Since I first visited the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota a couple of years ago, every time it snows here in Minnesota, and temperatures fall below zero, I begin to worry about my Pine Ridge neighbors. I worry about the hundreds of children on Pine Ridge, living in homes without permanent roofs, still covered with blue tarps trying to keep out wind and snow. I worry about homes with storm damaged doors and windows, now boarded up with worn plywood. I worry about rain soaked walls, never repaired, now heavy with mold. I worry about children living in trailers packed with 20 or more people, because this storm and the many storms before, destroyed hundreds of homes, that have never been repaired.
I have visited Pine Ridge many times since in the last two years. With the Midwest Early Recovery Fund’s promise to build local capacity, we’ve awarded grants to three local non-profits. Lakota Funds, Mazaska, and Re-Member have used the funds to hire and train local disaster case managers, reconstruction managers, and more. The local disaster community outreach coordinator has worked tirelessly to host multiple convenings, and encouraged many new partners to join in their efforts. And yet, the challenges are great, the workers are few, and the needs overwhelming.
But I have great news to share this holiday season. There is hope!
This November, I visited the home in the photo above. The trailer in the foreground was home for a family of nine. The storms of 2015 riddled the siding with hundreds of holes, windows were shattered, and most of the roof was blown off. Rain poured through the damaged roof, soaking all the furniture, beds, and personal belongings. Later, as the temperatures outside began to heat up, mold took over. This family did the best they could. They salvaged lumber from friends, put tarps on the roof, threw out wet belongings, and hoped for a miracle. Eventually, they had to all live in one small room.
But do you see the new home behind the damaged trailer? That’s the miracle! This beautiful, three-bedroom, brand new home was built by Mennonite Disaster Services with the support of many funding partners.
The home had just been dedicated a few days before I arrived. A beautiful Mennonite quilt (pictured right), was presented to celebrate and welcome the family. “See the many pieces of fabric that have come together to make this quilt, so it was with your home. Many people, many organizations came together so we could all be here today and welcome you to your new home,” the Mennonite team shared.
What an amazing gift! But we need to do more. There’s a list of over 200 deserving families who need new homes, a safe place to raise their children, a warm place in the winter, a shelter against the harsh South Dakota climate.
As your year comes to a close, will you consider joining the Center for Disaster Philanthropy in bringing more hope to Pine Ridge? Please consider a donation to:
- Mennonite Disaster Services, indicate “Pine Ridge, South Dakota”
- Mazaska Long-Term Recovery Team, indicate “Pine Ridge Reservation”
For more information on the fund, or how you can help, please contact:
Director, Midwest Early Recovery Fund