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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Simply Smiles Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services

Mission: Providing bright futures for children, families, and their communities

Results: Last year (2017) saw some of our biggest successes to date. On the Cheyenne River Reservation, we built two new homes for families, harvested over 700 pounds of produce from our community garden, and provided 80 days of camp for Lakota youth. In Mexico, we distributed 2,000 doses of anti-parasitic medication, built 10 latrines in the mountain villages of southern Oaxaca, and welcomed 10 children into the Simply Smiles Home for Children. Across both locations, we provided 28,754 meals. The entrenched poverty at both of our program locations make them difficult places to work. However, we will continue to implement programs for children and families that provide hope and opportunity.

Target demographics: the residents of the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, the children at the Simply Smiles Home for Children in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the rural communities in the southern mountains of Oaxaca

Geographic areas served: Oaxaca, Mexico and the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota

Programs: new home construction, summer camps, educational support and scholarships, organic gardening and healthy living programs, job shadowing and training, youth empowerment programs, health clinics and education

Community Stories

34 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been doing electrical work on the Cheyenne river Souix Indian reservation in South Dakota for simply smiles for five years. The simply smiles personal are the most important,amazing,kind,helpful,and wonderful people I have ever met.
All my years of volunteering has made me a better person, using my skills helped me touch and make others lives a little better .
I will always be grateful to the people at simply smiles.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered this summer with Simply smiles on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for one week. From the time I signed up, to the day I was returned to the Rapid City Airport, the staff could not have been more helpful, encouraging, and unbelievably inspiring. My time with the staff, interns and other volunteers was truly educational and so impactful on my life. I worked very hard to learn from them to make the children's summer camp as enjoyable and safe as possible each day. I was very impressed with the organization of the daily chores, group meetings and the overall logistics of such a huge undertaking. Mostly I was in awe of the love and concern I saw demonstrated consistently towards the kids and the community members whose lives were enhanced by the Simply Smiles staff. I felt very blessed to be a small part of such a well run and extremely important nonprofit.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the honor and joy of volunteering with Simply Smiles for six years. I travel each year to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. It has been a life changing adventure and challenge for me. Over the last years, my volunteer group has: made significant improvements to the community center on behalf of the Lakota people; helped build safe and affordable housing;
created an organic garden and provide a fun and educational (hopefully!) camp experience for the local children.

There is no running water and for five of the six years, volunteers have slept on the floor after long hard work days. Challenging, yes! And the Simply Smiles staff and interns are there with you every step of the way. They are positive, encouraging, compassionate and dedicated to improving the lives of the Lakota.

Simply smiles, as an organization, is small, nimble and effective. This allows volunteers the chance to make a real difference with their work. I am so grateful that I have become involved with this organization. I will continue to travel to the reservation for as long as I am able.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Simply Smiles for five years. Each spring, I travel and work on the CRST reservation with the Lakota people in South Dakota. I plan on going again in spring 2018 for year six. I was 56 years old on my first trip, a point in my life where it is all to easy to get set in my ways. Simply Smiles changed me profoundly and I will work with them on the reservation for as long as I am physically able to make the trip.

I have helped to build houses, improve the community center, create an organic garden and most importantly provide a happy and safe summer camp for the Lakota children. The reservation is one of the poorest places in America and it is a place where children routinely attempt suicide. Simply Smiles is a small, nimble and focused nonprofit. The staff works with volunteers so that, together, we can truly make a difference in the lives of children on the reservation.

I am humbled and honored to be able to make even the smallest contribution to improving the lives of Native Americans. Simply Smiles changes lives for the better and deserves to be recognized as a Great Nonprofit.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My last 4 summers with Simply Smiles have been the best of the best. When I first heard about the organization and the work that they have done, I knew I had to see it all first hand. So I made my way to one of their locations in La Plant, South Dakota. The first day was rough, but the last day was the absolute hardest. Why you may ask? Because the children that live on the reservation are so damaged from the lifestyle they have had to endure, that it takes time and dedication for them to trust you and open up to you. But when they finally do, they are your very best friends and leaving them weighs so incredibly heavy on your heart. The only way you feel like you can breathe again, after leaving, is by going back the very next summer. Which is what I have been doing, because, after just one week of giving them your all, you can't just not go back. The grunt work, like putting up drywall or hauling cement is tough, not going to lie, but the feeling of knowing you are not only building someones home but their future is far beyond rewarding. The smiles on their faces and the hope in their hearts are because of all the efforts made by Simply Smiles and volunteers.

