South Dakota Trip 2018

"The trip to the river really melted my heart. Pure joy and laughter filled the air and the kids' weighty issues disappeared for a couple of hours. I sit here this evening feeling so happy at the personal growth I’ve experienced [on this trip]." - Maria

For the fifth year a group of adults and teenagers from Round Hill traveled to South Dakota to work with the Lakota Tribe on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Volunteers spent a week working in La Plant building relationships and helping with summer activities for children and youth. They had the unique opportunity to learn about and experience the beautiful people, customs, and landscape on the reservation.

"Today I met Natalia, who was a bit shy at first. When we we were at the park today, she opened up a bit and told me how her parents aren’t around because one of them is in jail and the other is away. My heart broke to hear her say that because she is so young and I wish I could do something to help her. I know that being here and talking to her and being her friend is doing something but it still hurts my heart. I know that she will miss us when our week here is up. I am so happy that I got close to her and I hope that I keep making her smile." - Alison

Simply Smiles is a not-for-profit organization that provides bright futures for impoverished children, their families, and their communities. From the mountains of Mexico to the prairies of the American West, the unique and holistic Simply Smiles approach has proven to be impactful – sustainable, scalable, and successful.

"When I first met them (the kids on the Rez), I was confused whenever they'd say something rude or sharp. I didn't know how to respond. Once, I was getting some water from the jug, and Julian, a teen from the Rez, drank his cup of water and afterwards, he threw the little drops of water that were left at the bottom at me. Usually I would've said “what was that for” or “why”, but bc we are on the Rez, I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. I felt like I'd let him walk all over me, bu later, realized maybe it was actually just his way of saying 'good game.'" - Victor

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation is located in South Dakota and is roughly the size of Connecticut. The town of La Plant lies on the eastern half of the Reservation and is where Simply Smiles is focusing their current efforts. The rolling hills, wide open skies, and sunsets are breathtaking. This landscape can offer insights into the richness and sacredness of the Lakota culture. But, often, the natural beauty stands in stark contrast to the systemic ills of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of appropriate shelter that plague the region.

“Our theme today was “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of The Dead.) We painted our faces, watched the movie CoCo, and played in the gaga pit. Although it was rainy and kind of gloomy we enjoyed and made the most out of the day. The kids were really starting to open up to us.” - Diana

Volunteers have the privilege of being welcomed into this beautiful but impoverished setting on the Northern Great Plains—and have the opportunity to help make life here better.

Click here to see more photos of their time on the Reservation.