Before the sun had even risen on that May morning in New England, 10 Assumption students including myself were up and beginning our SEND trip to Pine Ridge, S.D. Everyone piled into a large van that would take us to the airport, and, with bags under our eyes, the van turned the Assumption driveway, and we were off.
We had all previously met and spent a little time together, but being from all different years and majors, there was a great variety of students. We didn’t know what to expect from the trip; everyone was a little nervous but at the same time extremely excited.
From the moment we all boarded that van, there was an immediate connection between all members of the group. Even though we were all just about half asleep, there was an overarching feeling of comfort before the service trip had even started.
Once we had finally landed safely with no problems, we were picked up by leader of the Re-Member team, the organization we would be staying with for the week. His hair went down to the middle of his back, but all you could notice was how big of a smile he had on his face, excited to see us, excited to put us to work.
The really amazing aspect of the Pine Ridge trip is that we were sent to the third most impoverished part of our country, which also happens to be a Native American reservation. Throughout the week, we were surrounded by extreme poverty and poor living conditions. This trip is mainly a Habitat for Humanity type of service. We were either building decks or outhouses at the main Re-Member site, or we were out on the Pine Ridge reservation repairing the homes of these kind people.
But that is not all this trip has to offer. Not only do you get to become involved with the community, but also you are immersed in the culture. Every day, there is either a speaker from the Oglala Lakota tribe, a video/lesson or a trip to learn more about the Native American history. This is where I was affected the most. On this trip, I was able to learn so much not only from texts but also from real life accounts. We traveled to the site of the Battle of Wounded Knee and went to a reservation high school that continues to have graduates that are making a difference in this country.
One of the most important things I took away from this trip was the notion of family. No matter who we are, the people around us are our brothers and sisters: We need to pay more attention to the world. We need to take care of others, and in turn, we will be taking care of ourselves.
Over the course of a week, I was able to make life long friendships with the students at Assumption. We became so close that even to this day, we check in on each other. Every time I see my fellow trip member on campus, we sit down and talk about how everything is going.
In my four years here at Assumption, this SEND trip to the Pine Ridge Native American reservation in South Dakota was the greatest experience I have had, not only for myself but also for the bigger picture. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to step out of your comfort zone and experience all that life has to offer you. Take a chance, volunteer your time and make a difference in someone else’s life. You will not regret it, I sure don’t.
Edward McMahon is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Le Provocateur