My name is Sarah Antrim-Cambium, and I’m 54 years old. I’m originally from a small farming community in central Illinois, but I’ve lived in Chicago for the last 13 years. 

I’m a Spanish teacher with two master’s degrees: one in translation and interpretation, and another in educational leadership. I also am the executive director for the nonprofit International Dream Achievers Network. 

My interests all center around languages and cultures, so I’m a big traveler. I’ve been to 45 countries, and I think that has changed my worldview in positive ways. I began dedicating my time and financial resources more than a decade ago to indigenous rights, due to the friendships I developed with King Valentín of the Naso — and members of his council — while on a trip to Panamá. The council asked me to write a United Nations Democracy Fund proposal, which I did. In the course of the work, I traveled to the villages and visited with people, talking to them about their experiences with the Panamanian government and with the multinational corporations that were taking their land and water. 

It seemed like an all-too-familiar story. The children took me out into the fields to show me the canisters of the smoke and tear gas bombs that had been thrown at their homes, forcing them to flee with what they could carry just minutes before bulldozers razed their homes. I raised money to buy a computer and cameras so that they would have more tools with which to document the human rights abuses that were being committed against the Naso people. 

Outside of work, raising my three children, and watching my grandchildren grow up, my greatest interest has been in doing my small part to create a more just world. 

I first heard about the Cheyenne River Youth Project through my friend Scotty Zacher. He and I came to Eagle Butte because he grew up there. He knew about my interests and what I was doing in Panamá, so he introduced me to (CRYP Executive Director) Julie Garreau — he thought I’d be interested in knowing someone who had dedicated her life to creating opportunities for children and their families. 

CRYP’s mission, and the energy and dedication of the staff and volunteers, really spoke to me. I thought I could contribute something, and I knew I could learn a lot.  

I have made the trip to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation either by myself or with two of my board members for five or six years. For the last two years, I’ve brought students and their parents as well. We generally work Monday to Friday for a one-week period. We also contribute to the Wo Otúh’an Wi (Moon of Giving Away Presents) Toy Drive every year, so while we’re not physically present at CRYP during the Christmas season, we are with them in spirit — the Christmas spirit. 

When I’m with CRYP, I love working in the garden! I grew up on a farm, so we always had a garden. I don’t have a green thumb by any means, but I can follow directions pretty well, so I’ve learned more about planting crops at CRYP than I did growing up on a farm. It’s so cool to talk with CRYP’s teen interns and the master gardener, and I love watching friendships develop while we’re all just working together. 

I also enjoyed prepping the walls for the annual RedCan invitational graffiti jam. It’s fun to see what kind of work gets put up on those blank walls. I loved helping the kids with their bikes, and helping other volunteers with a kids’ summer camp too. I loved working in the Keya Café as well; it took me back to my waitressing days. But one of my most memorable experiences was helping to raise a tipi for RedCan. It was just two men who really knew what they were doing, plus me—and I did not! But they were really patient teachers and fun to work with. 

More than anything, I love the connection to the people and the land. Creating an environment where friendships can develop is so cool. My work as a teacher, as the executive director of International Dream Achievers Network, and as a volunteer all have one thing in common: the work to create a better world for children. I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect, work, and learn at CRYP. 

I loved that I was able to bring my granddaughter. She participated in the activities with the kids who came to the day camp, and we put her to work in the garden too! I loved that she and (Youth Programs Director) Jerica’s little girl were able to hang out and become friends. 

Over the years with CRYP, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a better work partner. The staff is really great about giving us guidance on when to arrive and what our duties are, information about the community, and so on. They provide a very thorough orientation, so we’re able to do a much better job that way. Having an opportunity to speak with Lakota elders was a great surprise, and we learned so much that we could share with our communities back in Illinois. 

I think CRYP is absolutely essential to the Cheyenne River community. Everyone connected to CRYP is laser-focused on what’s best for the children. Providing a safe and free space for children to grow and feel loved and accepted is essential to any community, and CRYP really knows how to provide that. The staff also knows how to partner with families to provide extra support. Anything you do to help a child gives back to the community, and the world, more than we can ever measure.