Growing Community in Tsaile

Growing Community in Tsaile

by Emma Brewer-Wallin

2018 Site Director, Tsaile, AZ

 

Greetings from Tsaile!

I just spent a week in Tsaile, AZ with Adam Diehm (2018 Tsaile Spiritual Life Coordinator) and Kelsie Currie (2018 Smith River Spiritual Life Coordinator), leading an Alternative Break for a group of students from the University of California, San Diego. They had just taken a class on Navajo history and culture, and concluded their term with a week of service and cross-cultural conversation.

After having spent two summers on staff for SSP in Tsaile, I was excited to get to show them around the place I have gotten to know and love – but the week was full of new experiences for me too! A particular highlight was Tuesday, which we spent in learning and service with the Tsaile-Wheatfields Water Users’ Association. This is a non-profit organization that works on agriculture revitalization in the community.

Although a core of Navajo culture is farming, the Navajo Nation is considered a “food desert,” meaning the majority of people do not have adequate access to fresh food. Part of the mission of the Water Users’ Association is to restore farming – particularly the growing of fresh vegetables – as part of the way of life in Tsaile. Their work is just picking up speed, thanks to a grant from the Navajo Nation. I look forward to seeing where their vision leads!

This past week, we helped the Water Users’ Association prepare their fields for the upcoming season of planting. One of our groups covered a lot of farmland, picking up and collecting logs that would get in the way when it’s time to prepare the soil. Our other teams worked on preparing the fencing that will separate different plots and keep animals from eating the growing veggies!

My hope is we can continue a partnership with this exciting organization over the summer! Not only will it be great for us to support their work, it will also be a chance for our volunteers and staff to experience another aspect of Navajo culture and learn from the community members.

 

Editor’s Note: 2018 will be Emma’s third summer returning to staff for SSP in Tsaile, AZ. In 2016 and 2017, she served as the Spiritual Life Coordinator, and helped to foster the growth of strong connections between SSP and local organizations. See photos from the Alternative Break in Tsaile on SSP’s Facebook. Sign up as a group or individual for the summer of 2018 to be a part of this impactful partnership in Tsaile!

From Volunteer to Staff

From Volunteer to Staff

By Rylie Malm

2018 Supply Coordinator in Chiloquin, OR

Former Volunteer, Wesley Foundation at Washington State University

 

Over our college’s spring break, I had the opportunity to go on an Alternative Break trip in San Diego through Sierra Service Project and my local Wesley Foundation. It was a wonderful experience serving in Imperial Beach and Tijuana. I learned a lot, both about myself and the people who live in that community. My perspective has been completely changed from what I thought I knew about the area.

I got to work on many projects while I was there that helped the community in many different ways. Some of the things I helped with was cleaning up the sports park building so it can be reopened in the fall, and continue to be a place for high school students to go after school. I also helped remove an invasive species from the Tijuana Estuary, plant milkweed and other plants to restore the area, and create a habitat for birds and other wildlife. I also took a day trip to Mexico and worked with Four Walls International. Overall, the experience was really impactful.

“My perspective has been completely changed from what I thought I knew.”

The most surprising thing I learned about the community was how invested they were in their city, and how much they cared to make it a better place. This attitude was especially held by the mayor, who came and shared a meal with us. His story of how he became the mayor, and his platform and willingness to change and reform the city was amazing. I could tell he really loved Imperial Beach and all its inhabitants. This love and determination was also present in all the other people I worked with over the week. Although each person had different reasons for their work and the projects my group did with them, they all had a common goal of making the community a cleaner and safer place to live.

“They all had a common goal of making the community a cleaner and safer place to live.”

This experience also gave me a chance to prepare for my summer staff position, and gave me a chance to meet some people I’ll be working with. For the most part, an Alternative Break is lot different from what the summer will be like. However, I am extremely excited to be a part of the Sierra Service Project staff, and to work in the Chiloquin community. I am looking forward to being a role model for youth volunteers, and getting to see this summer’s projects progress and eventually get completed. I’m very thankful for the opportunities SSP has provided me, both through the Alternative Breaks and the new experiences and adventures I will have on staff this summer.