I have had nothing but beautiful and heartwarming memories during my time in LaPlant. After my first summer there, the kids would ask me, "Are you going to come back next summer".. and after 4 years of returning each summer, they now say "We'll see you next summer." And that's how I know, I've done something right, and I plan to do so for as long as I can.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Simply Smiles does not offer charity - they offer partnerships. With the Lakota in South Dakota, the team offers their time, energy and resources as colleagues. They are successful because of their ability to engage the community.

This is not something that is easy to do. The community has centuries of experience being denigrated and persecuted, and Simply Smiles is slowly but surely proving that what is past is not prologue. Simply Smiles has spent a decade earning the trust of the people in the community.

The Simply Smiles team knows their community. It is important for volunteers to understand this. I have been volunteering for several years, and when I am in South Dakota, I listen and learn. Although I have a wide experience, I can see that Jasmine, Alex, Zach and the rest of the team have a deeper and harder won insight.

They know what works. They know how the community perceives people like us from Connecticut, and how we can contribute to the partnership they have begun. They are very good at learning who we volunteers are, as individuals, and suggest how best we might contribute in the time we are there. Everyone volunteering can benefit by trusting the staff.

The Simply Smiles team is dedicated to a long term collaboration, and not a short term transfer of resources. The time you spend on the team will be humbling, but edifying. Prepare to learn a lot.

2 scottyone2@hotmail.com

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Simply Smiles is an organization that puts the community members at the center of all they do. From the beginning, the community has been part of making decisions, offering ideas, and articulating needs. A similar philosophy is what is foundation to the department I direct, so I value so much how Simply Smiles does what they do. Being on the Res and meeting members of the communities brought a new understanding of what connection means at its core. I was honored to be part of the first summer of full day camp where I was able to meet amazing and talented youth and get to know them through activities that they love -- tie dye, basketball, baseball, swings, etc. It was special to have the opportunity to spend time with elders and meet families. After being on the Res myself I feel very confident continuing to send groups of student volunteers to South Dakota. I know their experience will be full, they will grow as people, they will give their whole hearts, and they will be ready to return to our campus equipped as advocates and allies. Thank you La Plant and Simply Smiles.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I initially went on a volunteer trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, with Simply Smiles in 2008. We volunteered at an orphanage, spending time and developing rapport with these children. I was so impressed with the quality of the experience that I went several more times, once building homes for families that literally lived in the dump. What differentiates Simply Smiles from other volunteer opportunities in my experience is the respectful way they treat the people they serve, and developing long term relationships with them that have spanned years. I have since gone to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, where I have witnessed their impact on this impoverished area.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went to the Simply Smiles location on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation. I was able to spend a week interacting with the families and children on the reservation. I was not quite sure what to expect when arriving on the reservation due to the stigma around reservations. I put my worries aside, and got to know the children really well by interacting in the summer camp activities for them. I really enjoyed it! There were a few community meals where I got to talk to some older people that live on the reservation. That was probably one of the most special parts of my trip. We did some hands on projects on the property which was interesting because I got to learn new skills. It is truly difficult to put my experience into words and explain it to others because it was so much fun and such a unique experience from anything I have ever done!

5 Hadley Evans N.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I interned with Simply Smiles this past summer, and it was one of the most impactful experiences of my entire life. This organization brings love to those who need it while preserving dignity and culture above all else! The focus of this organization always has been and always will be the people it served--there is no ego in Simply Smiles. I love this organization with all my heart and can't wait to continue my relationship with them!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What a tremendous experience it is for me to serve as a volunteer with Simply Smiles. It is a top notch organization that is more than capable of working with local, national, and international constituencies. It is my honor to continue working with this wonderful group!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The easiest way to put it is Simply Smiles is Simply Amazing! I was able to meet so many amazing people between the home, the volunteers, and everyone in the community who helped to keep the home running smoothly. My favorite part of the experience was getting to know the children who live at the home. They love to play games, do hair, make projects, and mostly they love to spend time with the volunteers. The Simply Smiles Children's Home is a special place and I can't wait to go back again!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Words will not do justice to the amazing experience I had with Simply Smiles. From each and every email that was promptly answered, I got the feeling that Simply Smiles was a special place and I sure was right.

