Lisa Godek and her 13-year-old daughter, Chloe Fargo, are committed to helping others outside of work and school respectively. Their latest service trip was this past summer, in which they spent a week on the Native American Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota lending a hand to the native Lakota people through everyday tasks and creating a Children’s Fair for the community. Here Lisa and Chloe reflect on their experience volunteering in South Dakota and explain why families should serve together.
What motivated you to volunteer in South Dakota with your thirteen-year-old daughter?
L: “I was a Business Analytics and Insights leader at Pfizer. During my 16 years there, I served as the voice of the patient and physician to integrate their perspectives, needs, and experiences into our R&D and commercial strategies for medicines development. I was a Pfizer Global Health Fellow in Shanghai in 2014. There, I created the mission and 3-year plan to activate a Senior Health Research Center. While I believe these roles and others contributed to the greater good, I felt that I had not directly touched individuals’ lives. I have recently embarked on a new life chapter, having left the industry in which I worked after a 20-year career. I took on an adjunct faculty role in the Columbia University’s Masters of Science Applied Analytics program. I gave myself ample time to reflect on my past and future with the goal of determining what I wanted moving forward. I realized that my career to date consisted of only indirect impact on people’s lives.
I wanted to identify an opportunity to connect to an underserved community within the United States with my 13-year-old daughter and searched for such opportunities on Native American reservations. Living in Manhattan can skew perspectives on what’s important. It’s easy to lose sight of others’ hardships. I wanted Chloe to engage with a community in need and learn, this is why I chose the Global Volunteers South Dakota program for us!
Chloe, what did you learn from your volunteer experience in South Dakota?
C: “Visiting the tribe made me realize that one small task can help someone drastically. One of my tasks was to chop and stack wood so that in the winter, the many tribal families who don’t own heaters can use the firewood for warmth. At home, I never have to think about chopping wood in order to stay warm. I could not believe how difficult their lives are compared to mine. This small assignment made me hopeful that even though I’m a kid, I can still find a way to help these people.
By being a volunteer in South Dakota, I also got to learn about the Lakota tribe’s unique history and traditions. I was surprised by the ways they still keep up parts of their culture, like storytelling and wearing their detailed, handmade Pow-Pow attire. Their community is very strong despite the hardship.”
What were your interactions with local people like?
L: “Chloe and I had a wonderful experience with our hosts within the community. In general, we found them to be warm and open. We asked many questions and received thoughtful and genuine responses. We learned tremendously.”
C: “Each day, I met people from the reservation, and I learned about the difficulties of living there. They helped me understand the importance of family, friends, life, and to acknowledge the smaller things I can sometimes take for granted.”
“I made a commitment to helping the Lakota people, but towards the end of the week, I realized that we actually helped each other.”
What can you say about the time you spent volunteering together as mother and daughter?
L: “Chloe and I have always been close, but as she is gaining more independence and as social relationships become more important, it is challenging to spend quality time together. This experience, to volunteer in South Dakota together, gave us that opportunity and strengthened our bond.”
What was the impact that you made volunteering in South Dakota?
C: “Our big task was to plan and run a Children’s Fair for the local kids who have no access to camps or other summer activities. The volunteers rented bouncy houses and a slip and slide, and we made games for the kids to play. It was relatively easy and fun to plan the event; I didn’t think it was a big deal! At the end of the week, we had the fair, and I was shocked because kids were coming up to me, hugging me, and thanking me for putting on the event. I did not think I did anything remarkable; it seemed very easy to put this fair together. I didn’t recognize that I would have such a big impact on these kids who have so little.
“Since I’ve been back from this trip, I have continued to spread awareness about the Lakota people and the difficulties their community faces. I want to go back to the reservation next summer and use my time and effort to help their people.”
What is your advice to other parents who may be considering a volunteer opportunity with their children?
L: ABSOLUTELY DO IT! It is rewarding and fulfilling on many levels; the ability to contribute to underserved populations, the human connections with the community and fellow volunteers, the opportunity for personal reflection and growth, and the appreciation (re)gained for our good fortune. I say absolutely volunteer with your family, and absolutely volunteer in South Dakota.
TIME TO VOLUNTEER WITH YOUR FAMILY?
Why? It’s fun, you get to share the experience with the people you most love, you strengthen your bonds as a family and you help your children gain skills, a global mindset and awareness about the world and its issues as they start to appreciate exactly what they have. Contact us today and explore all the available volunteer opportunities for you and your family!
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