all of our supporters who donate time and services!
We urge you to spend some time browsing our Quotables Page to see the ways that we are impacting lives on and off the Reservation. Our impact is not as readily converted to a pie chart as some other nonprofit efforts; our impact is educational, holistic, compelling and empowering. Please read what youth, their parents, volunteers, donors and journalists have said after immersing themselves in our programs.
We’re committed to supporting youth who participate in our programs through college and young adulthood. According to a report released in 2014 by Oglala Lakota College, only 1 of every 100 students from Pine Ridge will graduate from college, a daunting statistic that is much bleaker than the national average of 1 in 9 children born into poverty. We’re gathering feedback from youth to identify factors that interfere with graduation rates and we’re working to develop strategies and to provide the support needed to address those challenges.
In the meantime, we’re working within the community to help develop tomorrow’s leaders. Youth coming through our programs and attending our events are continuing in education, they’re aspiring to even higher education, they’re engaging in community service, they’re engaging their community in important dialogues, and they’re becoming a national force of change agents whose accomplishments speak for themselves. At the same time, we continue to develop new partnerships and reach larger audiences, educating hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
In 2015 we hope to start the process of expanding our programs on a larger scale, by including more Native Youth voices in our Writing and Art Challenges, while also expanding our reach and our ability to bring national attention to obstacles facing youth in Indian Country.
One of our highest priorities in 2015 is to bring greater attention to the lack of affordable Internet access on Pine Ridge and other rural Reservations.
Pine Ridge and many other rural communities in America do not have affordable Internet access nor adequate broadband services, be it the suddenlink internet plans or any other that many people enjoy. About 18 months ago we tried to connect classrooms in NY with those on the Reservation through SKYPE (our “Pen Pal Plus” Program), but poor broadband access made it almost impossible – the school district had to shut down all computers in the region to receive a terrible quality image on their end of the dialogue and to send a terrible quality image to NY. Obviously, schools need to be connected to the internet to be able to access their lesson plans. Without a good broadband connection, schools can easily run into a lot of problems. The problems that this school is currently facing have also been experienced by other schools, such as Brevard County School (learn more here). They faced problems with their broadband connection, which meant that children were unable to access lesson plans as they were all online. Normally, these problems are easily resolvable with a better connection.
If you browse through Microsoft’s SKYPE in the Classroom materials you’ll see that these kinds of challenges are not faced by communities in SubSaharan Africa.
The response we routinely hear on the advocacy circuit is that the Lakota “can get service for only $40 per month.” Yes, they can get some service, but not the same quality service that most of us know and love. Further, although $30-40 per month sounds affordable to America’s Starbucks patrons, it is not affordable. According to Satellite Internet Now, “Satellite Internet provides the most reliable option for homes and businesses in rural or remote areas, and HughesNet is the best wireless high speed Internet provider” (https://www.satelliteinternetnow.com/rural-internet/), so this may be something the community in Pine Ridge could look into. But again, it comes down to finances.
When you have no idea where or when your next meal will come from, or whether you will have gas money to put in your neighbor’s car to get a sick child to a hospital 3 hours away, the lowest priority possible is the Internet cable installation fee followed by monthly payments that may interfere with survival, particularly in the brutal winter months.
The marginalization of Pine Ridge (and other rural reservations across America) is an abstract concept to many of America’s wealthy and to those more familiar with poverty in urban settings or other continents. They do not understand — or cannot comprehend — or do not want to face — that there are significant needs in rural communities here at home that are very similar to the those in the traditional “Third World.” Families on Pine Ridge do not have ready access to computers, online classes, Code Academy or any other online resource you can think of. Whilst they want the best broadband deals available, at this moment in time they can’t even access the internet properly. It doesn’t make sense when we live in a technological world.
In September 2014, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams said after her trip to Pine Ridge: “I’ve traveled to 75 countries in the world in my lifetime and the degree of poverty and neglect in Pine Ridge is really horrifying.” She went on to describe the conditions on Pine Ridge as “Fourth World.”
Yet, many Americans don’t know much about the complicated history and legal barriers that continue to keep many American Indian communities fighting an uphill battle for economic and social equality.
There is enough wealth in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to provide communities like Pine Ridge with free Internet access and computer equipment twenty times over, like they do for other regions of the world that face Third World conditions and obstacles on other continents. USAID does not help Pine Ridge because it is located in the world’s richest country ~ where we have the capacity and a moral obligation to to fix the problem and, as a nation, we are failing miserably.
If those of you on the fast track or with the ability to help joined the movement to cure this American problem, it would not be a problem. The positive impact would be greater than imaginable in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, advocacy and self-sufficiency.
A large segment at the very bottom of the 99% – one deserving of reconciliatory support and a hand up — would have a greater ability to help themselves, to be heard, to share their culture and arts, and to build essential 21st century skills like coding, building apps and data mining. They would bring into the work force intelligence, creativity and ambition, while also offering their own spin on technology and innovation, influenced by the great leaders before them like Black Elk, Anna Mae Aquash, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others.
Sustainable development starts at home.
~The LCE Team
Contact us at email@example.com to get the dialogue going.