During the week of July 8-14, 2012, the Alpha Gamma Omega (AGO) fraternity, via its charitable affiliate AGO Ministries (a 501c3 charity), sponsored the work of nearly 50 volunteers from Alabama, Arizona, California, and Colorado at the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation near Globe, Arizona.
AGO Ministries worked in partnership with Arizona Reservation Ministries (ARM). In one week, they built two houses and worked at a Vacation Bible School (VBS), mobile ministry, and sports camp. The team consisted of AGO and ADX college students, alumni and their families and friends.
The need is great.
ARM was chosen because of their work in helping the Apache year-round on the San Carlos Res. Unemployment is confirmed at 75%. Alcoholism is a severe problem with more than 50% of the Apaches. The majority of families have experienced many tragedies because of this. Alcohol consumption begins at an early age. Marijuana, methamphetamines and cocaine abuse are also at epidemic proportions. Gangs are rising on the reservation.
Living conditions consist of wooden shacks, ancient trailers under tarps, and abandoned cars. There is graffiti, broken glass, and trash in plain sight. The need for homes is tremendous. Currently, at least 1400 families need homes built. Families often need to wait 15 years to have a home of their own. If a family has a home, it is commonly shared with 25 family members in less than 1200 square feet.
Many are below poverty levels and do not receive public assistance. According to Diana Lawrence, who founded ARM with her husband Duane, some families subsist on as little as $250 per month.
The average life expectancy for the Apache on the reservation is 45-50 years old. The infant mortality is 2.5 times the national average. Teen suicide is 7 times the national average. When young mothers were tested for drugs prior to giving birth in 2007, they tested positive 75% of the time.
What was a day on the trip like?
To remind them that they were there to serve God and his people, the AGO group began each day with a time of prayer and a daily Bible verse to reflect on.
After a cold breakfast of cereal and fruit, they pack a bagged lunch and filled their water bottles in preparation for the 115 degree Arizona summer day. Some went to the building sites others went to run the sports camp. In the afternoon, they continued building homes, or they participated in the VBS or the mobile ministry. The mobile ministry is a bus that transforms into a game room with toys, and a Sunday school with Bible lessons.
When the VBS and mobile ministries ended at 3:00 in the afternoon, those crews returned to the building sites to help the home builders until 6:00, and sometimes until dark.
Each participant raised $300 prior to the trip, which provided some of the building supplies for the houses, supplies for VBS and sports camp, and meals, including a hot dinner provided by Camping Pros – an outside contractor.
The evening meal was followed by a wonderful time of Bible study, which was usually led by one of the young chapter leaders. They reflected on the morning verse, then sang worship songs around a campfire.
The group met the two families that would occupy the houses at a wonderful evening meal. They want the best for their kids, but are often incapable of providing even the basics. To be able to help provide homes for them, in the name of Jesus, was extremely rewarding.
The volunteers varied from ages 4 to 65, and so did their skill level. That didn’t matter, because the teamwork was more important than the checklist. Those with more experience mentored those with none.
The weather made working in the blazing sun difficult, especially when hammering roof shingles. Hydration was very important and water fights were encouraged, especially with the kids at sports camp and VBS.
For two houses, walls were assembled; roof trusses set, sheeted, papered, and shingled; doors and windows set. Both houses were wrapped and sided by the end of the week.
During free time, team members had numerous water balloon and squirt bottle fights, played bocce ball, threw footballs, and engaged in team building activities such as 4 way tug of war. The were sure to make daily trips to the community swimming pool. The group bonded right from the beginning and was like one big family by the end of the week.
What is next?
AGO Ministries expects to sponsor our next service project to help the San Carlos Apache during the summer of 2014, so mark your calendars now and invite your friends and families to join us!
For those who want to help AGO Ministries and ARM reach more needy Apache families, there are many ways to do so:
- Send school supplies, backpacks or toys to fill Christmas stockings or any of the other supplies posted on the ARM website. www.azrez.org
- Use Good Search as your internet search engine, naming AGO Ministries (303-674-5561) as your charity of choice. Each time it is used, AGOm gets $.01. It adds up.
- Send ARM used cell phones in their pre-paid envelope. The funds benefit the youth ministries.