Volunteering Projects in South Dakota

You are about to discover a new culture, accomplish something unforgettable, and explore the best USA has to offer!

South Dakota

We are excited to get your placement under way where you will:

  • Have the opportunity to contribute to educational activities at a youth centre working with youth aged 4-18. Activities you can participate in include arts and crafts, helping with homework, working in the organic garden, outdoor games, serving meals and fundraising drives within the community.
  • Have the 24/7 support of a non profit with 10 years experience in placing 19269 volunteers that will provide you with an affordable and rewarding placement.
  • Volunteer with a world-class organization which is recommended by Bill Gates and CNN.
  • Be a part of progressive non profit that has raised over $1.8 million to help women and children in need.
  • Have the comfort of knowing that GVN staff have collectively flown over 1 million miles to ensure you get a quality placement.
  • Make a long-term impact in your community of choice - it's not just a vacation.

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The Projects

South Dakota Program

South Dakota Program

Are you fascinated by native American culture? Do you want to learn more? Volunteers in our South Dakota program will work inside a reservation with children aged from 4 to 18 years old from . During the school term the youth centre is open in the afternoons and during the summer holidays it is open all day. There is no typical day at the centre and activities will vary according to the time of the year and how many children are at the centre. Activities include: Library time, arts and crafts, helping with homework, working in the organic garden, outdoor games, serving meals, fundraising drives within the community, helping with general upkeep of the centre. In addition, volunteers with particular skills, for example language or sporting skills, will be encouraged to implement their own programs with the children. Mornings will often involve some administration and maintenance duties. Volunteers in this program should be aware that days are often long and strenuous - you may be required to work up to 12 hours and at time the work is physically demanding.

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About USA


South Dakota is located in the Midwest of the United States. It is bordered, clockwise, by North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. Named after the Sioux American Indian Tribes, the Lakota and the Dakota, South Dakota encompasses nine Indian Reservations within its borders, of which Cheyenne River is the largest.

The landscape of South Dakota is largely defined by prairies with tall grass and gently rolling hills. Its most famous landmark is Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of the state.

Development in South Dakota

The Cheyenne River Reservation is located in two of the five poorest counties in the U.S. Plagued by high unemployment rates (about 70%), the majority of households live at or below poverty level. The economy is largely tied to agriculture, mainly ranching and farming. While there are also several small commercial businesses (restaurant, hairdresser, convenience store, etc.), the two largest employers are the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Unlike many other Native American reservations in the U.S., Cheyenne River does not operate any casinos on their land, fearing a rise in alcohol and gambling addictions.

Housing on the Cheyenne River Reservation tends to be substandard and often accommodates extended families. While the national overcrowding rate in the U.S. is only 5.9%, overcrowding on the reservations can be as high as 27%.

Volunteer Impact

Volunteers provide assistance to disadvantaged Lakota youth, focusing primarily children and families living on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation.

As a volunteer in South Dakota you can provide love, affection, education and support to youth of the Lakota tribe.  You will help to improve education and skills ensuring that they learn and flourish.  As a volunteer you can contribute to administration and fundraising to benefit the functioning youth centre.  You will also provide education, inter-cultural exchange and understanding in a South Dakota community.

What else can I do in South Dakota?

Volunteers are recommended to plan their sightseeing before or after their program dates.

South Dakota's most famous landmark is Mount Rushmore, with its' sculpture carved into the granite face featuring the heads of former United States presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.


How it works...

If your application is successful you will be accepted and we will then get to work organizing your placement.

You will receive a Program Guide which contains a wealth of information. You'll find everything from a broad overview of the country you are going to; project details; life on the project (accommodation, meals, what to wear etc); along with extremely helpful information and advice for preparing for your trip.

GVN provides four different options to pay your program package and secure your placement. These include:

  1. Fast Track: This gives you a US$300 discount on your program package.
  2. Installments: In this option your program package is broken into monthly installments based on the number of months you have left until your start date.
  3. Deposit: By paying a US$297 deposit you can secure your placement and then you will pay the remaining amount before your start date.
  4. Fundraising: GVN has partnered with an online fundraising platform called StayClassy. You can use this platform to fundraise the costs for your trip.

Program Package – from US$ 36 a day* ($300 Fast-Track discount available)

  • 4 weeks: US $1797
  • 5 weeks: US $1847
  • 7 weeks: US $1947
  • 8 weeks: US $1997

* Placements longer than 8 weeks are available, please contact us or apply online for details.

