My name is Summereen Khan, and I’m from London, England. I have worked in the NGO/charity sector for more than 10 years, with a focus on project management and communications; I’ve also volunteered and worked with young people and community organizations in the United Kingdom, Palestine and Lebanon.

I first heard of CRYP many years ago when I was searching for possible places to volunteer during my holidays from work. I always kept CRYP in mind, having followed the organization on Facebook. 

When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance to finally come and volunteer. I arrived in Eagle Butte this month.

I wanted to volunteer with CRYP, not only to support its amazing grassroots-focused work, but also to learn more about Lakota culture and life on the reservation. I have always had a strong interest in indigenous cultures and resistance cultures, and we are unfortunately not taught or exposed to Native American history in the UK.

As a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, I had some concerns about coming to the United States, but Eagle Butte has been very welcoming, and I have enjoyed the funny questions I have received from the children at CRYP! I hope that seeing a Muslim woman working here will let the children and community know that many different people from across the world have respect for them and feel a sense of solidarity with them—and that, although we are different, we also have much in common.

I will be with CRYP for approximately five weeks. So far, I’ve been involved in helping the office, working with 4- to 12-year-olds at The Main youth center, and supporting other daily activities. Working with the little children is both challenging and fun. They are all very sweet and also cheeky! It has been interesting to learn how CRYP operates, and I feel it has given me new perspectives into my understanding of grassroots work. I am very grateful to the staff, who are amazing at their jobs and have taken the time to work with me and help me out.

As someone who has worked with NGOs and nonprofits, I recognize how much CRYP does to meet the community’s needs with limited resources. In a professional sense, it has given me a lot to think about, and it is improving my own understanding of grassroots and charity work outside the UK.

I have always lived and worked in very urban environments, and it has been eye-opening to consider the needs and realities of a rural community and how CRYP supports children and families here. The landscape is very scenic and beautiful, and I am glad I have had the opportunity to see a place I’d only read about. I think many people would be surprised by how easy it is to feel comfortable on Cheyenne River, and how much there is to learn and understand about the social context and the Lakota culture.