"It hurts me to my soul
that the indigenous are suffering"

Jeri and two girls


A year ago, Joel and his wife, Charity, started sponsoring a Grandmother and her 6 year old autistic grandson. Though 10 people live in her small trailer that has no running water and is full of mold, it is a place to live, for now. Joel heard about One Spirit through some travelers whom he does a lot of Native American Culture spiritual practices with. “It kills me- it hurts me to my soul that the indigenous are suffering - how much the connection has been broken.” 

"I always try to be patient and just do what I can, because it is more than nothing”
Communication isn’t always clear with the Grandmother he sponsors. Sometimes she talks about the prejudice she faces having been born outside of the reservation. By other natives, she isn’t considered full Lakota. “Most often she just asks for my help, and I always try to be patient and just do what I can, because it is more than nothing.”  

With so many people coming in and out of the home, often cell phones get stolen and sent packages turn up missing or are never delivered. Joel works a second job just to pay for shipping costs to send packages to the family. The high cost of shipping seems to be the greatest struggle for most sponsors. He has bought a toilet for their home, heaters, caulking, and he always buys extra when he finds things on sale at Walmart or other stores that have free shipping. “The hardest part of being a sponsor is having to say, ‘No, I can’t afford that’ when they ask for something basic because I want to help her with whatever she needs.”

"These people are literally starving"

Joel researches the Lakota culture, and has learned from elders who have taught the culture to him so that he feels more comfortable when he talks to the grandmother. Joel’s ASC (Area Service Coordinator), Linda Iriza, has been a huge help. He calls her every week to talk or ask questions about how to better his sponsorship, “She is great. I don’t know if I would still be sponsoring if it wasn’t for her helping me understand more about the suffering and poverty that the families experience. These people are literally starving.” Having an ASC is crucial to understanding what to do in a crisis. They answer all of your questions, offer suggestions, and can even contact the family for you if you have any trouble.
The two most basic needs the people have on the reservation is healthier food and better housing. After retiring, Joel wants to devote most of his time to helping the Lakota and would love to visit the family he sponsors. “My wife is half Cree Indian, so hearing about such extreme poverty on the rez is like hearing that our own family is suffering. We are all One, and I know that by sponsoring I am making a difference in someone’s life.”


"I know that by sponsoring I am making a difference in someone’s life”

Boy and horses You can help in so many ways:

Become a sponsor

-  Provide a box of food to a family without a sponsor

-  Check the Okini list for people who have urgent needs

-  Make a donation so we can continue our work  
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