* Based on an 8 week placement

What You Get – Pre-Trip

  • Support you need from our experienced Program Specialist! This includes unlimited phone and email access!
  • Your Program Guide: your online resource guide that covers topics such as country information, details on your placement, travel links, visa application process and much more!
  • Fundraising Strategies: a fundraising guide full of proven strategies, a letter verifying your place with a registered charity and access to our crowd funding platform where you can raise up to 100% of the cost your trip, with tax receipts for your US based donors.
  • Access to Your Own Online Journal: which help you to communicate effectively and easily with your family and friends back home.
  • Opportunities for Preferred Pricing and Personalized Service when booking Airfares: through our travel partner AirTreks who go the extra mile to support GVN volunteers.

What You Get: While in Country

  • Accommodation: Volunteer House.
  • Meals: Weekly Food Allowance (US$50/week for anyone who secured their spot in the program after June 1 2013 and US$20/week for anyone who secured their place before this date).
  • Airport pickup: On arrival date.
  • Training: In-country orientation and training.
  • Supervision: In-country staff supervision.
  • Support: Pre-departure personal support from your volunteer coordinator, 24/7 in-country support from partner, and 24hr emergency line.

What You Get: Post-Trip

  • An opportunity to debrief and provide feedback
  • Free access to GVN Changemakers program which alerts you to future internship/job opportunities at GVN
  • A Letter of Completion in Volunteer Service

crossWhat's Not Included:

Flights, insurance, visas, vaccinations, departure from the program, airport departure tax.

We recommend you allow a weekly budget of US $25 for your other expenses such as bottled water, personal items, beverages, transportation and entertainment.

Apply now for the South Dakota Program:

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Program Schedule

Start Date: 1st Monday or 3rd Monday of every month

Length: 4 weeks to 24 weeks.  Longer-term positions may be arranged on a case-by-case basis.

Please note:

The centre also welcomes volunteer groups, which can volunteer for a minimum of two weeks. Groups would have to arrange their own transport from the airport to the centre.

Hours: Volunteers will be helping for about 8-10 hours on 6 days per week. However, we ask volunteers to remain flexible, as additional help may be needed for special events.


We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions which we receive at the GVN inbox.  This is a great place to start if you have questions about Global Volunteer Network and our placement process. This information should answer the majority of questions you may have.

Tell me more about the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation?

The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is located in the state of South Dakota in the United States of America. There are 9 Indian Reservations in South Dakota, of which Cheyenne River is the largest. The reservation was established by the Sioux Agreement Act of March 2, 1889, which divided the Great Sioux Reservation into five smaller reservations. Its boundaries include roughly 2.5 million acres of rolling prairie lands (about the size of Northern Ireland). The reservation has six representative districts and the district councils have an advisory role in tribal government. There are 17 communities outside of Eagle Butte, such as Cherry Creek, Red Scaffold, White Horse, Black Foot and Swift Bird.


Tell me more about the partner organisation?

The youth centre was founded in January 1988 in response to the community’s need for more services that support struggling children and their families. It was initially operated completely by volunteer staff and quickly became a vital element of the Cheyenne River Community. The organisation currently boasts two youth facilities, the Main Youth Centre for ages 4-12, and a teen centre. The youth centre is 4,560 sq. ft. facility provides an activity room, library, commercial grade kitchen, small computer lab, office space and volunteer quarters. The teen centre is a 26,000 sq. ft. Facility that includes an internet cafe, library, art studio, dance studio, full-seized gymnasium, commercial grade kitchen, a gift shop, office space, and volunteer quarters. In addition to the two facilities, the partner maintains a 2 ½ acre organic fruit and vegetable garden, and provides a Family Services program to the community.


What type of volunteer work is available?

Volunteers will be working full-time with the children and teens at the centre on a variety of activities such as mentoring, playing sports, arts and crafts, providing educational activities, working in the organic garden, serving meals and helping with homework. Volunteers will also help with the general maintenance and upkeep of the centre and will assist with office work. Volunteers with specific skills will be encouraged to implement their own programs with the children.


What age do you have to be to volunteer in this program?

Volunteers must be 18 or older to participate in this program.


When will I know specific details on the placement?

After you have joined the program, you will be sent the program guide with more details about the program and your Program Specialist will begin making arrangements for your placement. Once you’ve confirmed your placement, you’ll be put in touch with our partner organization.


