New Youth Center will open in Allen, South Dakota on March 28, 2015
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ALLEN, SOUTH DAKOTA — During the past five weeks, five young people on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota chose to leave this life—several more made the attempt. All were under 18 years old, and one was only 11.
The Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Indian Reservation sits in Bennett, Jackson, and Shannon Counties and is located in the southwest corner of South Dakota, fifty miles east of the Wyoming border, in the poorest counties in the United States. Life on the reservation can be grim, even on the best days. 90% of the population lives below the federal poverty level. There is an 85-90% fluctuating unemployment rate. 39% of homes do not have electricity, 60% have been affected by black mold. Life expectancy for men is 48 years, 52 for women. Per capita income is $4,000, unemployment is about 85% and the school dropout rate approaches 70%. Infant mortality is five times higher than the national average. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and malnutrition are epidemic. Alcohol-related illnesses and crashes are epidemic. Youth suicide, perhaps the biggest problem of all, is believed to be as much as 20 times higher than it is for a kid who lives a few miles away, in Nebraska.
In the midst of this tragedy, there is hope.
Furnishings are still needed
The Youth Center in Allen, South Dakota, which will open on March 28, 2015, stands as a promise and symbol of hope for the youth.
Allen is home to the 57 students who were sprayed with beer and racially taunted while attending a Rush hockey game last month in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Lakota adults plan that the Youth Center will provide food, a place to stay overnight when needed, computers, music, mentors, tutors, cultural immersion, and lots of Tender Loving Care (TLC) by the Lakota aunties and uncles.
The Youth Center building in Allen is now ready for furnishings. Donations can be made by contributing to ONE Spirit, a 501(c)3 non-profit agency.
The Lakota youth of Pine Ridge Reservation are the foundation of their people’s future.
For more information call ONE Spirit Director, Jeri Baker, at 570-460-6567