The Mission of Love completed a successful trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation the week of June 14 and for three Poland residents, it was an eye-opening experience.
Diane Yossef of Poland, went on the trip with her two daughters Alia, 14, and Selena, 16. It was the trio's first trip to Pine Ridge and actually came about after a television special.
"I watched a 20-20 special last October about the Native Americans and it shocked me," said Diane.
Photos special to the Town Crier
On June 14, a group of volunteers headed to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to help build homes and make repairs for several Native American families. Pictured after the construction of a teepee are, in front, Donnie Shockey of Pine Ridge, Bev Strollo of Austintown, and Keegan McGregor of California. In the back row are Diane Yossef and Alia Yossef of Poland, Hobart Spotted Bear, Selena Yossef of Poland, Nancy Schrader of Austintown, Peg Elston of New Middletown, Edward Keich of North Jackson, Alex White Plume of Pine Ridge, and Kathy Price, Mission of Love director.
After watching it she heard about Kathy Price of Austintown, and her Mission of Love that has been helping the Native Americans by building homes and creating communities. Diane got in touch with Price and made arrangements to go on the June 14 trip to Pine Ridge. She also scheduled it for her daughters.
Before leaving on the mission trip, Diane read up on the Lakota Native Americans and thought she knew about them. After the first day in Pine Ridge, S.D., she found a story that was a real eye opener. With close to an 80 percent unemployment rate and a life expectancy in the 40s, Diane said she was shocked.
"I saw so many young children living in dilapidated trailers," she said. "I wondered how they got through the harsh winters. I guess most people don't know about it or they say, 'Too bad,' then turn away."
Diane's oldest daughter Selena said on the first day they drove through the badlands, that it looked like a different world. When she saw the living conditions that the Native Americans had to deal with every day, she was shocked.
"It wasn't at all what I expected," she said. "It was hard to believe it was just two hours away (by plane). You don't think something like that actually goes on in America."
Selena's younger sister Alia also said the trip was an eye opener. She said after all these people have gone through, they still accept the Mission of Love volunteers with open arms.
"Even with the past and all the white people had done to them, we were still accepted," Alia said. "I definitely want to go back."
Alia's one special memory was when the group accompanied Hobart Spotted Bear to the gravesite of his wife. Alia said it was a very special and a sacred moment.
The Yossefs all plan on a return trip next year to help build more homes. In the meantime, Price is putting together another trip in August hoping to help the family of David White Bull Sr. Presently, his family of seven are living in a one-room trailer. Like most Native Americans, he wants to have a home for his family, but there is a lot to go through and little hope.
"I have been trying to get a home for some time," he told Price, "but have run into roadblocks and obstacles."
He said it is hard to find a lender and contractor, and to deal with programs that are supposed to handle the environmental and archeological studies that would permit a new home to be constructed. He said it is hard for a family who is trying to do things right to get the basics they need to live a decent life. His children are ages 12, 8, and 2 for the boys and ages 6, and 5 for the girls. He lives with his wife and grandmother.
"We are a clean and sober family that practices our spirituality and culture," White Bull said. "We are hard workers and do our best to see our children succeed in school and in sports."
Price put together a list of items the White Bull family needs including pants size 12, 10, 7 slim, 6 regular, 5 junior, and 7 junior. Shirts size 12-14, 10-12, 3T, 6-7, and 11-13. They also need what most Americans take for granted, including a washer and dryer, beds, furniture, a refrigerator, and household appliances.
Price said along with the list of items, Mission of Love needs funding to purchase the materials to build the new house. She said it takes around $10,000 to provide a finished home that will be built in one week. For information on the mission to Pine Ridge, visit the Mission of Love website at missionoflove.org.