I spent a week volunteering at the home for children outside of Oaxaca, Mexico. I was floored by how well the week went- everything was so organized and meaningful. I truly am inspired to continue to be a part of this organization and I encourage others to do the same!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I got involved with Simply Smiles to try and have a small impact on the world in which we live. I believe I did that during my trip to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, but, the trip and organization had a much bigger impact on me as a person. That week I spent with these people (whom I had never met before) turned out to be one of the most memorable of my life.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with Simply Smiles for 3 years now and it is the best volunteer organization I have ever worked with! They are extremely organized and prepared for any situation. They truly care about the individuals in the communities they work in. They bring so much hope to the children on the reservation and it is truly inspiring. Making connections with these kids is and volunteering with Simply Smiles is life changing.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Volunteering and interning with Simply Smiles at the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The staff at Simply are extremely organized and kind. There is always something to do while you are there. As a volunteer in the morning you get a chance to work with staff on construction projects either at the community center or around the community. In the afternoon you get to hangout and make amazing connections with the kids that live on the reservation. You also get a chance to meet other people that live on the reservation at community meals. These are extremely fun because you get a chance to hang out with the kids even more, in addition to hearing stories from the elders on the reservation. I loved volunteering for the first time so much that I knew I wanted to go back and stay for even longer, so I interned! Interning there was amazing! I felt like I was always able to help out in some way whether it be cooking, cleaning, or making long lasting connections with the kids. I felt very helpful and gained an abundant amount of experience working with kids and adults. I was able to make connections with so many of the kids there. For example, I played tag with some of the kids every day, helped one teen with what they were struggling with in school over the summer, and so much more. There are so many ways to connect with each child and make a difference in there day by putting a smile on their face. I can not wait to go back there and volunteer with Simply Smiles again! It is an absolutely life changing experience! The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation will always have a place in my heart.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering with Simply Smiles for six years. Each year I travel to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. The work is hard and incredibly meaningful. Simply Smiles is a small and nimble organization focused on the needs of the Lakota people. Volunteers have the chance to make a profound difference in the lives and circumstances of the people on the reservation

1 revgarden

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Since it began its work in LaPlant South Dakota and Oaxaca, Mexico, Simply Smiles has been an organization of the highest integrity and effectiveness. I have seen firsthand the respect each staff member and volunteer shows for their partners in change- the people of the places where they work. Simply Smiles works hand in hand with them- this is no “let us identify and fix your problem for you” organization. Simply Smiles enters each place and situation humbly, open to seeing the situation of the community or person through their eyes. Together they name issues that need to be addressed and develop plans for doing so.

The effectiveness of Simply Smiles can be seen in the smiles of the children and the hope in the elders eyes. Each victory is hard won. There are plenty of setbacks. But the commitment of Simply Smiles staff and volunteers runs deep; they are in it for the long haul. Being part of this incredible organization is one of the things of which I am most proud.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked with many nonprofit organizations during my career and Simply Smiles is simply the best I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Their deep commitment to working as partners with people in impoverished communities, their respect for the culture of those partners and their unflagging determination in the face of obstacles is unparalleled. Their work changes lives.

I have participated in six service projects with Simply Smiles on the Cheyenne Sioux reservation in South Dakota and each time leave my volunteer week with a sense that in some small way I have been part of shifting the narrative of racism and oppression toward a more just one. Through building homes, acting as friends to the adults and children and honoring the people’s efforts to change their community, Simply Smiles volunteers and staff make a difference.

