We are a volunteer group from Saint Michael's College’s MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) program. Heidi is our staff leader, Jenna is our student leader, and the rest of us are students with a variety of majors and personalities: Lauren M (Murph-Dawg), Lauren K, Courtney, Carlos, Ali, Sam, Alex and Allyson (otherwise known as the “Ally-Oops”), and Tarryn, who will be staying on with Simply Smiles after our week is through to intern here for the summer. Together, we have spent the past school semester preparing for our week here at the Cheyenne River Reservation. This past Saturday, we said goodbye to SMC, our Vermont home. After two plane trips, a 5-hour layover, napping on airport floors, and a very long bus ride, we finally reached our destination. It was a long day, but we still found it easy to be enthusiastic about our arrival in South Dakota. Our MOVE family quickly became well acquainted with the wonderful Simply Smiles staff and we couldn’t wait to meet the La Plant community.
We began on Sunday with a tour of the surrounding community, where we discussed our goals for the week and met several friends. After that, we did some work on the community center and garden areas. By the end of the day, a number of kids had been in and out of the center to meet all of us.
Monday brought about the start of summer camp. As much as we have enjoyed construction projects and other interesting jobs, our main goal is to spend some quality time with the children here in La Plant. It’s sufficient to say that we were as excited for the summer camp as the kids were! It may be rainy outside, but that did not ruin the fun. We spent hours coloring, playing with Legos and board games, making friendship bracelets, and challenging each other to dance competitions. The smiles and laughter are contagious. As more people fill the community center, the more it truly feels like a home.
We would like to thank our new friends in La Plant for the amazingly warm welcome. Their kindness and willingness to have us here has immensely helped us make the transition to living in a new place for a week. We can only hope that our impact on the community is equally beneficial as the impact they are already having on us. As Ali put it, “The joy comes from the little things, whether it’s pushing a truck out of mud or stuffing thousands of envelopes.” We have all realized that the work we do is so much fun when it’s a community effort. Teamwork is crucial, and we could not have a better team. In just a couple of days, our group, the Simply Smiles staff, and the community members have all joined together as one unit.
We anticipate the next few days to be crazy, challenging, chaotic, and most of all, rewarding. From tag-teaming dish duty to piling all of the kids into the big red bus to push-up contests after dinner, there is an adventure around every corner. We cannot wait to make stronger connections throughout the rest of the week. As the weather gets more unpredictable, the smiles get bigger.
“Despite the rain, we’ve had some killer days.” – Alexander G.
Until next time,
MOVE South Dakota 2013