Making A Difference
Community involvement is something that can start small and make a big impact. Check out a few stories from youth activists about how and why they decided to make a difference. Get inspired! Indian Country, rise up!
Jeidah DeZurney (Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians), age 20, is making a positive impact in Salem, Oregon. In February, Jeidah created care kits and collected winter clothing, then handed them out in downtown Portland. Jeidah originally planned on 30-40 kits, but was so blessed to receive grants to help over 100 houseless individuals in Portland. The youth had such a great time making these and providing warm words to the houseless when passing the kits out. It was eye opening for everyone, and everyone benefited. The Siletz youth council has had this idea for a couple month now, and putting in the hard work so it could happen has only made Jeidah more motivated for future service projects. “I am so grateful for all the help I received to make this project come to life. Everyone involved had nothing but smiles and love in their hearts. The youth stuck through the rain and handed out every single kit! Our hard work paid off, and the smiles and grateful comments made every second worth it. “If you are interested in carrying out a similar project, Jeidah suggests contacting your local thrift stores for donations! “We had so many clothes donated from thrift stores and got to hand out every single item. Also asking tribal clinics for donations, we had 90 dental kits donated by our dental clinic.” For more ideas and to apply for up to $475 today, visit https://www.wernative.org/my-impact/grant-application-form
Luke Harris (Cherokee), age 21, is making a positive impact. Luke held a field day for 200 Native American middle school students at the University of Oregon campus. The amount of support we received this year from various groups was amazing.We even had 100 volunteers. It is a beautiful thing to see other people and organizations believe in your vision enough to lend a helping hand. We especially want to thank We R Native for not only supporting us financially, but for showing up to Youth Movement and inspiring the Native students to be better versions of themselves every single day. If you are interested in carrying out a similar project, Luke suggests, “Don’t be afraid to seek support from Counselors, adults, and even businesses! When they can see the benefits of your mission, they will provide whatever they can to see it happen. Financial support goes a long way, but support in term of free equipment, food, and prizes can also make putting on a field day of this magnitude a success.”
Kiara Garcia (Nez Perce), age 18, is making a positive impact in Lapwai, Idaho. In April, Kiara used the community mini grant to buy feminine products and non-perishable food items. The non-perishable fod items were two different kinds of granola bars, gum, fruit snacks, applesauce pouches, and breakfast bars. She was able to fill 216 quart-size bags. She filled six boxes with the feminine products as well and three other boxes with toiletries. She was able to donate the snack bags, feminine products, and toiletries to three different places; Lewiston High School, Lapwai High School, and the ROC Rescue Mission. As a result, Students at both the high schools were able to access the pantries there and grab whatever they needed. At the ROC Rescue Mission adults and youth could access the pantry there. This project was so rewarding and a very humbling experience as well. Kiara plans on continuing the Pack-a-Snack project throughout her life. If you are interested in carrying out a similar project, Kiara suggests asking the pantries if they need certain items donated and to also get more feminine hygiene products. There was a huge need for them at the pantries.
In September, Ma’iingaans Loonsfoot (Keweenaw Bay Ojibwe), age 23, created a lacrosse program to bring back our traditional game of lacrosse and provide youth with a healthy alternative to drugs and alcohol. Anyone that wanted to learn about the tradition and modern games of lacrosse along with the history of the game and traditional teachings, like respect, that go into playing lacrosse, could. The project is still ongoing and I work with many school groups at least once a month. I also work with the men’s and women’s collegiate lacrosse teams in my area to teach them how to be good mentors and role models for the tribal youth in the area. I also am really excited about this project because, I am able to be a leader/role mode and mentor of lots of tribal youth. So because I never had any good role models growing up, I wanted to do something that allowed me to help mentor other kids who don’t have good role models. I’m always there for them to lean on. If you are interested in carrying out a similar project, I suggest sticking with it; It can be hard to start a new project, but if you stick with it you can accomplish anything! Also, have fun! When you are engaged with the people you work with then you can have a greater impact. Even if you don’t think your project/program was a success, it was. Even if only one person showed up you probably made an impact in their life whether you know it or not. I always say that the people who show up are the ones that are meant to be there.
In October, LIllian Sanchez-Lee, Raylene Sanchez-Lee and Jaden Manjarrez held a 5k run/walk and health fair in Yakama, WA. A total of 19 runners attendedthe event. As part of the event, the group raised money for the Family, Career, And Community Leaders of America chapter to fund their Easter color run/walk.They also had a guest speaker, Waylon Pee Pahona. The guest received a water, apple, bagel, and a candy bag for Halloween. The top two winners of the runreceived a We R Native t-Shirt and lanyard. The other guest received a We R Native sticker and keychain. They also had 2 health booths for this event wherethe group handed out resources for traditional and spiritual healing through native culture and held discussions about developing healthy lifestyles. Ifyou are interested in carrying out a similar project, apply for a community service grant today!
In November, students from the American Indian Community House (AICH) Youth Council in NYC collaborated with the Shinnecock UNITY Youth Council to hostan indigenous youth identity workshop that focused on artistic expression and cultural identity. The popular DJ group, A Tribe Called Red, was invitedto share how their work confronts the many stereotypes that face Native people.
In March, youth from the Lawrence High Inter-Tribal Club held a book drive where they collected books to bring to the Little Nations Academic Center atHaskell University. Not only did they hold a month long book collection, they also purchased books by Native authors, and created a book of their own “N8TIV3Numbers”. The club then brought the books to the Center and spent time reading to the children (ages 1-5). The event was a huge success! The club was ableto incorporate Native American values by giving to the children, and they were able to get the entire community involved through their book donations.
In July, Virlencia Begay (Navajo), age 20, hosted a youth day called Nee’Niji. Activities included health awareness presentations, traditional teachings,physical activities (5k run, basketball, kickball, volleyball), college prep advice and a water balloon fight 🙂 The group applied for and received a WeR Native mini grant for $475 to help advertise, provide food and purchase school supplies to give out. They promoted their event by hanging up fliers,word of mouth and shared on social media. The event was a huge success and created a fun and supportive environment for over 200 people!
In June, Jaycee Carrywater Jr.(Cheyenne/Lakota), age 15 and the Niitssitapi Nation (Ferris H.S. Leadership Club) from Spokane, Washington helped breakdown stereotypes while giving back to their community. The group applied for and received a We R Native mini grant for $475. They budgeted their moneyand purchased deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, bread, deli meat and cheese. After going to the store and purchasing these materials, they puttogether care packages to bring to their local homeless shelter. The event was a success and the group shared their stories on our YT channel!
To celebrate National STD Awareness Month in April, the Northern Diné Youth Committee hosted an all-day Get Yourself Tested (GYT) event. The event wasopen to the public, and included a 5K run/1 mile walk, a dodgeball tournament, food, and special performances by DJ Smash and Digital Divide. To help folksget tested, the youth committee partnered with Navajo AIDS Network to offer free, confidential STD/HIV testing to those who attended.