 

Editor’s Note: Rylie has served at SSP twice as a young adult volunteer through the Wesley Foundation at Washington State University, and we are looking forward to having her on summer staff in 2018. Check out photos of their San Diego trip on SSP’s Facebook. There is still plenty of space available for both middle school and high school volunteers to serve in Chiloquin this summer – join Rylie in service by signing up to volunteer!

Veronica Russell: Why I Serve

By Veronica Russell

SSP Director of Volunteers & Outreach

Former Youth Volunteer, Pt. Pleasant UMC

 

It was the summer of 2007. As a sophomore in high school, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Sierra Service Project’s rural site in Pendleton, Oregon. I was young for my grade, and intimidated I didn’t know many people. We had already been driving for two days by the time we pulled into the dusty parking lot. I was just barely starting to get comfortable with the wacky folks that comprised of PPUMC‘s youth group. At first, I clung to my close friends like buoys in the ocean.

Loads of loud, friendly teenagers were getting settled into the gym where we would stay. Confident college-age staff were walking around to meet everyone, and I was stuck like glue to my youth leader’s side. I wasn’t sure what my place in the cacophony would be. I remember at one point, someone asked me to take off my “cool jacket.” However, after a few hours and some icebreaker games, I saw a community start to unfold – one where I could be myself and be welcomed without hesitation.

 

“I saw a community start to unfold – one where I could be myself and be welcomed without hesitation.”

 

I was put on a team installing a new roof for a disabled homeowner. My Construction Coordinator saw my initial hesitation with using tools, and guided me patiently through each step. We learned how to put down tar paper, install shingles, and safely climb up to and down from the roof. I took such pride in my role as a “Hydration Specialist,” making sure everyone on our work team was well hydrated and taking the appropriate water breaks. Our homeowner ate lunch with us most days, and I’ll never forget the sense of accomplishment I felt in the work we had done for her and her community.

On Wednesday, we all took a break from our projects to rest and rejuvenate at the river. I remember sitting with my friend Heidi, swapping life stories and questions about God. Later that day, we played Ultimate Frisbee as a large group, and laughed until our sides were sore. There was something about being in nature, and hearing our Spiritual Life Coordinator talk about our role as stewards of Creation, that resonated strongly within me.

 

“I started to see myself as someone who mattered. I was starting to see through God’s eyes.”

 

By the end of the week, I was walking away with stronger friendships, new skills, and confidence in my abilities. What’s more, I started to see myself as someone who mattered. I was starting to see through God’s eyes. After that, SSP became a regular part of my summer: first as a high school volunteer, then as a staff-in-training and later on summer staff, and now in adulthood as a full-time employee.

SSP has been instrumental in my personal, spiritual, and professional growth over the last eleven years. It was a catalyst for me to become involved in larger social justice issues as a teen, grow in my faith in a loving God, and feel empowered to make a real difference in the world.

I’m grateful for everything SSP has given me. I do what I do because I want to share this opportunity with other young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow! Join me in serving communities in the western United States by volunteering at SSP this summer.

 

Editor’s Note: Veronica attended as a youth for three years before serving as a staff-in-training in 2009 and on summer staff in 2011. She has been working in the SSP office since 2014, and is eager to connect with new groups or individual volunteers. Contact her to learn more about how you can get involved with SSP this summer!

SSP Changed the Way I Look at the World

SSP Changed the Way I Look at the World

By Zasu Scott
Youth Volunteer from Loomis First United Methodist Church

I reached a turning point the summer before my sophomore year of high school in 2015. It was my fourth time spending a week repairing homes with Sierra Service Project, and it was undeniable that each experience had been transformational for me. My experience in 2015, above all, played a formative role at a pivotal time in my life. I would set the foundation for how I respond to the world around me. I needed to decide who I wanted to become.