Michele M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This group is full of heart. They work non-stop to inspire and implement the belief that everyone deserves a chance in life. Have volunteered 3 times in South Dakota and once in Oaxaca. Walking the walk.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Simply Smiles is a non profit that I have been connected to for around 5 years and couldn't be happier to be a part of. I started as a volunteer with Simply Smiles, traveling to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota with my high school youth group. That first week I spent on the Reservation was eye opening and I immediately knew I had to do more and be more involved. The following year I participated in their "Win a Trip Contest" and fundraised for them in hopes of helping a good cause and joining another volunteer trip that summer. I ended up being one of six people to win, and was able to join a college group and spent another week on the Reservation. That week we worked on a house for a community member named Kendall, and helped with the summer camp for the kids, as well as provided community meals and programs for everyone who wanted to participate in La Plant. Simply Smiles' approach to helping the community of La Plant was different than any other non-profit I had experienced working with. They didn't move fast and forcefully, but rather they worked side by side with the community, and focused on building relationships and trust before anything. I appreciated this because it really shows how they work to meet the needs the community vocalizes and provide resources and tools for the community members, and children to be successful and change their lives. They are very thoughtful in everything that they do, and it truly shows when you see how hard they work, and how far they have come.
After volunteering 2 years in a row (for a week each time), I felt connected to the people of La Plant and wanted to do more. I applied as an intern and that summer I spent 2 months on the Rez helping facilitate the volunteer groups each week, running summer camp, planning community meals, cooking, and connecting with people. This experience was hugely life changing. I developed deeper relationships with the community and year after year when I go back, I have kept these connections and been able to build on them. Just this year I had the opportunity to take some of the high schoolers on the Rez on a college tour with a few Simply Smiles staff, which was amazing.
Over the years I have developed a greater understanding of the need that lies within our own country. I have given countless piggy back rides to kids at summer camp, shared meals and stories with elders in the community, heard hardships, shared tears, laughs, smiles, and hugs. Simply Smiles is an amazing organization that I couldn't be prouder to be a part of. I can't help but share stories about the kids, the community, the progress, the setbacks, and the huge accomplishments every time I come home from spending time on the Rez. I value these stories and can't wait to create more experiences, and make more memories with my friends on the Reservation and with Simply Smiles.

1 Irene Ji Un E.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Simply Smiles is the real deal: a group of big hearted people who are giving their all to be of service. The Lakota community of La Plant, South Dakota has grown to trust Simply Smiles because Simply Smiles has chosen to stay, truly cares and is committed to making life better for the residents there.
I had the great fortune to spend a week volunteering in August 2017. In that week, I experienced the wonderful youth camp, participated in building a sustainable water source for the organic garden, visited the houses built by staff and volunteers, learned about Native culture along with the kids, accompanied the kids to a Crazy Horse Memorial field trip, and had many oher experiences that are too numerous to list.
I highly recommend Simply Smiles to anyone considering volunteering or donating to this wonderful organzation. Simply Smiles is making a difference in ways that work, and in ways that will positively affect Native youth's futures through educational opportunities, safe housing, nutrition, attention and care, and preserving culture and identity.
The warmth, welcoming and great heart and spirit of the staff will always stay with me. The beauty of the lakota people will as well.
Wishing continuing success and sending many thanks to Simply Smiles. Will never forget my experience in La Plant, and hope to return someday.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have gone to SD to the Cheyenne Sioux reservation three times in the past three years. It has warmed my heart to see the dedication of Simply Smiles to the people of LaPlant, SD. They created a Community Center for the people of LaPlant with a playground, garden, greenhouse, basketball, built picnic tables, laid a patio with a permanent overhang, crafts, horseshoe pits, community meals, and most importantly created a sense of belonging and friendship. Simply Smiles isn't just there for a while but for the long term to help the people of LaPlant create a better life for themselves. They have encouraged the children to think about what they will be when they grow up. Not to just dream and wish but to put those dreams into reality. By taking them to colleges outside the reservation and for some to come to CT's Fairfield University to participate in a summer writing program. I am committed to going to SD every summer for as long as I am able, to be with the friends I have made and to be a beacon of hope supporting Simply Smiles and the people of LaPlant. What Bryan Nurnberger has done creating this organization is nothing short of a miracle.