Spirit of the Sun has held this program in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and is continuing the tradition into 2018.
The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates program links youth volunteers (ages 18-24) with projects in tribal communities for the length of one summer. Spirit of the Sun recruits directly from the communities where the projects take place. While the program focuses on providing much-needed services to tribal communities, the broader initiatives change from year to year. In 2013 for example, the program focused on USDA food security and youth summer learning opportunities. Associates engaged in clearing garden space, preparing land for seeds, planting and weeding, and eventually harvesting produce at the end of the growing season. Additionally, they participated in inter-generational programming, recruiting participant youth from within their communities to continue cultural learning between school semesters. These activities included craft days, volunteering at powwows, language preservation, and more.
In addition to the services the Summer Associates provide, they also act as a liaison between Spirit of the Sun and the tribal communities where they live and serve. Associates, along with their site supervisor, report the goals and achievements of their programming throughout the summer to Spirit of the Sun, helping our organization stay in touch with the varying needs and goals of our Native American community partners. We consider the Summer Associates program a significant asset to Spirit of the Sun’s ability to understand and respond to the diverse and changing issues taking place throughout Indian Country.
This year in 2018 SOTS has helped to create 20 capacity building VISTA positions, while also supporting and recruiting direct service summer associate VISTA positions for Native led nonprofits and tribal organizations nationally. Currently our Summer Associates are serving in Herbal Gardens Wellness, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Tohono O’odham Nation, and Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute. The projects the associates are currently taking on for the summer include sustainable off grid natural building, traditional seed preservation, food farming for elders, food sovereignty, and creating summer youth camps.