Category Archives: Community Service

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 47: Helping our Children Build a Better Tomorrow

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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 32: DoSomething.Org – Empowering Youth and Young Adults to Get Involved and Get Active (because apathy sucks!)

logoDoSomething.org is the future of volunteer and activism experiences. The non-profit uses a digital platform to power offline action through hundreds of grass-roots volunteer, social change, awareness and civic action campaigns.

 

 

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Targeted at ages 13 – 30, the campaigns can be completed by individuals or groups, without any need for transportation, funding by participants, or oversight. Young adults love to get involved and make a difference. They are passionate about causes they identify with. DoSomething.org taps into that potential and makes getting active super easy and super fun, empowering teens and young adults to drive social change.

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Week 31: Volunteering New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris

lego knight on horseChased by Lego knights and pirate ships, stalked by 6 foot tall dinosaurs, time-warped to the 1930s to carve Mt. Rushmore, paralyzed by the siren’s song of a Metropolitan Opera Soprano….. is this a crazy, alcohol-fueled dream? Nope. This is how I rang in an eclectic and delightful New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris in Morristown, NJ.

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Week 27: Feed My Starving Children’s Mobile Packing event with Liquid Church: A Holiday Poem

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Pastor Tim calls Christmas the season of light

and encourages us to find ways to shine bright

by sharing love and kindness to others in need,

And one way to do this is through doing good deeds.

So when Liquid Church held Feed My Starving Children’s Mobile Packing event, 

my husband and daughter and co-workers went. 

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Week 23: Liquid Church’s Love Week: Spreading Kindness and Connection

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The month of November always makes me think of kindness. The start of the winter holiday season is a wonderful time for refocusing and remembering that it takes only a tiny effort to share love!  It brings to mind a special story I want to share with you. It’s my interpretation of the concept of Tikkun Olam*, Hebrew for “repair of the world”…

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