Sacred Earth Radio - Helen Oliff

Helen Oliff of National Relief Charities
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ANNOUNCER: This program is brought to you by White Buffalo Lodges authentic Native American Teepees/Tipis and traditional Native designs. Welcome to Sacred Earth Radio where the people on the planet come together and here is your host, John Bentley.

JOHN: Today on Sacred Earth Radio we have Helen Oliff. She is the Public Relations Manager for National Relief Charities. Welcome to Sacred Earth Radio today, Helen.

HELEN: Thank you, John. Itís good to be here.

JOHN: Now tell our listening audience who is the National Relief Charities.

HELEN: National Relief Charities is a non-profit dedicated to quality of life and positive change for Native Americans on the remote reservations. Weíve been serving Native Americans for about 20 years. Weíre the only Indian serving charity that works on over 75 reservations year round. We have 8 programs, AIEF, SNRF, CIN, and a few others. And our main goal is helping Native Americans build strong, self-sufficient communities.

JOHN: Sounds like a good cause. Now where does the NRC work?

HELEN: NRC works mostly in places that Americans never see. We give preference to the most rural and remote communities where access to service is the most limited. We do prioritize the reservations on 9 different states. In the Northern Plains those are: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Nebraska. And in the Southwest we work in areas of Utah and New Mexico.

JOHN: You just mentioned that you like to go to the outskirts. Is there any reason why you guys donít do this in urban areas as well?

HELEN: There is a reason. Most Americans would be shocked by how vast some of the reservations are. And as I mentioned in the communities where work access to even the basics can be very limited, and weíre talking about limited access to health care, education, sometimes even water, food or electricity. The communities, you know, the closest store or clinic may be an hour away. There are few opportunities for employment. Most Americans donít have to make the choice between milk and shampoo or toilet paper. For most Americans the basic needs are met, but in these remote, underserved communities where we work, that is not the case. We would like to work with the urban communities too, but we canít afford to serve everyone.

JOHN: Well that seems to make sense to me that you are trying to reach out to a group that has limited access to these kinds of things. Now just as kind of an inobservance question, if I will, arenít casinos supposed to help the Native American community?

HELEN: In the areas where we work thereís very little traffic to support high casino profits so in our experience, the casinos where we work make very little profit and have no payouts. They do create a few extra jobs for the tribes and outside our service area where the area is less remote, half of the tribes still donít have casinos, and in fact, there is a believe that, you know, one casino can meet the needs of an entire nation. This is a fundamental misunderstanding that people need to change.

JOHN: Ok, Helen, what else is important about where you work?

HELEN: Because most Americans have never been to a remote reservation, they are unaware of the true conditions that exist, and we try to highlight some of the facts about what life is like on the reservation day to day. For instance, over 43% of American Indian children under the age of 5 live in poverty. Still over 1 and 3 teens drops out of high school. Many of the homes still lack running water, electricity or telephones. This leaves elders isolated and more vulnerable, because theyíre in remote communities. A lot of Native Americans who work full time are still living below poverty level. For the Navajo per capital income is 4 times lower than in the rest of the country, and for Pine Ridge, unemployment reaches as high as 85% in some communities. These are facts that the American public doesnít really know.

JOHN: Wow. Amazing facts. Now, Helen, weíre going to take a break here, but before we do that, why donít you give the website address for the National Relief Charities and maybe a contact number.

HELEN: Ok. Our website is and the number is (800) 416-8102.

JOHN: We are in the studio with the Public Relations Manager for National Relief Charities, Helen Oliff, and youíre listening to Sacred Earth Radio. Weíll be right back after these important messages. Do stay tuned.

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JOHN: Welcome back to Sacred Earth Radio. We are in the studio with the Public Relations Manager for National Relief Charities, Helen Oliff. Welcome back to the program, Helen.

HELEN: Thank you.

JOHN: Weíve been talking about the wonderful things that your charity is doing for the Native American community. Letís talk a little bit about partners, because I know you guys have a partner program, and I guess my question would be how do you know the best partners or communities to work with?

HELEN: Our program partners tend to be people who are already working to make a difference in their communities. NRC does have selection criteria for every program and service. The selection is primarily based on need, but also on the partner and communities capability to deliver the service.

JOHN: So what exactly does the NRC do then?

HELEN: NRC supports reservation programs like: job training, life skills, health care education. We also provide material aid for day to day necessities, and we support education for Native Americans.

JOHN: Ok, now you guys do have a lot of programs. Why donít you identify and tell me a little bit about some of them.

HELEN: National Relief Charities has 8 different programs for reservation communities. In the Northern Plains the programs are SNRF, AIRC, NAA, and also AIEF. In the Southwest we have CIN, SWIRC, NRF, and ROAR. All of these programs are based on the known needs in Indian country such as the need for healthy nutrition, health education, winter fuel for elders, or school supplies, and scholarships for students.

JOHN: You mentioned SNRF. Tell me what is SNRF. What do the letters stand for?

HELEN: SNRF stands for Sioux Nation Relief Fund program. SNRF is primarily focused on elder care. Itís very popular on the Pine Ridge Reservation among our partners there, but it is like our other programs itís in the Plains, itís offered to 25 other reservations in the priority states. With SNRF the services can range from firewood to fresh produce or support for residential facilities that have elders or the homeless or even victims of domestic violence. SNRF also supports health education and holiday programs.

JOHN: Ok, now you had mentioned a couple of other programs that had different letters in them too. Can you identify those as well?

HELEN: I sure can. I think the AIEF is important. Thatís American Indian Education Foundation. Scholarships really open the door for positive change and opportunity and providing school supplies to the children helps to keep them in school and increases the chances of them going further in school. We also have emergency grants that help college students stay in school once they get to college. Our AIEF program manager actually lived and worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation for about ten years and has helped us shape some really effective education programs, and I think we serve about 20,000 Native American students every year.

JOHN: Now what about job programs? Obviously, when you have a community that is 85% unemployed, this has got to be a key component to what you guys are doing.

HELEN: All forms of education are a key component to what weíre doing, and we do support programs that are running; career training, job skills, life skills, such as dress for success. It doesnít take away the fact that the employment opportunities are limited; however, it does help prepare people for when those opportunities come about.

JOHN: Now is there a pet program you have, or is there anything in particular in these programs that you like a lot?

HELEN: Well as I mentioned. I do like the education programs, and I think all of our programs are based on need. They are also based on hope. So itís hard to pick any one thing that I like about them. The partners appreciate every service that we can bring.

JOHN: Now weíre getting to the end of the program here, Helen. Is there anything else you would like to say about NRC?

HELEN: I would like to say that we have several other programs we recently started; environmental emergency support through NAA and NRF. We have responded to the recent floods in North Dakota, the blizzards in South Dakota, the tornado in Turtle Mountain, the hurricanes that swept through the Bayou tribes last year. Requests for that kind of support have been growing, and in the Southwest we do have the CIN, ROAR programs that once again address the primary needs of food, clothing, shelter, all the things that most Americans take for granted. NRC is completely dependent on individual Americans who are concerned about conditions on the reservation, and we count on our donors to help us be a consistent resource for the 900 partners who are counting on NRC to be there for them.

JOHN: Well, Helen, I appreciate you joining us on Sacred Earth Radio today.

HELEN: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

JOHN: Before I let you why donít you give the website address and contact information again please.

HELEN: Ok. Our website is and the telephone number is (800) 416-8102.

JOHN: Weíve been in the studio with Helen Oliff. She is the Public Relations Manager for National Relief Charities, and youíve been listening to Sacred Earth Radio. Thanks for tuning us. Everyone have a great day.

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