Being a volunteer on the Cheyenne River Reservation is about bringing hope to people whose lives are dominated by an all-consuming daily effort just to survive. They need you.
You will create smiles when there would be no other reason to smile. You will ease the burden and alleviate the suffering. You will allow an adult to forget their worries and for a child to just be a child.
The holistic nature of the Simply Smiles approach is proving to be the only effective means of changing the Reservation. From smiles to solutions, your presence in this complicated, tragic, and beautiful place is nothing less than vital.
Join us on the Reservation. Create smiles. Begin your education. Help make real and lasting change.
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 our 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 basic shelter that plague the region.
During your time spent on the Reservation, you will have the privilege of being welcomed into this beautiful but tragically impoverished setting on the Northern Great Plains - and you'll have the opportunity to help make life here better.
programs you'll support
As a volunteer, you will spend one week working with us at the Sam D. Horse Community Center in La Plant and at nearby homes and project sites. The Community Center serves as the hub of activity for the week. The days are split into three parts:
Mornings: Revolve around work projects. Under the guidance of Simply Smiles staff, you will be working on projects ranging from cement-mixing to new home construction.
Afternoons: After a hearty lunch, the second part of the day is devoted to running summer camp, filled with arts & crafts, basketball, a game of tag and other fun ways to connect with the kids.
Evenings: In the evenings you will help us to host town-wide meals, BINGO night, movie night and more!
Our volunteers are the driving force of the organization. Your presence and hard work are vital to the success of all of our programs.
You will work side by side with the people you have traveled so far to help. You will learn new things (like cement mixing) and push yourself to do things you may never have thought you could do (like build a new home).
You don't need any special skills to have a meaningful and successful week. Simply Smiles staffers will be right there with you to teach you the skills you'll need. Be prepared to be surprised at how well you learn to put on a roof or use a power-tool!
Volunteers just like you have built entire homes, basketball courts, community centers and more!
On the Cheyenne River Reservation, you will have the unique opportunity to learn about and experience the beautiful Lakota culture firsthand.
During your week on the Reservation, you might have the chance to listen to a Lakota drumming ceremony, meet artisans who craft stunning jewelry and dreamcatchers, hear stories that have been passed down for generations, or witness a powwow with traditional dancing.
The stories of the Lakota people's past and present struggles will challenge your preconceptions and force you to rethink our nation's history. You'll feel honored to be invited into this special culture that for too long was forced into oblivion. And you'll be thankful to know the people who are fighting to keep it alive.
we're there with you
Before, during, and after, Simply Smiles staff is with you every step of the way to make sure you have a profound, impactful, and safe experience.
We work closely with you during the entire planning process. We'll meet with you, share presentations, talk through all of your questions, and make sure everyone is completely comfortable with every aspect of the trip. If you're a group leader, you'll even have your own trip planning webpage where all of the resources and communications you need are right at your fingertips.
While on the Reservation, Simply Smiles will be with you 24 hours a day. Projects will be lined up, materials will be purchased, and the pantry will be stocked with your food and water. We are your partners in a shared experience and purpose.
snapshots from the rez
Fantastic! Just fill out this quick form and our Volunteer Coordinator, Samantha Steinmetz, will reach out to you right away.
We'd like to introduce you to our amazing Volunteer Coordinator, Samantha Steinmetz. Sam began working with Simply Smiles as a volunteer during college. Now she guides volunteers (like you!) through having the same transformative Simply Smiles experience that she had. Reach out to Sam. She's excited to begin working with you - or to just answer any questions that you may have.