Deanne Fitzmaurice
Lakota Healthy Start gives moms the advice and resources they need to raise healthy kids. (Deanne Fitzmaurice)

Lakota Healthy Start Program Needs Permanent Home To Help At-Risk Moms and Babies

January 25, 2013

With 40 hours left to go, the campaign to raise funds for a home for the Lakota Healthy Start Program on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is still more than $23,000 shy of its goal. 

The Lakota Healthy Start Program aims to drastically reduce infant mortality by providing emotional care, nutrition, education and Lakota values to young at-risk moms and their babies. But the program has been forced to relocate multiple times, threatening its ability to continue offering its valuable services to residents of Pine Ridge, where the infant mortality rate is 300 percent higher than the national average. That is believed to be the highest such rate in the United States.

In December 2011, the program lost its first office due to high levels of asbestos. Then it was placed in a mold-infested trailer with holes. When that situation proved unacceptable, the program moved into the storage room behind a video store. Recently, the Indian Health Service deemed the room unfit due to the threat of the Hanta Virus.

The Lakota Healthy Start program protects Turtle Island's greatest treasure: its children. (Deanne Fitzmaurice)

Lakota Healthy Start needs donations to fund a permanent home, which would be built by the Dahlin Group, an architectural firm with offices throughout California and China.

The firm has agreed to work with Henry Red Cloud, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), to develop to the new building to house Lakota Healthy Start. LSE is a Native-owned renewable-energy company created in 2006 by Red Cloud with nonprofit partner Trees, Water & People. It is dedicated to reducing pollution and fostering a sustainable lifestyle using modern-day technology and traditional Lakota values.

“We’re crowd-sourcing to raise money for a new, sustainable, ‘off-the-grid’ building that will be located on five beautiful acres and last for a very long time,” wrote Kitty Farmer, executive director of the Lakota Healthy Start Building Campaign, in an email solicitation. 

Farmer learned of Lakota Healthy Start while producing the documentary What’s in the Heart – Can’t be Taken, which features the stories of Indians fighting for health equality.

“The statistics on Indian health are heartbreaking—American people have no idea the unimaginable and preventable suffering our American Indian neighbors are enduring,” Farmer said. “It’s as if we’re talking about a third-world country.”

Help Farmer afford a new home for Lakota Healthy Start by donating to the campaign at today. The campaign runs through end-of-day Saturday, January 26.

Read: Lakota Moms and Babies Need Help: Support Lower Infant Mortality Through Healthy Start Program