A volunteering story by: Luis E Espinosa-Zagal

Re-member is an organization working to better the lives of Native Americans living on the Pine-Ridge Reservation. Volunteers from all over come to spend a week at the Re-Member site to help around the community. During my best friend’s stay, there were about 50 other volunteers from all over. They were all split into random groups of four. Each group went off to do different tasks around the community.
The first thing her and her group did was drive out to a trailer where a family was living for a skirting project. To skirt a trailer means to cover up the bottom of it with insulated concrete. This improves insulation in the trailer, which can significantly lower the cost of a family’s heating bill. No one in her group had any prior experience with skirting, but there were two professionals who came along to teach them. She did a little bit of everything. She helped nail wood together to create a base for the concrete. She also helped drill the wood base under the trailer. She also had to use a power saw to cute the concrete so that it fit perfectly under the trailer. And finally she also helped drill the concrete blocks into the wood bases under the trailer.
Another task her and her group had to do was fix a family’s roof. Their roof was close to caving in so it needed to be reinforced. Also whenever it rained, the rain would leak through ruining their home and property. Her task was to hammer different protective layers on the roof.
A third task that they did was visiting a pine tree forest to collect wood. There are these beetles there that actually eat the xylem of the trees, killing them. The dead trees turn orange and are cut down. Most of the dead tree is still good wood so Re-Member members are allowed to go and gather as much of the wood as they please. The wood is used to give out to homes during the harsh winter months at the reservation. Their task on this day was to put on gloves and load these tree trunks into trucks. As a team, they managed to gather a huge load of wood.

The Inspiration

Throughout my best friend’s school years, she attended a couple of different schools. Her and her mother moved a lot, which meant she had to change schools a lot as well. She always felt as though she had a hard time connecting with classmates and teachers. She was very involved in clubs and organizations. She also met and got along with a ton of different people, but she had a hard time bonding with anyone.
This changed when she met her AP European teacher her senior year of high school. For the first time she felt like someone in school really took an interest in her future. He was one of those teachers who truly cared about the well being and progress of his students. He was very into volunteering and every year after school ended, he took a group of seniors to go with him to volunteer at the Pine Ridge Reservation. He briefly mentioned it during one of her classes one day. She was very interested. She had always been into volunteering to help others, but she had never gone out of state to help others in need. She knew that this was definitely something she wanted to do. Closer to the end of the year he held a meeting for anyone who was interested. She attended that meeting to learn more about the trip. He had been there a couple of times so he had a ton of amazing stories and pictures to show. She looked up to him and knew that this would have been an amazing opportunity, so she gladly signed up on the spot.

The Aha! moment…

My best friend said she learned a lot from her experience volunteering at the reservation. She learned how to use power tools and how to skirt a trailer and fix a roof. She learned a ton about the culture and about the people and living on the reservation. She also learned a ton of interesting facts about landmarks and the wildlife living there. Most importantly she learned a ton about herself and others. She is extremely scared of heights. Though it was a huge challenge for her to get on that house to fix the roof, she overcame her fear for that instant so that she can help out that family. She said she couldn’t have gone up there without the support of her group throughout the day.
One thing she fears more than heights are bugs and during the day at the forest, there were a ton of beetles everywhere. There were beetles on the logs they were carrying and beetles flying all around crashing and even landing on them. She was extremely terrified, but once again, her group helped her move along that day.
What amazed her the most was to learn how different people with different backgrounds can come together to help other people who are in need. They were all strangers, yet they all worked together since day one to help out other strangers. The will to help others in need brought all of them together, to help each other overcome obstacles and to teach one another.

To summarize it in three words…

  • Kindness, Support, Love

Why should you do this

She strongly recommends anyone to volunteer at Re-Member. Not only did she have a blast helping and meeting others, but it was definitely a learning experience. She said she will never forget this trip and that she plans to go many more times to volunteer.

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