book donations

Cheyenne River Reservation: Simply Smiles

While we were delivering books to Pine Ridge Reservation, we received an email from Brian, founder of Simply Smiles, an NGO that supports Cheyenne River Reservation.

IMG_0851

Pow Wow location at Cheyenne River Reservation

He said, quite simply, “Cheyenne River Reservation is only about 4-5 hours from Pine Ridge. In South Dakota, that’s like going out for a cup of coffee…” Well, we kind of laughed about that, because after spending some time in South Dakota we knew what he meant. It takes hours and hours to go from one place to another, and as noted by Emma, you can never use the GPS. Only a map will work.

IMG_0974

After ditching our trailer, and packing our Suburban to the top with boxes of books, we decided we were up for the challenge. We restocked our peanut butter and jelly, refilled our water bottles, and set out on our journey.

IMG_0853

We did run into a 30-minute roadblock of one car, not that unusual we found, and, of course, miles of empty, sandy roads.

IMG_0841

Visiting the Simply Smiles community center, located in Sam Different Horse’s community building on the Cheyenne River Reservation was amazing. Brian and Zachary and their team are welcomed into the Lakota culture. The volunteers all have close relationships with the community.

IMG_0822

The wind blew incessantly, but fortunately the community center had one indoor room and we were able to set up a series of folding tables and create an entire room for our “free” book fair.

IMG_0835

The kids were really excited and grabbed as many books as they could carry. That evening Simply Smiles was hosting a reservation-wide dinner. All the parents and grandparents were able to also come and choose books for their families.

IMG_0838

One woman shyly asked if she could keep some of our better-conditioned cardboard boxes to use as furniture to store her clothing in her new home. We were humbled by this simple request.

Simply Smiles imports soil and has created functioning gardens that produce enough food to feed a substantial portion of the local community.

IMG_0848

The greenhouse was built when Simply Smiles volunteers and Lakota Indians worked together. Zachary explained how difficult it was to stretch the plastic sheeting over the metal hoops and secure it down while battling the constant wind. We could barely imagine. The paper flowers are remnants from the previous night’s decorations when the greenhouse served as a teen dance hall.

We have continued our relationship with the Cheyenne River Reservation kids, inviting some of them to our home when they were traveling near us, visiting NYC. They joined us for dinners, swimming and basketball on several occasions. We have supported Brian at local fundraisers for Simply Smiles. We are so grateful that we have had this opportunity to get to know some of the Lakota kids and we hope to see them again. To learn more about the efforts to sustain the Lakota peoples of the Cheyenne River Reservation: Simply Smiles

Enjoy a film our team made about our trip to the three reservations: Rosebud, Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River:

 

 

Pine Ridge Reservation: Red Shirt Table

By Emma

Hey Siri!  Pull up maps…oh wait…

IMG_0567

Here in South Dakota, as we wandered on and off of the reservations, in search of the correct entrance to Pine Ridge Reservation, we discovered that our cell phone services and online maps let us down. We learned this only after driving hours through undulating lands surrounded by miles of prairie grass and getting lost after driving hour upon hour in the wrong direction.  Learning opportunity!  We had to drag out this huge Atlas, which I hadn’t seen since I was 3, when they were still being used, to navigate where we were going. On the upside, notice there is no problem pulling over on the highway and standing in the middle of the road, bare foot discussing our next move!

 

IMG_0691

Site of Massacre of Wounded Knee – Pine Ridge Reservation

We did finally make it to Pine Ridge Reservation, but getting to Red Shirt Table was another matter…

IMG_0710

We were thrilled to see some friends from back home, and we were welcomed with a picnic lunch and water bottles.  After that it was time to get to work.  We decided to set up the books over 3 picnic tables so that the children could choose their own books.  Here it may look like Quinn is being lazy, actually he is holding onto the books to keep them from blowing away in the constant wind!

The whole trip was made worthwhile when we got to read the children their new personal books

and watch them collect more and more.

IMG_0764

We also got to play with the children on the playground, and in a game of kickball.

IMG_0765

It was really saddening playing with these children, and then learning of their unimaginable situations at home, yet it helped us to understand why the children were so grateful, and it continued to motivate us to help them more.

IMG_0792We were inspired by the determination of this lovely girl to bring home a boxful of books for her younger siblings.  We hope to follow her example!

Reading for Rosebud

 

IMG_0624.JPG

The Rosebud Children’s Garden on the prairie

By Claire Langdon

A few months ago, we attended an event held at our local library, Pequot, where Sage, a Lakota Indian who lives on Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, visited. He introduced us to his people’s culture with oral stories and native dances. Yet, despite this cheerful congregation, mission groups from two local churches, Southport Congregational and Trinity, told us of the crippling poverty rampant on the reservation. As education is frequently championed as a portal out of poverty, we decided to help by donating books to the children on South Dakotan reservations to facilitate their academic success, and to introduce them to the “magical awesomeness” of reading!
To make the book donations even more meaningful, and to experience the living conditions of our books’ recipients, we packed up and caravanned to South Dakota.

IMG_0501.JPG

Over the span of our trip, we donated 70 boxes of books, each brimming with books on a plethora of topics and a range of reading levels

First stop: Rosebud Reservation

When we arrived in South Dakota, we were struck by the beauty of the landscape, enveloped by never-ending sky. However, the prairie was settled in many ramshackle homes and buildings, illustrating the poverty upon the reservation.

IMG_0637.JPG

The Episcopal Mission’s church at Rosebud

IMG_0631.JPG

Claire, Chair, and Pierce, Vice-Chair, delivering books to the Episcopalian headquarters

IMG_6419.jpg

Brooks Barry, Pierce, Wills, and Emma delivering boxes of books

After meeting with the group from Trinity, we brought the books into the Episcopal offices on the reservation. They are taking the boxes we donated, and are distributing the books to twenty different locations across the reservation. The mission group is building shelves in each community center, so that children all over the reservation, which is about the same size as Maryland, will have access to a library.

IMG_3967 (1).jpg

Meeting the Episcopalian mission with our books

Visiting Rosebud was an eye-opening experience. We witnessed the poverty of one of the areas to which we donate books, as well as the gratitude from the people involved. These in-person experiences continue to motivate our mission: to spread quality literature around the world, especially to those less fortunate.

Next stop: Pine Ridge Reservation!

(Y)Our Books Arrive: Ghana & South Africa!

wbs-african-children-6

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” e.e.cummings

wbs-african-children-1

In this case, it is our books that we have found, resurfacing after their long journey at sea.

posingwithmarkandbooks img_6183

Many of you will remember that all summer and fall we packed and sorted thousands of books, ultimately sending 15,000 beautiful children’s books to both Ghana and South Africa.

img_6111These books have a long journey, spending several weeks in metal containers before finally being loaded onto the ships that will carry them across the ocean and to the African continent. From there they must make it through customs and be loaded onto trucks and bump along through towns and villages until they finally reach their intended destination: children who love to read!img_1465

We are so excited to receive some photos of children enjoying these books! It is so much fun to realize that although these children are so very far away, in another sense, we are really all part of one world, enjoying the same stories and jokes and learning about the world from the same books.wbs-african-children-5Today we are truly able to say that we are fulfilling our mission,

“Helping children realize the magical awesomeness of reading!”wbs-african-children-2

Please continue donating children’s books! We have recently received an urgent request from some  parentless children in Kenya who would love some new books. We are working to gather books and help with shipping costs so these children too can enjoy imaginary tales and learn from science and history books.

global-kids

With your help we can continue to improve global literacy, at home and around the world. Many thanks, always! The Wonderland BookSavers!