Notes from the Field: Sweating for the Small Stuff

 

Aquinas College vols 2014

by Daniel Hartman-Strawn, Project Coordinator 

Globalization and the media decide for us that we will hear about every civil war, every health crisis, and every despotic leader. This heightened attention to the world’s troubles makes it easy to lose sight of the issues in our own communities. As a result of being accosted 24/7 with shocking headlines, many Americans have decided that they will simply put their heads down and live within the confines of their own day-to-day interactions. I am sympathetic to their antipathy, but I also plan to do everything in my power to end it.

When I first began spending a week each summer on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota volunteering with Re-Member, the pace of change I witnessed frustrated me. I was not content with seeing two children get their first beds. I felt depressed when we only installed skirting on one trailer, in one community, on one Reservation in all of America. It was not until I joined the Re-Member staff in the summer of 2013 that I had a moment of clarity. After putting a new roof on a family’s trailer, an elderly woman living there said to me, “You have no idea how much this means to us.” She was right. It was on the drive back from the work site that I realized how much it would mean to me if someone, out of the kindness of their heart, came into my life and offered me compassion and hope in a time when I received little of either. My motivation for the work I do is a conglomeration of many moments, but this one is seminal to my passion.

Horses Pine Ridge Reservation
Tribal lands provide volunteers with beauty and culture unlike any other places in the U.S.

Both of my parents have worked in public policy for many years, and because of this I have often been fixated with the type of broad, sweeping changes that only policy (and lots of resources) can bring about.  However, it was only once I began to understand the equal importance of small impacts in a specific place that I became an effective operative for change.  When I first began working with Trees, Water & People this past August it quickly became apparent that they have the same attitude in their approach to alleviating poverty. The Clean Cookstove and Solar Energy Programs in Central America and the Tribal Renewable Energy Program on the Pine Ridge Reservation both provide immediate relief to those living in poverty by improving health and saving resources, while simultaneously benefiting the environment though reduced emissions as well as less wood and fossil fuel use.

Volunteers get their hands dirty building a straw bale home.
Volunteers get their hands dirty building a straw bale home.

Now, I am coordinating the Oglala compressed earth bock (CEB) housing Project, a volunteer project building a sustainable (CEB) home for the Shields family this summer on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This project is just a stepping-stone on the path to wider spread implementation of CEB structures on the reservation. However it will also make a huge difference in the lives of several humans, humans who like you and me want the best in life for themselves and those they love. This project also offers an opportunity for you to come and witness for yourself the power of making a difference in someone else’s life, and learn lessons from those less fortunate than yourself that will inspire you to look at your own life differently.

Let this be your call to action! Take a hold of the reins and contact Daniel Hartman-Strawn at daniel@treeswaterpeople.org or (970) 999-4450 for information on the CEB project on the Pine Ridge Reservation, or visit the Trees, Water & People website.

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treeswaterpeople

Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

4 thoughts on “Notes from the Field: Sweating for the Small Stuff”

  1.  Dear TWP, Oh, what a truly beautifully powerful article! What an inspiration.❤ Lisa Du FresneCanada

    From: "Sustainable Development, Sustainable Livelihoods" To: lisa_du_fresne@yahoo.ca Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 5:38 PM Subject: [New post] Notes from the Field: Sweating for the Small Stuff #yiv1993747803 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1993747803 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1993747803 a.yiv1993747803primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1993747803 a.yiv1993747803primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1993747803 a.yiv1993747803primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1993747803 a.yiv1993747803primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1993747803 WordPress.com | treeswaterpeople posted: ” by Daniel Hartman-Strawn, Project Coordinator Globalization and the media decide for us that we will hear about every civil war, every health crisis, and every despotic leader. This heightened attention to the world’s troubles makes it eas” | |

  2. The timing seems good to participate in one of the projects on S Dakota. A heart’s yearning says “Yes”….. go. I am a healthy Elder, life-long learner and teacher. Could I come solo, meaning without a group? Thank you. Joy on the Path!

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