Carlos lives in the Kyle area of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with his wife and their four children, ages 7, 6, 3 and a 5-month old infant.
For seven years, the young family could not use the indoor plumbing inside their mobile home to wash dishes in their kitchen sink, bathe in their bathroom, or even flush a toilet.
Then, for several weeks the family had no water whatsoever, forcing him to drive a mile away to fetch water in containers for all their daily basic needs.
But that was before he learned of the Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) water line connection program which connects homes like Carlos’ to the main water service line which runs through the reservation.
Upon submitting an application to our water program coordinator at our field office on the reservation, Ken Lone Elk, it wasn’t long before our Oglala Lakota contractor showed up to run 30-feet of pipe to the water line, as well as install 40-feet of sewer pipe to reconnect his septic tank.
Carlos had never come to Running Strong for help before for food, school supplies for his children, heat assistance in the winter or home repairs, but when it came to ensuring that his family had access to all the water they need, he had had nowhere else to turn.
Today, he no longer has to waste time fetching water and limiting use sparingly now that the family has all they need, whenever they need it — just like the vast majority of American families do across the country.
“It’s such as basic thing, and a lot of people can’t believe how many in Indian Country don’t even have running water,” says Ken. “But when you dig for a connection and hook up a family with running water for a first time, you’re creating hope.
“You’re changing their lives.”