Thursday, February 28, 2008

Update Part 4

Post from 10/17:

I think one of the biggest blessings on this trip (aside from the people I met) was the amount of sleep JT allowed us to get. His summer trips are notorious for the lack of sleep workers get. We were fortunate to be finished most nights by 10 and able to sleep until 6 or so. For me, that made a huge difference. Thanks JT!!

The mornings of our first three days we went to the local nursing home on the reservation. This was a beautiful facility that had wonderful staff who truly cared for the residents. We as "white people" could take a serious lesson from the way Native Americans treat their elders. Our nicest nursing home facilities don't look like this one. Our elders have given us so much, we should do the same for them in the final years. The residents were wonderful people who loved to visit. Of coure, some only spoke O'Odham, the native language, so communication was left to smiles and miming gestures. One lady I sat with the first day, Rosita, was hard of hearing but was determined to teach me (and those around me) O'Odham. We were playing a version on bingo with English and O'Odham words and she would make me repeat the O'Odham words each time she said one. It was really a cool experience for a few reasons: first of all, I was told Rosita didn't talk to white people because a white person stole something from her shop years ago and she distrusted all of them. Secondly, most elders don't teach the language to white people and she had no reservations about it. We also spent time painting, playing "real" Bingo and wheelchair basketball. These were such sweet people who wanted nothing more than to visit with anyone who was willing to sit and listen.

Most of my afternoons were spent working with the children on their homework and then playing on the playground while the men worked on fence and construction. One sweet child, Ashley, came by everyday and I think she created homework so she could get some specific attention from us. Since they are so far behind academically, any extra work was a blessing for her. The kids are at least 2 years behind other kids off the reservation. They get even further behind because education is not always valued by their parents. If they don't want to go to school, they don't. Plus, their school year is only 145 days compared to 180+ in most areas. Teachers with a love of children are desperately needed at all levels on the reservation.

One afternoon, the girls were given the task of doing some serious demo. There was a ceiling that had to be "de-constructed" so the team this week could rebuild that room. So, we donned masks and begin pulling sheetrock down. Talk about fun! Who knew demo could be so much fun. I now know why the Extreme Home Makeover people enjoy demo day so much. :-) We also carted off old pews, demolished an old, non-functioning organ and anything else we could find. I'd love to see pictures of the "after" process.

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