Author Archives: k8mante

Week 52: Volunteering at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana

My legs and back were stiff from sitting on the ground for the last hour, but there was no room to stretch or move in the tiny sweat lodge full as it was with tribesmen/women and invited guests.

 

I had never been in a place so dark. Covered with branches and then thick blankets, absolutely no light entered the space. The air was humid and thick enough that you felt you were breathing in gel.

 

IMG_7943Although it was as dark as the endless depths of space, it was not silent. Every so often the chief, or one of his chosen assistants, took large boughs of fresh sweet pine, dipped them in a bucket of water and then sprinkled them on the hot rocks in the basin dug into the center of the hut. You could hear the sizzle and feel the new steam rising. Members of the tribe chanted and sung prayer songs of thanks and wellbeing. Some were accompanied by seed rattles or drumming.

 

From time to time the Chief interrupted the darkness by burning offerings over the stones. Participants brought bits of tobacco to be burnt in offerings to the heavens. The tobacco became part of mother earth – she took all the troubles offered to her, cleansed them and turned them into nourishment for humankind. The smoke would take the prayers and messages up to the Gods.

 

IMG_8333To my left, the pipe woman prepared and passed the ceremonial pipe around the room and everyone took a puff, releasing the smoke to the heavens while praying.

 

You could see the tiny light of the tobacco in the pipe glow red hot when someone inhaled. Like a dancing firefly.

 

At one point the Chief passed around hot sweet pine needle tea in a large wooden scoop and everyone took a sip.

 

The sweat lodge ceremony was divided into 4 sections – each about 30 minutes long with a few minute break in between. During the breaks you were able to take a cold drink of water that was passed around in a shared jug.

 

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New rocks from the bonfire outside the hut were brought in to keep the hut hot. During those few minutes you could catch a wisp of cool air and see the night sky and bonfire outside.

 

Then the blankets and door were closed and you were once again encased in thick darkness.

 

I felt completely relaxed and a bit dizzy. I could be anywhere, or nowhere.

 

I imagined this was like the darkness that existed before the Universe was created… a thick darkness everywhere, unending.

 

This was the last week of my 52 week journey. I was on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana, working with a  team from Global Volunteers.

 

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IMG_8613Fantastically unique and special moments like the sweat lodge ceremony happened all week as we met and worked alongside the families of the tribe.

 

I slept in a teepee, worked dried elk hide to create a traditional par fleche, learned all about the history of the Blackfeet and the Reservation, their traditions and system of government.

 

I watched a traditional Blackfeet ceremonial dance, met tribal artists, ate traditional foods, and spent my volunteer days helping the team take care of an expansive working farm.

 

It was an amazing week and a spiritually special way to end my 52 weeks of charity. I will definitely be back!

 

To learn more about the Blackfeet Indian program and other programs run by Global Volunteers, please check out their website at: https://globalvolunteers.org/

 

THANK YOU for coming along on my 52 week journey. I’m not sure what’s next for me with this – I’ve LOVED my year and am sad to see it end. I’m going to think about next steps for 2019… stay tuned 😉

XO XO,

…PENNY

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Week 51: Mane Stream – Helping Children with Disabilities through Equine Therapy

logoThose who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” reads a quote in the volunteer kit. I was reading up ahead of my scheduled day at Mane Stream, an adaptive horsemanship and equine therapy center in Oldwick, NJ. I would quickly learn that Mane Stream was much more than a therapeutic program. It is a community of joy and healing. The special staff, therapists and volunteers who work at Mane Stream light up the lives of their patients and their families.

 

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Week 50: Fundraising for Make-A-Wish

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In the movie The Never Ending Story, Bastian learns the power of imagination….

 

Empress Moonchild:  One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire.

Bastian: Fantasia has totally disappeared?

Empress Moonchild: Yes.

Bastian: Then everything has been in vain.

Empress Moonchild: No, it hasn’t. Fantasia can arise in you. In your dreams and wishes Bastian.

Bastian: How?

