Wednesday, June 25, 2008

By Nicole Duciaume, Documentation and Sponsorship Support Officer for Christian Children's Fund

Initial summer programs will begin the third week of July and will aim to improve educational, social, cultural and youth leadership skills while also identifying community assets and needs. Programs will combine constructive educational, recreational , cultural and social activities for children and youth (grades k-12) in the afternoon as well as a movie/game night for the entire community. Weekly themes will focus on different Olympic values that also relate to the cardinal Lakota virtues such as woksape (wisdom), woohitika (bravery), wowacintanka (fortitude) and wacantognaka (generosity). Children who complete the summer program will receive a backpack and school supplies to prepare them for the next year.

An important part of the summer program will also be completing a full assessment of the community needs and children/youth priorities. CCF will establish both a community/parent and a separate child/youth advisory council to determine programming priorities as well as a community map indicating both risks (dangerous areas for children such as bars, poorly lit areas, dangerous streets and mean dogs) as well as resources (areas that add a positive value to children such as libraries, cultural memorials, safe houses, activity centers, caring adults and play areas).

These participatory assessments empower the children and families to determine the root causes of poverty, potential solutions, roles that CCF will play, partnerships that need to be strengthened and ultimate goals for sustainability.

As CCF moves forward with partnering with other organizations as well as the Cheyenne River Tribal Council, we have one important ally: Tribal Chairman Joe Brings Plenty. He is the perfect example of how diligence, hard work and a positive attitude can foster leadership and a brighter future. Chairman Joe is a former CCF sponsored child.

He showed us a slightly worn photo of himself as a youth. The photo is of a small choir that visited local prisons. Chairman Joe is wearing a red sweater. For the choir performance he had to wear something nice and the red sweater was the only nice thing he had in his closet. It was the only Christmas present he received that year and was from his CCF sponsor.

Beyond the tangible gift of the sweater, Chairman Joe said that he was touched by what it represented to him as a child growing up on a reservation. He said the sweater represented that people cared about Indian issues and shared the same values such as compassion and generosity. Having a sponsor gave him hope to be a good person with a bright future. “It showed me the possibilities,” he recalled. Embracing his own experiences from the past, he is a strong advocate for CCF coming to Cheyenne River. “I want the youth today to have the experiences that I had,” he said during a break in a tribal council meeting.

Forging strong partnerships will help CCF’s programs be successful and sustainable.

No comments: