When Don Nash and his daughter Cassidy first heard the term “volunteer vacation”, it seemed like a contradiction to them. Then, they heard about Global Volunteers’ service program with the Blackfeet Nation and thought it would be a good opportunity to give back as well as learn more about Don’s Native American heritage. They chose a service program in August 2018 and served on a team with many other families. Here, Don and Cassidy describe how their week of service was full of new experiences for them, which they described as culturally rich, spiritually fulfilling, and emotionally gratifying.
By Don Nash & Cassidy Nash
Before August of 2018, if you asked either of us to define the term, “vacation,” we would have both used words like “chill,” “island,” and “beach.” Words like, “shovels,” “hammer,” and “manure,” were simply not a part of our getaway vocabulary.
Cassidy was then a high school student, athlete, and full-time lifeguard during the summer. Don was a TV producer who was used to long, high-pressure days. When we took time off, our priority was relaxing and having fun.
To us, the term, “volunteer vacation” seemed like a contradiction. Sure, we both did our share of pitching in around our community but in those rare weeks we had the chance to unplug and unwind, working, for free, was simply not a consideration.
Then we heard about Global Volunteers. We were intrigued because one of their programs was located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Don’s father is a member of the Winnebago – or Ho-Chunk – tribe but neither of us knew very much about our Native American culture. Going on this adventure would help us learn a little more about that part of our heritage while we helped some people in need.
It was all that and so much more.
We found the experience to be both fascinating and gratifying, unlike anything we had done before. By spending a week on the reservation, we became totally immersed in the culture and lifestyle of the Blackfeet people. We met some fascinating characters and learned about their love of the earth and respect for nature. We attended a pow-wow. We passed around a peace pipe in a sweat lodge. Cassidy even learned to tame a wild horse!
“We found the experience to be both fascinating and gratifying, unlike anything we had done before.”– Don and Cassidy Nash
Was it a lot of work? Yes. But each day brought a new task and a new experience. We prepared and passed out meals to shut-ins, replaced siding that had blown off a home in a storm, organized books at the local elementary school and shoveled manure in a barn. Those who we helped were so appreciative and genuinely touched by what we did for them. One local woman was moved to tears when she saw how we had cleared out a massive collection of junk that had accumulated in her backyard over many years.
Each evening, we returned to the small church where we were staying. Our Global Volunteers leader, Dana, facilitated a lively discussion where we all shared our daily experiences with the other volunteers in our group. We then chose our assignments for the next day before enjoying a hearty meal together. After dinner, we gathered around the outdoor fire pit and shared some laughs with our new friends under Montana’s beautiful evening sky.
Our Global Volunteers vacation exceeded our wildest expectations. It was culturally rich, spiritually fulfilling and emotionally gratifying beyond measure. It was also a lot of fun. As we made our way back home to Connecticut, we agreed it was one of the best and most memorable of experiences of our lives. And someday we hope to do it again.
“It was culturally rich, spiritually fulfilling and emotionally gratifying beyond measure. It was also a lot of fun.”– Don and Cassidy Nash
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