Invest in our shared future - Please help with a year end gift

Imagine what it would be like to be a teenager locked in a jail cell over the holidays.

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After every Yosemite trip Sacred Rok meets with the kids at the juvenile hall classroom for lunch and to share stories and reflections from being in Yosemite.  There are also writing prompts.  Here are some responses to the prompt, “If you could have one Christmas wish, what would it be and why?”

“I would wish to be with all my family so I could spend the holidays and time with them.”

“To have my older brother home because he is in prison for 28 years, and we have a bond that we share like no others.”

“To spend time with my loved ones that are gone and the ones that are here.”

“If I could have one wish granted, it is that I could go home for the holidays and spend time with my family, most importantly my grandma because she is not doing well.”

“If I had one Christmas wish it would be for me and my two older brothers (who are in prison) to spend the holidays together whether it be in prison or on the outside. The reason why I want this wish granted is because I have not seen or held my brothers in almost two years.”

When the kids get out of juvenile hall, they lose this support. They often stay in touch with Ron through Facebook and text, and express the desire to come back to Yosemite. We want to offer them the support they need to rebuild their lives.  

My name is Anthony and I'm glad there was a program like Sacred Rok to give me another chance. Without Mr. Ron Kauk making it possible for us and our Yosemite trips I don't believe I would have come this far.”

Anthony is one of our Sacred Rok youth from juvenile hall.  We cannot use his real name because he was incarcerated as a minor, after growing up in a family fractured by poverty and substance abuse.  Sacred Rok is like family to him.  He said about one Yosemite trip:

“One of my favorite memories is when we went to a restaurant with Ron and sat down like we were a family gathered up at the dinner table, enjoying a great meal, joking around, and enjoying life.” 

The trips to Yosemite are transformational – experiencing the healing ceremony of nature and developing mutual respect with trip leader Ron Kauk.   

We want to continue to offer the opportunity for Anthony and other young people to experience nature after they get out of juvenile hall.  

"It's really a blessing when you realize how much a person cares about trying to teach the world and not only what he knows. It was a type of privilege to be with Sacred Rok and achieve more knowledge and motivate me to do better. I lost time with my family but now I'm working as a construction interior repair team member and I'm only seeing me doing better.  Thank you Sacred Rok for giving me another chance.”

Imagine helping these young people feel safe and find their voice, knowing that they are loved and trusted. And the Sacred Rok model is all about building relationships - we need a mentor/staff to support Ron Kauk, help with transportation, and build a connection with the kids.

And this is a bargain - it costs more than $90,000 a year to keep a youth locked up.

As we reach the end of the year, we want to thank all of our supporters for helping us to connect youth with nature.   

Best wishes for the holiday season and the New Year, hoping for peace and human kindness, and thinking of those less fortunate.


- the Sacred Rok Board - Ron, Nancy, Kenji, Brian, Lamar, Lucy, Milbrey, and Steve

 

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We achieved our #GivingTuesday goal!

We raised $15,000 on #GivingTuesday, thanks to the wonderful Sacred Rok community!

The funds will support the purchase of a new vehicle. We are looking forward to expanding our services to provide aftercare for young people who have exited from Juvenile Hall, through transportation to Yosemite to share day trips and the ceremony of nature with Ron.

We had $7,500 in matching donations, which matched $7,500 in donations received for the campaign. That means that the value of every donation was doubled. One of our donors said, "This is an affirmation of the good work that Ron and the Sacred Rok team are doing." 

Thank you to the Sacred Rok community.  We did not do this alone - it took all of us to do it together.

- The Sacred Rok Board - Ron, Nancy, Kenji, Brian, Lamar, Lucy, Milbrey, and Steve

And here is what Ron and the Bear Creek Academy youth were doing on #GivingTuesday - they are why we are here.

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Give a gift that will give for years to come — transform a life

#GivingTuesday is Tomorrow!

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Thank you so much for being an important part of the Sacred Rok community.

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, the international day of giving, and we are asking for your support to help us to expand our services by donating at https://tinyurl.com/SacredRok.  Our goal is to raise $15,000 to help us with a vehicle, a house, and a new staff mentor to assist with the youth.  We are already more than half way there!

One incarcerated young woman said, “When I go to Yosemite I feel like I can honestly be who I am.  I can escape my problems in a healthy way.  I take that first breath of fresh mountain air, and I inhale nothing but good positive energy, and when I exhale my problems are released out of my body.  I love the beauty of Yosemite.  It encourages me and gives me hope that I can make my life beautiful too.”

I know that you share our passion for the value of helping young people to experience what Ron Kauk calls the healing ceremony of nature - as he says, "Without a doubt, the healing power of nature is real."

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What is the impact? One incarcerated youth, “Tony” (names of incarcerated minors are confidential), said: “While I was standing alone and enjoying the view of nature, the waterfall, and the rainbow, I began to look to my left and look to my right and notice no one was by my side. At that point I began to realize it’s all on me to make the best of what I have, where I am, and where I’m going in life.” “Tony” has since gotten out of Juvenile Hall, and has a job, a partner, and a baby. He keeps in touch with Ron by text and Facebook, and has asked Ron to visit in Yosemite so that he can again experience the reality and ceremony of nature. But he has no way to get up to Yosemite and no place to stay if he gets up there. 

