Pine Ridge Volunteering

The first Global Partners volunteer team traveled to Pine Ridge in October 2009. The 2015 year marks the sixth year of volunteer teams providing services, education and training in partnership with Indian Health Service and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Health Administration office, as well as with communities and schools on the reservation.

Global Partners-Pine Ridge teams blog during their trips to provide real-time updates on their activities. Click here to read current and past blog entries by Global Partners' volunteers in South Dakota!

In 2015, trips are scheduled for the dates below, and each trip will have a different area of focus. Teams will be going in March, April, June, July, August, October and November.

2015 Trip Dates  Trip Focus Volunteer Roles Needed  Sign-up Deadline 
 March 22-27 Rheumatology Clinic
Behavioral Health Training
Rheumatology providers
Behavioral health providers, nurses or therapists
Jan 23, 2015
 April 19-24
Physicals in schools and Head Starts
Pediatric Clinic
First Aid Training in schools
(same week as School District of La Crosse, HSA team)
Pediatric providers
First Aid Trainers
Feb 6, 2015
 June 14-20 Mammography Providers to do clinical breast exams
Mammography technologists
Nurses or others to assist with breast health education
Registration (Epic experience preferred)
March 20, 2015
 June 29-July 5 Healing Camp for Lakota youth
(healing for trauma and grief)
Behavioral health providers, nurses or therapists
Social Workers
Non-clinical individuals with experience working with youth
April 17, 2015
 July 12-18
Family Medicine & Alternative Pain Management clinic
Physicals for Oglala Sioux Tribe police officers
Leadership Camp (led by School District of La Crosse)
CPR Training
Internal Medicine & Family Medicine providers
CPR instructors
April 17, 2015
 July 19-24 Health for the Generations Camp
(for Ho-Chunk and Lakota students)
**this camp takes place in La Crosse
Clinical staff to provide assistance during hands-on camp experiences
(e.g. casting and suturing workshops, CPR training, etc.)
May 15, 2015
 August 9-14 Physicals in Head Starts
Pediatric and Family Medicine Clinic
Community Team - construction and gardening
Pediatric providers
May 15, 2015
 October 25-30 Rheumatology Clinic
Women's Health and Alternative Pain Management Clinic
"Diabetes Prevention & Nutrition Education" classes
Health Fair
(same week as School District of La Crosse, HSA team)
Rheumatology providers
Women's Health & Pain Management Providers
Registered Dieticians or those with nutrition/cooking experience
Individuals to assist with health fairs (no clinical background needed)
July 10, 2015
 November 15-20 Family Medicine Clinic
Women's Health Clinic
Behavioral Health training
Family Medicine and Women's Health providers
Behavioral health providers, nurses or therapists
July 10, 2015

First-time volunteers should plan to attend a cultural orientation prior to their trip.

Each trip also requires participation in 2 pre-trip meetings and one post-trip meeting for debriefing. Due to the community-based nature, in-person attendance is preferred for these meetings. Also, preference is given to volunteers from the local region (vs. those from outside this region). Details about these sessions will be sent out via email to the volunteers signed up for each trip.

Once you are signed up for a trip, you will receive an email ~3 months before your trip with paperwork that you need to complete. All volunteers (medical or non-medical) also need to complete some general forms for Global Partners, such as a waiver of liability. Any medical volunteers providing services at an IHS clinic will need to complete an IHS volunteer packet and also get fingerprints. Providers (MD, DO, NP, PA) need to get credentialed through IHS, and a member of the Gundersen credentialing office will work with you to complete that.

Volunteers from a variety of backgrounds are needed to support the partnerships with Pine Ridge. Please complete a Volunteer Form and describe your interest and a member of the Global Partners team will follow up with you to discuss potential opportunities.

The Trip
Each team will determine the specifics of their departure/arrival times, but generally teams leave Sunday at 7am from Gundersen. It is a 10 hour drive, so teams usually stop in Mitchell, SD, for lunch, arriving in Pine Ridge about 5pm. Monday is typically a "cultural orientation day", which begins with a visit to the Oglala Lakota College Cultural Center, and often includes presentations and meetings with our tribal partners.

