Many kids gain healthy relationships and foundations through opportunities offered in their communities. However, in some parts of KELOLAND, you can drive for miles without seeing a house, gas station or even a town. 

That’s especially true in parts of the Cheyenne River Reservation in the north central part of the state. One organization is working to give kids opportunities to create those stable foundations. 

Take a trip to the northern part of South Dakota and you may find a view of horses and grassy hills is an everyday occurrence for those at the DX ranch. Now people there are sharing their love of horses and their passion for helping others by turning it into what they call Project H3lp!  

“The mission of Project H3lp is to create stable foundations. From those stable foundations we hope individuals have a solid base to work from, so they can go out and pursue whatever avenue of life they choose,” project director Kelsey Ducheneaux said.

Project H3lp is a non-profit organization that works to bring young people who may not have a lot of opportunities, because of where and how they live, out to this ranch. 

“There’s not a whole lot of internship opportunities. There’s not a lot of opportunities for after school work, or even after school youth group learning experiences. Project H3lp hopes to try to fix that,” Kelsey Ducheneaux said.

Since horses are a main part of the ranch, the organization uses them as a teaching tool for the participants. 

“Horses have really been the key component to being able to get the job done, and they’ve helped us every step of the way and we realize that we can use those horses to help the local youth as well,” Kelsey Ducheneaux said.

The vison for Project H3lp started years ago when Guthrie Ducheneaux was working at a school. 

“He saw a correlation between an interaction between a student and a teacher in the classroom setting and coming home and seeing a relationship between a horse and my dad, Zach. And he thought that there’s got to be some connection between those two instances, and he was able to start the brainchild of Project H3lp from that,” Kelsey Ducheneaux said.

Project H3lp is all about building stable foundations for people to build a life on.  

“Whether that be helping others, working in a school, ranching, working with horses, really whatever they’re interested in, our whole goal is to help them develop the skill sets that they need to go out and pursue whatever makes them happy,” Kelsey Ducheneaux said. 

Especially if there are factors in a child’s life that are working against them.

“The concept behind having a stable foundation is so that when different circumstances or situations come at you, they don’t knock you over,” Kelsey Ducheneaux said.

To help with that, there are three guiding principles the group works with. 

“Our guiding principles of awareness, empathy, and presentation help us to frame the interactions that we’re going to have with other organisms and the world. And we use those guiding principles to do most of the things that we encounter everyday,” executive director Guthrie Ducheneaux said.

The letters in the name “H3LP” stand for health, ecology, lifemanship, and policy. ‘Lifemanship’ is the primary message right now, which represents those at the ranch sharing their way of life through horsemanship. 

“A solid craftsmanship is somebody applying skills that they know to a passion of theirs, and the better you get at those skills, the better your craftsmanship is. We think of life as being that and we use horses as a way of being a catalyst allowing people to apply the skills that we teach,” Guthrie Ducheneaux said.  

While Kelsey says the organization will continue to grow in the future, just having the opportunity to give kids a chance at a stronger foundation by sharing her passion is rewarding.

“It’s really amazing to see their faces light up whenever that horse comes and nuzzles them on the cheek, there’s a connection there that can’t really be captured with words.  It’s something you have to experience,” Kelsey Ducheneaux said.

Currently, Project H3lp has partnerships with a couple of local youth groups, including the Cheyenne River Horsemanship Program and the Tiospaya Topa school to help spread its mission. If you would like to find out more about events and the organization, we’ve provided a link to the Facebook page.