Sacred Rok and Ron have been working with Merced County Juvenile Hall for 8 years, and it is so clear that the young people need a place to go when they get out — just for a day or two or a week for respite from their day to day pressures in the neighborhood. Ron keeps in touch and considers these young people as part of the Sacred Rok family and community. We are raising money to expand our services for aftercare.

And your donation is a good investment — it costs more than $90,000 a year to keep a young person in juvenile hall!  A donation has immediate and direct impact, since our first aftercare trips will be in December. 

We all know the healing power of nature, and the difference it makes for a troubled young person to learn to sit on a rock or by the river, listening to the rushing water, bearing witness to the granite cliffs, and building a relationship of trust and mutual respect with a caring adult.

Thank you so much for making a difference to Tony and others like him.

I personally support Sacred Rok with both my time and money because I see the impact it has on the youth. One foster teen told me that she had been through so many bad experiences that she always felt she was unimportant and that her life didn't matter. Then, when she lay down in the grass at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground and looked at the night sky, she realized for the first time that her life had meaning and purpose. Her epiphany brought tears to my eyes. 

We know you have your own reasons for supporting Sacred Rok, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Please share this link https://tinyurl.com/SacredRok with any of your friends, family, or colleagues who might want the opportunity to invest in Sacred Rok and help to transform lives.


Nancy Goodban, Sacred Rok Board Chair, on behalf of Ron Kauk, Executive Director

Sacred Circle

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I was invited by a friend who works at the California Youth Authority in Stockton to come for a visit.  Two of our youths from the Iris Garrett Juvenile Hall in Merced were transferred there.  I was excited to see them because we had shared so many good experiences in Yosemite, and I looked forward to the opportunity to continue our friendship. This CYA prison is another level of intensity, a little more than I was used to, and it continued to expose me to some of the harsh realities that we live in. 

I met my friend Dennis at the gate, who gave a smile that immediately supported our working together over the years with the native community, where we participate in ceremonies in the Yosemite area.  As Dennis showed me around the facility, I had the realization of the scale of this issue of incarceration throughout this country.  It really challenges your willingness to look at this reality directly, without flinching.  In some ways it parallels the way in which my mind has developed as a rock climber, to be able to face these challenges.

To be in this kind of environment with Dennis felt good because we are both committed to the healing and mending as a way to participate in the world we live in. As the young men came into the building, we all greeted each other with respect.  Instantly, with the two young men who had been to Yosemite, we started sharing the particular memories of moments like swimming in the river, taking pictures of the leaves on the trees, doing trail work together, and watching the sunrise at camp. Dennis began to organize the group of young men into a circle with an opening prayer that is customary to their gathering. Pulling out a sacred eagle feather, he handed it to one of the boys who began to share his thoughts and prayers on the importance of the meeting and the preciousness of his life. When he was finished with his words, he passed the feather to the next young man and each one continued to give thanks -- how he respected this time together and the opportunity that was being created.  Each one shared in their own unique way.  Then we watched some of the climbing videos and read through the books that we created through Sacred Rok.  The fact that one of our youths was in that book inspired the idea of what’s possible when we all work together.  It was a great visit.

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On my drive home, it was interesting to reflect on the reality of incarceration.  As I was flying down the Central Valley of California on Highway 99 towards Merced from Stockton, I considered that none of these buildings or businesses existed two hundred years ago, and that people had lived on this land for thousands of years without this industrialization and places for incarceration.  It continues to inspire me to consider even my own DNA lineage that leads back to my indigenous reality of being human from the earth -- I pondered the phenomenon we live in when we embrace that memory of ancestral history that would honor the intimate relationship with nature and natural laws.  My job is always to be a caretaker of nature in order to survive. I will continue to honor the nurturing environment of Yosemite that has brought me into this reality of what we are involved in with Sacred Rok.

Days later, I was with a group of youth from Juvenile Hall in Merced walking a seven-mile loop along the floor of Yosemite Valley on a nice autumn day.  In the midst of our walk, I asked one of our guys what should be the writing prompt for next week’s lunch meeting at the Hall. As he was considering the question, at that moment we could hear the birds, feel the breeze through the trees, and we were walking barefoot.  I said maybe we should write about our senses.  He looked back and me and said: “How about just common sense?”   It struck me like a lightning bolt, how profound that sounded at that moment.  And hearing that from him inspires me to think about the future of education for our youth to be able to create a foundation based on common sense and our relationship with the earth.  At Sacred Rok, we talk about education nature’s way, which has so much to do with common sense.  As Noam Chomsky asked: education for whom and for what?  I continue to marvel at the brilliance of the comment, and how much sense that makes.  Does that make sense?

- Ron Kauk, Executive Director

 

 
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