Each evening (Monday-Thursday) volunteers will be done between 6 and 7pm., depending on their specific work. Plan to eat later each evening - around 7 or 7:30pm most nights - and spend time debriefing as a team. Also, take advantage of morning or evening downtime to see some of the sites around Pine Ridge: Red Cloud School heritage museum & art gallery, Wounded Knee, Piya Wiconi, the Badlands, Singing Horse Trading Post, etc.

The group will wrap up on Friday by noon, sometimes earlier. Some may choose to drive straight back to La Crosse (arriving in La Crosse around midnight) while others may choose a more leisurely pace and stay overnight in hotel on the way back, arriving back home on Saturday or Sunday.

The total cost per volunteer to serve on Pine Ridge for a week is $350 (please note that this is an increase of $50 compared to 2013, to cover increasing costs associated with vehicle rentals and gas). This cost covers lodging at the Lakota Prairie Ranch Resort for a double room; if a volunteer requests a single room, this increases the cost by $30/night (to a total trip cost of $500). Lakota Prairie Ranch provides bedding and towels, has wireless internet and a cafe. The team usually also reserves a room with a small kitchenette so that the group can prepare most of their meals family-style rather than eating out each evening.

The $350 payment (or $500 if getting a single room) also helps pay for the vehicle rental (which is partially covered by Global Partners), gas expenses, breakfast and lunch food, and supplies to support the team's work. This amount is made payable to the Gundersen Medical Foundation-Global Partners and is considered a charitable contribution since it supports medical volunteer service work. Volunteers may choose to drive separately, which reduces their payment for the trip by $50. Volunteers should plan to bring additional money for eating out on the way to/from Pine Ridge (approximately 3-4 meals), and an optional overnight hotel stay when heading back to La Crosse at the end of the week.

Gundersen employees may apply for a Global Partners grant to help offset the costs of volunteering on Pine Ridge (up to $250). Click here to learn more about how to apply for a Global Partners Grant.

What to bring
Teams are encouraged to pack layers of clothing as the weather is highly variable, especially in spring and fall! Medical teams should plan to dress work casual and also bring your Gundersen name badge to wear while at the clinic. Non-Gundersen employees who plan to volunteer are welcome to email 3-4 weeks prior to their trip if they would like to have a Volunteer Gundersen picture badge.

Volunteers are welcome to bring a camera for taking pictures; the scenery is breathtaking and the people are beautiful! However, please refrain from taking photos in the clinic unless you have received a patient's permission, as well as that of any staff who may present. It is always a good idea to ask someone's permission prior to taking a photo even in a non-medical setting, too. Please do not take pictures of ceremonial grounds on Pine Ridge.

For food, volunteers should plan to bring snacks and beverages for the drive (be forewarned, sharing happens). Each member of the team will bring one dinner meal to share as well, and these details will be organized during your pre-trip handoff meeting. Popular past meals have included tacos, lasagna, tater tot casserole, chicken alfredo, crock pot meals, baked potato bar, chili, spaghetti... pretty much anything that is easy to prepare or can be cooked in a crock pot, since you may not be getting back to the hotel until 7pm some evenings.

Medical Issues
Volunteers must be up-to-date on immunizations including DPT and influenza. Hepatitis A & B vaccines are also strongly recommended.

English is the primary language spoken by most members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, so no interpreters are needed to provide medical care on Pine Ridge. Some members of the tribe also speak Lakota, which is the language indigenous to the Lakota Sioux.

Time off
This is a volunteer experience for which you will not be paid. You may choose to take PTO or unpaid time off – you need to make arrangements with your manager. Gundersen associate and medical staff may also use CME time (but not CME money) to participate in a Global Partners trip.

If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out our volunteer form.

NOTE: Volunteers on a Pine Ridge trip must be able to endure long days (10+ hours) of physical activity, which may include standing, walking, light lifting and sitting. Volunteers must be age 18 or older; minors (14 and older) may be allowed on a volunteer trip if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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