I just returned from a week in South Dakota. Every year I take students to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and meet people. I wouldn’t call it a short-term mission trip, I would call it a meet and greet event. Our purpose is very simple, we travel together as a group, which means we learn about each other; we meet people who are different than us; and we serve. We try to help the little church we stay at; and we review the history of the area, which is extensive. We visit Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Fort Robinson, and other areas to learn about the historical relationship of white and red people in the Midwest. I enjoy this tip because of what we learn, how we help, and the fact I get to see Ed Breeden. Ed is our guide who takes us on our journey.
This year was a little different than normal. We did not have as many service jobs and the church had a problem earlier this year, which has hurt the attendance of adults. We did not know what to expect when we arrived, but we were flexible. We did accomplish very good service job, which involved installing a safety fence to protect the children from falling into a fire pit.
All of the above was nice, but I had an epiphany about poverty. My moment of illumination involved the fact that poverty is not defeated by big government handouts, but by hard work and initiative. If poverty could be eliminated by handouts; then the reservation would be a place of affluence. But Pine Ridge is not an area of affluence but one of extreme poverty accompanied by everything usually experienced in a ghetto setting.
Instead of handouts, the Charlie’s, Reuben’s, David’s, Clarissa’s, Maria’s, and Hazel’s need the opportunity to work. Each of these people are real people who have a story. Work in this area is hard to find, so maybe entrepreneurship could help? But I don’t think one could just start small businesses in Pine Ridge, I think there needs to be a lot of education done first. More than what could be done in a week. The question is how does one do this long distance, in preparation for starting a small business?
This has become my new goal in life. I want to establish a process, or system if you will, that can be replicated in other poor areas, that can help communities start small businesses based on the assets of the community. This summer I intend to figure this out. I will be working and writing, putting together this process. Rather than continue handouts to the Lakota, I think there needs to be a weaning off of the welfare and partnerships with the business community and tribe to provide opportunities for people to work and become productive.
Now is the time to make a difference, not create a larger welfare state.
And that is my thought for the day!