We arrived late Saturday night after more than twelve hours of travel. We jammed out to GREAT music on the big red bus with Josh! We met the Simply Smiles Staff (they are amazing!). Then a little boy came running up to Campbell and tackled her down. Little did we know how much of a foreshadowing this would be. This little boy is Nathaniel, he loves people, licking people, hitting people, and wearing people’s sunglasses, sweatshirts, and anything else he can put on his head. We love him. A lot. The next day we woke up tired (zZzZzZ) but excited to start working. We toured the town shortly after breakfast. We got to meet Emery who is a very warm and welcoming person. We also had the opportunity to see a range of living conditions. Many people live in FEMA trailers or in a group of HUD homes put up in the mid sixties. Simply Smiles has recently put up the first totally new home, which is almost completed. It was very impressive to see and looks great! Members of our group had the opportunity to work on the inside this week.
After the tour and lunch, we began working at our work sites. Our group was divided into three smaller groups. One group has worked at Steve’s home (the brand new home) finishing the inside. The second group worked at George and Sierra Iron Wing’s home putting on a new roof, new insulation siding and skirting all around the bottom. The third group worked at Danielle’s house painting, building counter tops, replacing doors and other renovations.
Sunday night we held a community dinner. It was our first chance to meet a lot of the townspeople and a lot of the kids. Afterwards we played a fantastic game of baseball with everyone. It was great to see such a diverse group of people coming together and having so much fun. Those who weren’t playing were actively watching and cheering. One person sitting in his van honked his horn every time someone made a base.
Monday was our first full day with camp and working on houses. At the worksites we were able to get more into the swing of working. Liz, Janet, Evan, Ben Carroll, and Sue Morrissey worked with Zach to insulate the outside of George and Sierra’s home. We have bonded over measuring walls, holding ladders, cutting insulation, and nailing it on to the house (yay!).
At Steve’s new home, people began replacing the walls with stronger ones. The workers at Danielle’s house stayed at the community center to plan out with Danielle how they wanted the interior to be finished.
The first day of camp was so awesome! And exhausting! Sand Art was a HUGE hit! The kids loved drawing with glue and then pouring colorful sand over it. In fact all of our crafts went so well. Rowena and Laura led the “Furry Friends” station. The kids stuffed nylons with polyester filling and then put on funny faces with googly eyes and pipe cleaners. Emma and Isabelle led the friendship bracelet station. Outside kids played sports, limbo, and Legos. The kids were having fun the whole time, and we were having fun meeting the kids and running around with them.
The kids are really sweet and all of them have such awesome and interesting personalities. They’re crazy, but lovable. They are constantly asking us for piggy back rides and help on projects. Some of them literally attach themselves to us (with duct tape)! Or they attach Patrick, Ericsson, Liz, or Isabelle to a chair with duct tape (that’s always fun to pull off...yikes).
We began Tuesday bright and early with a mile walk around the school track. Shane, our friend from town, completed an overall total of fifty laps at the end of our walking. Everyone cheered! Work projects continued to progress really well. One could see skirting at the Iron Wings’ showing real progress.
Tuesday was SLIME DAY at camp! Kids were running around and throwing slime everywhere...and at everyone! We also had an obstacle course set up inside with pop-up tents and tunnels to climb through. Rowena and Caroline Dealy led the pillow making. The mountain of fabric for the pillows was used up very quickly. Ashton, one of the campers, very sweetly made a pillow for every sibling he had.
South Dakota scenery is beautiful! Watching the sunset on the spider web (we need to bring this web back to CT) has been the best late night activity. It is worth the bugs (we’ve never seen so many flies in one place)! That’s where the best stories of the day surface.
Wednesday morning was an early one. We pulled ourselves out of bed and right into the kitchen. We all did our part in setting up the town-wide breakfast. Janet and Annie cut potatoes for Brian and Laura to cut. Dylan and Sue Morrissey cried their way through many bags of onions. It was a lot of work but well worth it when we got to sit down and eat a meal with the people of La Plant.
Wednesday was a big day at the construction sites! The insulation was finished at the Iron Wings’. The insulation team danced for joy! All the prep work was finished for the roof there so Thursday they were able to begin shingling. At Danielle’s the door was finally able to go in and plans for putting in the sink were completed.
Summer camp on Wednesday changed location to...the river! The kids had a great time splashing around playing with the water. Unfortunately they also took to throwing mud but we were able to wash it off. Everyone was paired up with a buddy or two. It was really fun to get to know another kid better by being his/her swimming buddy.
Wednesday night the volunteers (and one sneaky kid) went to Dairy Queen. It felt great to relax, flush a toilet and look at ourselves in a mirror (kinda). We’re having a fantastic time, and we would love to stay for the rest of the summer! (but showers are nice too). :D
- Janet and Liz on behalf of PF