What language do I need to know to participate in the program?

Volunteers need to be native speakers or fluent in English in order to participate in this program.


When do I need to arrive at the reservation?

Volunteers can arrive on the first or third Monday of each month and the program runs year-round.


What are the living arrangements when volunteering?

Volunteers are housed at either the youth or the teen centre in dormitory-style accommodation. There are currently 2 volunteer quarters which house 8 people each.


How do I get to the project?

Volunteers fly into Pierre Airport, South Dakota and are picked up by our partner. If you arrive late in the day you will need to stay one night in Pierre before heading out to the reservation, as it is located 90 miles away.


How many volunteers are there on the site at the same time?

The centre can accommodate a maximum of 16 volunteers at any one time - however this number will fluctuate throughout the year.


What hours am I expected to take part in the program?

Due to the varied schedule of the centre, daily hours will fluctuate according to time of year. However on average, volunteers work around 9-10 hours per day, 6 days a week. Volunteers will generally have Sunday off, however volunteers must remain flexible with their work hours and days off as special events and staff shortages can necessitate altered schedules and additional work.


Are we able to do any sight-seeing?

Volunteers can travel during their days off. For extended travel volunteers may be able to arrange to take a few days off as long as the staff agree, and the request does not impede the function of the youth and teen centres.


What is the course content of the training?

On arrival volunteers have one day of orientation which includes: a discussion with the staff on the expectations of volunteers, the work schedule, and code of conduct; a tour of the centre’s facilities, a tour of the town and its major attractions. After this the new volunteer will shadow another volunteer for about a week before they are asked to take on more responsibility. On-going training in various areas like health, nutrition, and first-aid are also provided.


Are there any more expenses once I arrive?

All accommodation is provided for in your in-country fee and weekly food allowance cheques of US$50 will be issued.  You will also need to cater for travelling money and personal spending money for your time on the program.

[Those who secured their placement before 1st June 2013 will be issued with a weekly food allowance cheque of US$20.]


How do I pay my fees?

Your program fee is payable to Global Volunteer Network 10 weeks prior to the 1st of the month you wish to volunteer.  Please note, your placement is not confirmed (ie secured) until your program fee has been received.  Please note that all charges incurred by the payment of the program fee are at the volunteer’s expense, e.g. if a bank transfer incurs a bank fee at the point of origin, that is at the expense of the volunteer. Seventy percent (70%) of the program fee is refundable until two calendar months before the 1st of the month you are due to begin your program. For example a volunteer with 15 July 2012 as their start date would need to submit their refund request form by the last day of April 2012 to be eligible for a refund. Refer to GVN's legal terms of service for full details.


Do I need an entry visa (and how do I obtain this)?

If you are from a country which has a Visa Waiver Agreement with the United States you will not need a visa to stay for up to 90 days. If you need to obtain a visa you will need to contact your nearest American Embassy. Please note that if you require a visa this must be arranged independently of GVN and the partner organisation.


Do I need travel insurance?

All GVN Volunteers must have insurance.  If you are a volunteer from the US your health insurance should cover you for injury or sickness, however you will need cover for volunteering and travel, so please check your policy. You are free to take out insurance cover through any provider of your choice. However, as some policies do not cover volunteering, we recommend you check you are covered during your volunteer placement.

For your convenience we have arranged a comprehensive package specially designed for volunteering. It includes excellent medical and accident coverage as well as “loss of deposits” cover which covers fees paid to GVN, airlines etc. If you would like to learn more just follow this link: http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/insurance/


Is there any time of year when I can’t volunteer?

No; the program runs all year round.


What is the climate like in South Dakota?

The Cheyenne River Reservation has a cold-temperate climate, with typically harsh winters and hot summers. Temperatures in the summer are usually between 80 and 95 degrees F (27 - 35 degrees C). In the winter the temperature can fall below 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C). Spring and fall are both quite mild with temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees F (10 and 21 degrees C). Cheyenne River receives very little rainfall and is usually quite sunny throughout the year.


Can I bring my family/children to this program with me?

This will be considered on a case-by-case basis; however the program is not suitable for families with very young children.


Can groups participate in this program?

Yes, the program can cater for groups. In this case the minimum time commitment would be two weeks and the program fee would be reduced. If you would like to volunteer as a group please contact us.


How does GVN choose volunteers for this program?

