Brattleboro Area Interfaith Youth Group travels to South Dakota

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BRATTLEBORO — Eight teenagers and six adults of the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Youth Group departed Thursday, July 30, on a road trip to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, on a mission trip to work improving housing and community conditions for the Lakota Indian tribe.

Many members of the Guilford Community Church, Newfane Church and Brattleboro Area Jewish Community have contributed funds to make the trip possible.

The 14 will volunteer with an organization named Simply Smiles, rehabbing the interior of a home for a Lakota family, building sheds to store wood pellets for economical heating, and building a concrete pathway to the community center which was built several years ago.

They will also help carry out activities they have planned for an afternoon summer camp for Lakota kids, where the Brattleboro teens will have a chance to enjoy time with them.

Lise Sparrow, the pastor at Guilford Church, provides leadership for the trip.

"Simply Smiles has built credibility with the Lakota Tribe over many years and has been able to have a positive impact through home improvements and establishment of a Community Center where there were no resources," the pastor said. "We are bringing our hearts, minds and hands to help with this effort. Through it we fully expect the youth and adults alike to experience important intercultural awareness."

The group prepared by learning about events in American history that devastated the native culture. There is a movement afoot to address the grave socio-economic conditions and significant mental health problems on the Reservation.

Anyone interested in following the trip can do so at the Facebook page for Guilford Community Church where the teens will post photos and a blog daily.

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