Empress Moonchild: Open your hand.

She puts the grain of sand  into his hand and he looks at it…

 

 

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Empress Moonchild: What are you going to wish for?

Bastian: I don’t know.

Empress Moonchild: Then there will be no Fantasia any more.

Bastian:  How many wishes do I get?

Empress Moonchild: As many as you want. And the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.

Bastian:  Really?

Empress Moonchild: Try it.

Bastian: Then my first wish is…

Moonchild follows his gaze and smiles…

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Week 49: Living Water International – Building a Clean Water Well in El Salvador with My Co-Workers

Everyone at well

 

The first question is usually, “How hot was it?” And I’m never quite sure how to explain it in a way that makes sense. Think about sitting in a sauna fully clothed and in work boots. Then think about playing soccer and football, digging trenches and sifting gravel in that sauna. For 8 hours. That’s pretty much the physical experience. But that does not convey how happy you are. That the heat only really registers occasionally, when you’ve hit the wall of exhaustion. Otherwise, you are feeling fulfilled in a way you just don’t feel in your everyday life.

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Week 47: Helping our Children Build a Better Tomorrow

kids earth heart

 

One day in the not too distant future the world will belong to our children. They will make decisions on the environment, policies on poverty and social services, and be responsible for making decisions about resources, war, and peace.  They will be the problem-solvers (and problem-creators) responsible for the well-being of future generations.

 

How can we support our children and young adults so they become their best selves in a global society? How can we fuel within them a sense of service and civic engagement? How can we expand their minds to include causes bigger than themselves?

 

Most importantly, how can we help them develop the resolve and confidence they will need so they believe without a shadow of doubt they can make a difference, effect change, and improve the world?

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Week 46: NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking: Fighting for the Victims

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The speaker stood up at the front of the auditorium….

Several times a year our group goes into local cities and towns and asks,Who are your missing children?We get their names and photos, then make posters of these children.”

 

(She holds up one of the posters with the faces of at least 15 children on it)

 

We then stop at motels and hotels” she continued, “and ask the staff, ‘Have you seen any of these faces?’”

 

EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve had at least one rescue. Sometimes several. The children are usually going by different names, but we always find someone who recognizes at least one and it allows us to start to work towards finding them and rescuing them.”

 

These children… they are typically between the ages of 12 and 16. These cities and towns? …. They are in New Jersey….

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Week 43: Joan’s Joy: Turning Tragedy into Action: Keeping the Children of Tomorrow Safe

Joan brownie outfit

 

April 19, 1973…. It’s Maundy Thursday. Seven-year old Joan Angela D’Alessandro is playing in her front yard after school when she sees her neighbor, Joseph McGowan, drive by on his way up to his home three houses away.

 

Eager to deliver her last boxes of Girl Scout cookies, Joan runs into the house and tells her mom she’s going to walk over to Mr. McGowan’s house to give him the 2 boxes of Thin Mint cookies he ordered.

 

Joan never came home.

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Week 42: Quantum Physics and Hunger: Combating Poverty through Family-to-Family

quantum entanglement

 

Quantum physics contains a theory of entanglement, where two particles originating from a single source – for example, two electrons created from the energy of a collision – are created with a special kind of never-ending connection (communication) between them. Whatever happens to one of the particles instantaneously affects and changes the other (and vice versa).

 

What is amazing about this connection beyond its timelessness (instantly and forever) is that it is nonlocal, meaning no matter how far apart the particles travel from each other, even if they travel across the universe from each other, the connection never fades. They always mirror each other. They are forever intertwined… separate particles connected as one across space and time.

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Week 41: Kindness.org: The Surprising Effects of Building Intent Around Kindness

coffee

 

Because this is New Jersey, and aggressive, caffeine-fueled commuting is standard, I pass 7 Dunkin’ Donuts and 3 Starbucks on my 40 minute, 11 mile drive to work.

 

Not only do all these coffee shops ensure I can always find a boost of energy, they provided the perfect venues for me to work on this week’s charity – Kindness.org.

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