The Justice and Witness Council of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ presents the annual Haystack Award in recognition of exemplary work in the area of justice and charity. On Saturday, June 16 at the 219th Annual Meeting – Lakota YouthStay founders, Joy Harris and Bruce Roberts were recognized and received this humble award.
Joy and Bruce envisioned and made real the Lakota YouthStay program following years of personal, hands-on engagement with families, elders, and youth on Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Following a wave of youth suicide Joy and Bruce felt called to do more – to do something to inspire hope and a sense of a future for the youth. With significant effort to develop ever-widening connections and discernment about how to proceed with elders on the reservation they engendered support from the Lakota community and the Sanctuary congregation. Thus was the Lakota YouthStay program born. Through initial research, it was determined that no other home-stay program specifically for Native American youth existed in the United States. Lakota YouthStay is an innovative, first of-its-kind initiative that was created collaboratively by it’s leaders Joy and Bruce, Sanctuary UCC in Medford, MA and Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation. The program has had positive impact on the the lives of the Lakota youth who attended and is expected to have long term effect as it grows and the relationships that develop with each year’s stay are sustained and deepened.
Bruce and Joy were recognized because of their own passion for Native American culture and their commitment to justice for Native Americans in general and volunteerism with the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation specifically. They have spread that same passion and commitment to others. Joy and Bruce have personally invested an inspiring amount of time, talent and treasure to understand, teach and motivate others to do the same. Their humility in pursuing cross-cultural understanding; their dedication to seeking justice for the Lakota people, especially for the youth; and their tireless efforts, giving their vacations and free time to volunteerism with the Lakota people, community organizing and fundraising across Massachusetts, discovering partnerships and connections all over New England and beyond and discovering Native American networks and partnerships have allowed for the program to blossom in ways that were unimaginable just three years ago.