One moment in particular changed the way I looked at the world and changed the way I saw myself:

Grinning, I peered into Mrs. Martin’s home, an elderly Klamath woman who used a walker. Honored, I announced that she could now actually leave her house. My team had finally completed her ramp. She was no longer housebound. My team and I stood back and admired our handiwork, watching her beam with contentment as she used her walker to go down her brand new ramp. Never have I felt more like I was doing exactly what I was meant to – like it actually mattered.

Seeing the impact that I could make with just a chop saw and a week’s worth of labor, showed me that I had the power to make the world a better place. If I had the power to change this woman’s life, maybe I could change my own. I now knew that with simply my hands and my heart, I could be the change I wish to see in my community and in my world.

“I now knew that with simply my hands and my heart, I could be the change I wish to see in my community and in my world.”

Countless times SSP has opened my eyes to the world around me. SSP has shown me poverty in America, from the streets of skid row to remote indigenous communities. It has taken me to the U.S.-Mexico border, and into the lives of many whose world is far different than my own. SSP has shown me the person that I want to become, but more importantly, the people that I want to spend my life fighting for. My summers of service have affirmed I must fight for others, as we as a society succeed only when we all succeed.

This belief brought me to California Girls State, an American-Legion civics leadership program. I wanted to advocate for human rights and social mobility. I wanted to fight for the idea that no matter who you are or where you come from, you deserve the opportunity to fight for your dreams. On this platform, I was elected Secretary of State after delivering a speech to the 500-plus citizens. Up on that stage, I could make my voice heard, but I also could make those without a voice heard.

“Instead we get up, and fight to set the scales of privilege even, one ramp at a time, one garden bed at a time, one coat of paint at a time.”

This would not have been possible without the courage and confidence I gained from SSP. Being a part of SSP created a framework of active empathy in my mind. We serve because we do not sit back when we see something we do not like in the world. Instead we get up, and fight to set the scales of privilege even, one ramp at a time, one garden bed at a time, one coat of paint at a time. It is this ideology of creating a world you want to be a part of that sparked my interest in politics. Not settling for a world of glass ceilings and socioeconomic barriers, but fighting for change and equal opportunity.

When I got up on that stage, I could speak the truths I had discovered through screwdrivers and spiritual sandwiches, from years of active service with SSP.

“SSP changed what I want to do with my life because it made me realize that I have the power to change the world around me.”

Sierra Service Project not only changed me, but it changed the way I look at the world. SSP changed what I want to do with my life because it made me realize that I have the power to change the world around me.

 

Editor’s Note: If you are looking for summer volunteer opportunities in Chiloquin, Oregon, or at any other SSP site, we still have space available for 2018! Groups, individuals, and even intergenerational (12 years old and up) are welcome.

123448

Send Me SSP News Monthly

Join Our Email List

News Archives

Instagram

  • We are so thrilled to announce this year’s Leadership Academy cohort! These ten staff alumni will gather for three weekends this year at Wesley Theological Seminary to develop their leadership skills and style. Show them some love in the comments below!
  • SSP loves staying connected throughout the year! This weekend, we hosted a volunteer coffee hour and staff interest dinner in San Luis Obispo. Thank you all for gathering together! We are excited to launch our program plans for Summer 2019, and share about them both in person and on our website. If you live elsewhere in the Western US, be on the lookout via our Facebook page for SSP to host a meet-up event near you.
  • Staff are jumping for joy today after wrapping up all projects, saying bittersweet farewells to the communities they’ve served in all summer, and hitting the road to staff debrief. Hold them in your thoughts and prayers as they make the trek back to Sacramento today and tomorrow after a full summer of service to others. Thank you to everyone who dedicated time, energy, and love to make this summer a success!

Follow Me!

Twitter Feed

@SJNDPILOTS We LOVED having SJND students with us in San Diego this summer! #volunteerSSP #LoveCourageously1 month ago
RT @Dig_IB: Sierra Service Project to Offer Free Home Repairs for IB Community Residents this Summer Taking Applications Now! Let them know…5 months ago
Check our our new #12xSSP stickers! Sign up to be a monthly donor or increase your current donation in February and… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…8 months ago