Each GVN program has different criteria depending on our partner's requirements. Every application is reviewed to ensure that the minimum requirements (as set out on the program page) are met. Next we look to see what skills or experience you have that relate specifically to the program. We are also interested in any previous volunteer experience you may have (either local or international), travel experience, and your particular interest in the program.

After reviewing your application, should we require any further information from you, we will email you to request this.


Do I have to be from New Zealand to volunteer through the Global Volunteer Network?

No, volunteers come from all around the world.


Can vegetarians be catered for in this program?

Indeed, vegetarians are welcomed and catered for as long as you indicate this on your application form.


Will I need a police check?

United States law requires that any volunteer working with young and vulnerable people carry an original police check with them to the reserve, a copy of which will need to be sent to the GVN office before departure. Please note this is something which the volunteer will have to independently arrange, and can take some time to process depending on where you live.


Can I drink alcohol in the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation?

The Cheyenne River Youth Project has a zero tolerance policy on alcohol consumption and illegal drug use. While volunteering you will be living in a very small community, with a high rate of alcoholism and in order to maintain the trust of the parents and community as a whole, all volunteers must commit to abstain from alcohol and drug consumption during their time there. This includes time off, weekends, and travelling.


Volunteer Diaries

Cheyenne River Youth Project ? completed

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Noah and Craig working the garden My time with the kids in Eagle Butte have come to an end.  I never thought 8 weeks could go by so fast!  When your day starts at 7:00 AM and ends at 10:00 PM, time kind of sneaks by.  I have so many memorable moments from this trip, [click here to read more]

Click here to read the full blog entry

2 weeks

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Time flies when you are having fun, working hard and meeting great people.  Since last I wrote I have met a great group of young people and teenagers from Chicago.  They traveled in a van to contribute a week of their time to service.  Then a group  from Colorado Springs with donations of time and [click here to read more]

Click here to read the full blog entry

Days slip by

Sunday, June 02nd, 2013

Each morning I plan to journal and before know it the new day arrives, so I’ll cover the week! WOW we worked in the garden, painted the Main, took a weekend Trek and enjoyed Hot Springs!  We cleaned the garden rows to prepare for planting; before planting a Lakota Elder performed the blessing ceremony.  We [click here to read more]

Click here to read the full blog entry

Please visit journals.globalvolunteernetwork.org for more journals and feedback from past volunteers

How to Apply

Program Requirements

As a volunteer in South Dakota you must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a native speaker or fluent in English
  • Have no health problems
  • Be prepared to submit proof and details of travel insurance
  • Be enthusiastic about working with children
  • Have cultural sensitivity and respect
  • Be prepared to abstain from drinking alcohol for the duration of your volunteer program
  • Be able to produce a valid police record check
  • Provide two character references
  • Be eligible for a visa to enter the United States*

*Although there are no restrictions on the nationality of volunteers that wish to participate in this program, you need to be able to obtain your Entry Visa independent of GVN.

Volunteer Feedback


"I recommend the GVN partner organisation in South Dakota without hesitation. The kids are neat. They are vibrant and fun. The staff are helpful and committed.The activities here are many and varied but ultimately all made enjoyable by the energy and appreciation the children show. [...]

My most valued souvenirs of South Dakota will be necklaces made for me by the children and the memories I have of sisters, aged 4 and 6, singing a song I wrote about their brother.I didn’t think I liked kids before I came but situations like that really turned my attitude around. I encourage you all to come out here and see what I mean."


All is great here. I'm doing a plethora of things: organising the warehouse, pushing kids on the swings, busking for the organisation, being treated like a jungle gym, cooking for large groups, supervising arts and crafts activities, cleaning, undergoing training in CPR and kitchen hygiene, playing basketball, working out how to throw a football… The bed is comfy, the staff are helpful and the other vols are cool. The kids are neat. I have two necklaces that they have made for me and they are all the souvenirs I will need.

The most challenging thing for me is seeing lovely kids with scars from abusive parents and seeing the houses that are smaller than cars and talking to kids, councillors and other locals about what goes down here. But I feel good about what I am doing and I know I am helping.


All GVN e-mails were responded in a very timely manner. Orientation was extremely informative. I felt very welcome by the staff and other volunteers.


Staff at GVN's partner organisation was absolutely wonderful! Very helpful, very friendly, very interested in what was going on with the volunteers. Just be flexible and open-minded; This was the best experience I've ever had and I think it can be that way for everyone if they have the right attitude!


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