It's important for kids to feel like they belong, and that they're surrounded by adults who have their best interest at heart. For young victims of abuse, neglect and other difficult situations, those feelings are sometimes found outside the home.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation's Emergency Youth Shelter takes in boys and girls 12 to 17 years old.
At the shelter, kids receive mental health evaluations, counseling and equine therapy. They also learn life skills like gardening.
"I think what really means a lot to them here is they're able to select the vegetables they want themselves. I've told them 'You're going to be eating this. You're going to be the one sweating over this and making sure it grows and lives, so you really want to make sure you get something out of this," said volunteer Steve Hernandez.
Hernandez donates his time to teach the kids here and at other youth centers throughout the reservation about growing their own food.
Kids participate in the entire process from preparing their plot to canning and preserving their yield. For many kids, this is the first time in their lives they've had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
"This might be this little box garden, but maybe one day they want to go into something in this field. This may pique their interest in being able to do something in agriculture or horticulture. So having that for them, I think is a great opportunity," said Hernandez.
The shelter houses ten kids at a time, and while staff and volunteers are dedicated to making life as normal as possible for them, programs like the garden relay largely on donations.
For a full list of items the shelter can use, follow the link provided.
Any donations can be sent to:
Pauletta Red Willow OST Emergency Youth Shelter 100 Youth Shelter Drive Highway 18 Below Old Hospital Pine Ridge, SD 57770
Via US Mail:
Pauletta Red Willow OST Emergency Youth Shelter P. O. Box 5055 Pine Ridge, SD 57770