This month’s featured volunteer, Jordan Engel, is embracing a truly unique opportunity through Trees, Water & Peoples Internship Program. Originally from upstate New York, Jordan moved to Kentucky in 2010 to attend Berea College. With his studies focused on Sustainable Community Development, Jordan’s decision to pursue an internship with TWP for the summer was a no-brainer. “I first heard about Trees, Water & People when I saw Henry Red Cloud’s profile in Yes Magazine,” Jordan explained. A few months later Jordan finds himself (a self proclaimed “Yankee”) smack dab in the middle of Indian Country, working side by side and towards the same goals as our partner, Henry Red Cloud.
Jordan arrived in Pine Ridge South Dakota excited to learn about sustainable building techniques and solar energy. After living on the Rez, Jordan has learned about a lot more than just that. “The numbers only tell part of the story,” Jordan exclaimed when referring to the staggering poverty statistics that exist about life on Pine Ridge. “I’m learning about happiness, and how to be happy…how to live my life and make the most of it.” The Lakota culture is beautiful and can be quite invigorating; Jordan’s learning this firsthand.
The Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) campus on the Pine Ridge Reservation is the heart of TWP’s Tribal Renewable Energy and Food Security Programs, and the place that Jordan calls home at the moment. As TWP’s on-site assistant, Jordan handles a myriad of tasks including maintaining and improving campus buildings, assisting Henry in accommodating trainees, and assisting Henry with sustainable living and renewable energy projects. When asked what his favorite task is, he said it’s definitely taking care of the Solar Warrior Farm and foraging for traditional foods. “I love working the earth!” Jordan exclaims, “We’re growing food for the people and it’s making waves. This is a little thing that’s making a big difference.” In the end, this is what TWP is all about: Finding culturally appropriate ways to improve lives and help people manage their natural resources.
If you would like to hear more about Jordan’s experiences, check out his regular “Notes from the Field” posts right here on the TWP blog.