This summer I spent at the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana volunteering thru Visions Service Learning Program.
GLOBAL ISSUES - I worked with indigenous people to support their reservation, helped with housing issues and food access issues. I also was able to learn about the culture and participate in Blackfeet Sun Dance.
PERSEVERANCE - I worked 8 hrs a day, 5 days a week for 21 days helping the Blackfeet Tribe and its community. I was committed. It was very hot and I had to learn new skills (like drywalling and power tools) and lead groups during tasks. Over time, I became more passionate about the work as I realized how it was changing the lives of the Blackfeet community.
COLLABORATION - I worked with various other community groups taking on parts of larger projects, sometimes this was a formal group like the Crazy Dog Society other times it was an individual elder, I needed to take direction from different types of people. At times, I also had to lead my group in their task. I enjoyed leading, challenges came with motivation during long hours.
AWARENESS - Navigating the social dynamics of a large group of very different people (all living in close quarters) was my biggest area for self-growth and awareness. I learned that different people have different approaches and communication styles and it's best to learn about them. I learned that sometimes when you are a hard worker, and enjoy being busy sometimes the larger group may not view that as a positive and may take it personally. Some campers thought my hard work was making them look bad and were frustrated with me. I do not think I would change my work ethic for these people but next time I might know how to communicate with them better.
ETHICS - Sometimes when working with a group of other students I had to make the decision to engage "slackers" to get the job done or for the sake of the larger group's contentment (since we all lived together in a bunkhouse) just work more myself. I had varied results with both approaches. When one fellow volunteer was being pushed out of the larger group's clique, I had to choose to stick with the clique or put myself out there and reach out and support the more isolated kid. I choose to work with and support the isolated kid and stick up for him to the larger group.
INITIATIVE - Several projects I did completely on my own, one item was the improvement of the bunkhouse. The bathrooms did not have mirrors, I engaged adults to buy materials. I then framed and installed mirrors. I worked with different groups within the bunkhouse to make the bathrooms more comfortable. Once I learned how to drywall, I organized a group to fix various drywall issues within the bunkhouse. I also organized the storage shed to help the group run smoothly.
CHALLENGE AND NEW SKILLS - So many new skills including power tools, concrete work, drywall work, horseback riding, navigated multiple airports, and layovers alone during Covid. I was stretched behind my comfort zone sleeping outside in the plains or in the first. It was very difficult to work a full day after bad sleep. I persevered and learned to enjoy it.