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Simply Smiles provides bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create physical and emotional environments where suffering is alleviated and from which local leaders can emerge.

Simply Smiles blog

Follow our blog and read insights from Simply Smiles staff, volunteers and other individuals whose lives are affected by our work!

Heart of Winter 2013, Part I

Timothy Nurnberger

Our first week on the Rez has been incredible. Josh, Zach and I got into La Plant on Sunday, and it wasn’t until the other night as I was falling asleep on a pile of bean bag chairs with some of our friends playing Rock Band in the background, that I had a moment to think.

On Sunday as we stopped at every family’s home to hand out our calendar of events for the month, we told them to come by any time, that coffee will always be on, and thankfully, many of our friends have followed up on our invitation. We caught up with Steve for hours the other night, as he told us all about Teigan’s wrestling wins that even surpassed his own from years ago, and Barbara yesterday morning as she recalled the huge winter storm of 2010 when they got 10 feet of snow. Many more of our friends came over for the town-wide meal to enjoy Josh’s home recipe macaroni and cheese with ham that he started preparing 9 hours before the actual meal (and even though one of the kids said that her mother won’t come until Gaby is cooking, everyone agreed that Josh filled her shoes very well!)

And of course, throughout our first few days of winter camp, we’ve been able to catch up with all the kids! And when I say catch up, I mean actually try to catch, as their energy level is consistently out of control. Imagine all the energy that kids have during summer camp contained in the walls of the community center. I haven’t actually experienced a day of La Plant summer camp yet, as I’ve spent my last few summers in Oaxaca, but just after the first few minutes of the first day of winter camp, I understood what everyone said about it being incredibly insane, and so, so much fun. For camp we have had a Wii set up with a bunch of games, including Rock Band (the kids’ favorite) and Just Dance (our favorite, specifically Zach’s who wins almost every game), along with shelves full of crafts, legos, coloring supplies, bean bag chairs (made for sitting, used for everything but), and three computers. These last few days we also attempted a photo project with everyone, so the kids could “show us their world” through disposable cameras, but it ended up being a ton of pictures of Josh, Zach and I, and a bunch of broken disposable cameras. Yesterday though we made cookies with everyone, and they actually did not end up being a catastrophic mess! The three of us have been having a blast with all the kids. From endless piggy back rides, to showing them how to really move on Just Dance, it is so great to just play with these amazing kids who really need a break from reality, especially in the middle of winter. 

Above all, I love getting to know everyone more. Many of our friends have come to visit because they want to catch up with Josh, but just after these few days, Zach and I both feel like we know many people much better, and are starting to create friendships of our own.

Conversations with our friends here, old and young, are always filled with so many moments of joy, but many moments of deep sadness too. Through this sadness that we hear in our friends’ stories, see in some of the kids’ faces, Simply Smiles’ continued presence, our dedication to La Plant, is creating change. In these last few days I have seen this through the generosity and friendship that has been offered to me because of people’s friendships that started with Bryan, and progressed through the rest of the staff and volunteer presence throughout the last few years. Because we are holding a Simply Smiles winter camp, these kids know they can come and just play like kids for a few hours. And yesterday, as we sat down with Barbara around a few cups of coffee, she said that to her, Simply Smiles means hope. She said that our presence gives these kids something positive to look forward to, and that, for February, it is all we can hope for.

So throughout the rest of the month, we will just listen to the stories, pour more coffee, offer more piggy back rides, and give more hugs. Through this month, we will just try to continue to move forward with all our friends in La Plant.

Until next time,


P.S. We just got internet yesterday, so even though this first post is a bit delayed, we will be blogging more throughout the month! Stay tuned...