Hometown: Cumming, GA
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies
Why did you apply for this particular internship? First, I wanted to dedicate my summer to serving others, so Shepherd was the obvious choice. Secondly, serving on an Indian Reservation appealed to my sense of adventure, and I am always itching to get back out West. Finally, the work at St. Anne's is hands-on and relational, which I have found to be the most fulfilling.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? I have learned a lot about community building and economic development (or lack thereof) while working on the Rez. I have been in immediate contact with a lot of the social issues and economic problems we discuss in my classes at W&L, and I am confident that my internship this summer has provided me with insight and experience to help me one day tackle those problems from wherever I end up.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience? Coming in to my Shepherd, I didn't know what to expect, so I guess everything was pretty unexpected. The extreme level of poverty right here in the U.S. shocked me and broke my heart. I also didn't expect to fall in love with these people. The Navajo Nation is full of beautiful people who have taught me a lot about their culture, life in general, and myself. I expected to meet and help others, but I did not expect to form deep relationships with families and learn so much from them.
Post-Graduation Plans: Hopefully attend grad school to study corporate social responsibility.
Favorite W&L Memory: When my three best friends and I went to New York City over Washington Break to volunteer at homeless shelters and soup kitchens in an attempt to make a documentary.Favorite Class: Corporate Social Responsibility in Copenhagen with Professors Rob Straughan and Elizabeth Oliver.
Favorite W&L Event: Fancy Dress
Favorite Lexington Landmark: North Mountain at sunrise.
Why did you choose W&L? I wanted a small liberal arts college, and I fell in love with W&L after a weekend visit. I knew I would have opportunities and experiences unavailable at other schools.
Why did you choose your major? I just love economics. It makes sense.
What professor has inspired you? Professor Straughan and Professor Goldsmith.
I pull myself out of bed around 7:00 a.m. to meet my fellow Shepherd intern for an early morning workout on the playground beside my trailer. It is the closest thing we have to a gym in Klagetoh, a small village on the Navajo Indian Reservation located in Apache County, one of the 10 poorest counties in America. I step out into the cool, dry Arizona air and attempt to stretch while being bombarded with love and kisses from our three dogs; I am still sore and tired from the piggy-back rides I gave to what seemed like hundreds of children at Day Camp last week. A volunteer team from New York just left after a week of camp for the children, Family Fun Nights for the, well, families, and outings for the volunteer team, so it is back to "normal" here at St. Anne's Mission. It is hard to describe my "typical day" as an intern at St. Anne's because "typical" does not exist. No two days have been the same. Some mornings I work on compiling a GED information and study packet for the dozens of high school drop-outs in this community. Other days I spend organizing and cleaning the mission house. When teams are here, we work around the clock, planning and supervising their service work, leading their cultural outings to nearby canyons and trading posts, facilitating reflections times and managing their food and lodging. There is never a dull moment, and for that, I am grateful.
Today, Michael and I have a house visit to make. House visits can be a number of different things--fixing someone's roof, stuccoing the side of a home, delivering food or pumping water. We do whatever needs to be done to help. We supply manual labor for the impoverished, disabled and elderly of Klagetoh in order that they can be safe, healthy and, hopefully, employed. The unemployment rate here is somewhere between 40% and 60% depending on who you ask, so it is our job to help bolster their capabilities and industries. Today we are working with sheep. We hop in the Ford pickup and drive seven miles down a dirt and sand road to Ella's, narrowly avoiding hitting our heads on the roof of the truck with each bump and divot. Ella is an elderly sheep rancher we met through the mission who can no longer manage the heavy labor of sheep-herding on her own. She greets us and brings us out to her makeshift sheep corral, built entirely out of scrap wood and junk metal. We spend the next two hours shoveling 16 wheel-barrows of waste out of the corral, all the while listening to Ella's vibrant stories. She tells us of her life on the reservation, the drought and need for rain and the struggles and setbacks of the ever-declining wool industry.
After we finish, we rush home to shower before picking up ten Navajo children in the giant, maroon 12-passenger van we affectionately dubbed the "loser cruiser." Because of the extreme poverty of the area, many of the families cannot afford gas, car registration or a car, and therefore have no means to leave their homes. The heat traps children inside all day with nothing to do except sleep and watch movies. In response, part of our job is to get the kids out of the house for a few hours to experience the area and hopefully learn something. We have taken them swimming, something many of them have never done before; to the nearest national park, Canyon De Chelly; and bowling, but since the theater offers free movies on Tuesdays, we are going to see Kung Fu Panda 2.
We pull up to the first home, a two-room house with no running water, and before we are even inside the gate, the five Curly kids are sprinting to the van. They live with their Grandma Mary after their mother left them and their father was killed just last week after crashing his truck while intoxicated. Alcohol-related injuries and deaths are all too common on the reservation. In our first month here, we witnessed six funerals--five of which were alcohol-related deaths. Although young, the kids are resilient and have found joy despite their circumstances. They pile in, vying for their favorite seats, and pelt us with questions about the day's upcoming adventure. Grandma comes to the van to invite me to come weave with her later today. She is teaching me how to weave beautiful and intricate Navajo rugs. She waves goodbye as I pull away and yell at the kids to sit down and buckle up. We drive another mile down the road to pick up six of the eight Baldwin kids. They, too, are waiting when we get there.
The 75-mile drive to the nearest movie theater is full of laughter, singing, many questions and still more yelling from me to sit down and buckle up. The ten children, all of who are under age 11, have endless energy, and it is all I can do to keep up. We give them our cameras in an attempt to entertain them for maybe twenty peaceful minutes. We finally pull up to the theater, Michael and I anxious for the hour and a half of quiet and stillness. Quiet and stillness are gifts we do not receive. I spend the entirety of the movie restraining the kids from running around the theater, keeping them warm by holding them in my lap, stopping them from kicking the chair in front of them, and escorting the little ones to the restroom. It is the most exhausting movie I have ever experienced. We grab a few moments of rest at Burger King while the kids blow off energy on the playground. We just sit, barely having energy to converse, and drink iced coffee, my lifeline of the summer.
After dropping the kids off, we stop by Francis' house. Francis, like many people in this area, does not have running water, plumbing or electricity. He is in his eighties, so we stop by at least once a week just to check in. He greets us and asks us to fetch him water from the well. Before coming here, I had never in my life needed to draw water from a community well, but this is life in Klagetoh. Water is as precious as it is rare, and Navajos take it very seriously as it also has spiritual meaning. We drive to the well, fill two canisters of water, each weighing at least 100 pounds, and bring them back to his home.
By now it is nearing six o'clock. We shuffle inside the mission to find that our supervisor/housemate has cooked dinner. We tell stories of our day, receive new projects, and simply chat while enjoying a pleasant home-cooked meal. Finding peace and stillness in watching the sun set and paint the desert sky brilliant oranges and reds, I take a few hours to write in my journal and read a bit before hitting the sack around ten o'clock, completely exhausted from and fulfilled by my day of work. Tomorrow is yet another day of the unpredictable while serving this community, and I cannot be more excited about what joys, lessons and revelations it may bring.