The Massachusetts Conference Justice & Witness Council presented Haystack Awards on Saturday, June 16th, to Joy Harris and Bruce Roberts for their work with Lakota youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; and to Carmen Ramos-Kalsow for her relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Here is what the Council said about these recipients:
Joy Harris and Bruce Roberts ~ Lakota YouthStay ProgramJoy Harris and Bruce Roberts envisioned and made real the Lakota YouthStay program following years of personal, hands-on engagement with families, elders, and youth on Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The mission of the Lakota YouthStay program is to provide cultural exchange opportunities between Native American youth from Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and people, native and non-native, in the greater Boston area and to build authentic, mutually fulfilling friendships through participation in an enriched homestay program.
In 2015, there was a wave of youth suicide and Joy and Bruce felt called to do more - to do something to inspire hope and a sense of a future for the youth. With significant effort to develop ever-widening connections and discernment about how to proceed with elders on the reservation they engendered support from the Lakota community and the Sanctuary congregation. Thus was the Lakota YouthStay program born.
Because of their own passion for Native American culture and their commitment to justice for Native Americans in general and volunteerism with the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation specifically, Joy Harris and Bruce Roberts have spread that same passion and commitment to others. They have personally invested an inspiring amount of time, talent and treasure to understand, teach and motivate others to do the same. Their humility in pursuing cross-cultural understanding; their dedication to seeking justice for the Lakota people, especially for the youth.
Carmen Ramos-Kalsow ~ Lexington Unites for Puerto RicoCarmen spearheaded a Lexington-wide effort to brings goods and cash directly to three areas of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The effort became known as Lexington Unites for Puerto Rico (LUPR). A Puerto Rico native, Carmen tried to find organizations that we could support doing direct relief work in the country. Upon not finding much that seemed well organized, she decided to take it upon herself, with the help of Hancock Church, and eventually the whole town of Lexington.
Carmen recruited two other Hancock women and they did nothing for two weeks but plan the details of loading a 40 foot cargo crate to be loaded at the church and shipped directly to PR. Then Carmen and two others flew to PR and met the cargo container in port, then escorted the container directly to two churches who were eagerly awaiting desperately needed supplies.
Carmen is an unstoppable force when it comes to LUPR, and she has made several more trips since the initial one to oversee the progress in the three areas of partnership. We are now planning next steps which will likely include a team of people from Hancock Church (and Union Congregational in NJ) who will help with rebuilding houses and community centers for the citizens of these areas. Carmen is full of compassion and able to put that into action with tangible things (generators, water, diapers, cash) in ways that have changed many lives in the last few months.