Covenant Day students repurpose shipping containers into living space for Lakota Indian reservation

When Covenant Day students heard about the conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, they knew they had to do something. Fewer than 40,000 Lakota Indians live on the more than 2-million acre Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The median income on the reservation is less than $3,500 per year, and more than 95% of the population lives below the federal poverty levels.

Although the sale and possession of alcohol on Pine Ridge Reservation has been prohibited since the early 1970s, alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the reservation. The teenage suicide rate on the reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this group and the infant mortality rate is the highest on the continent and is around 300% higher than the U.S. national average. The school drop-out rate is over 70%. Mobile homes and trailers on the reservation are overcrowded, with many homes housing more than 15 people. Nearly 40% of the homes do not even have electricity. This reservation isn’t oceans away. It’s in the United States.

After visiting the reservation, students at Covenant Day School in Matthews, N.C. created ContainIt. Through this student-led initiative, students began repurposing used shipping containers into living space to serve as a refuge on the reservation. In December 2015, members of the ContainIt team delivered the first transformed container to Pine Ridge. The desire was for this container to provide a refuge for youth in Pine Ridge.

The students were motivated to do more upon their return from Pine Ridge. ContainIt developed two key partnerships with Edifice, Inc. (general contractors) and Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and began work on three new 40-foot containers. These containers included a singles unit, a family unit, and a bathroom/kitchen combo. Students worked on constructing these containers throughout the 2016-2017 school year, along with all the other challenges of managing an organization like ContainIt. One of these challenges was finding funding for the project, and the ContainIt team responded. In March 2017, ContainIt hosted its first fundraiser raising nearly $50,000 in a sporting clay shoot at Meadow Wood Farms. Over 120 people participated in the event. These funds helped kick off phase I of a 14-container complex in Pine Ridge. ContainIt’s second annual sporting clay fundraiser has been scheduled for March 16, 2018. With the help of this funding, the students completed the first three containers and shipped them to Pine Ridge Reservation in mid-May. A team of students, staff, and representatives from Edifice and Little traveled to Pine Ridge to help welcome and install the containers.

The team successfully installed the three containers during the trip. The group was also able to serve in Pine Ridge in other ways such as leading a Bible study for children, participating in a jail ministry, engaging in a prayer meeting, and supporting the local church and pastoral staff. The pastors were able to communicate their own vision for the future of ContainIt, looking to grow it to not only create safe, emergency housing, but also support the local economy. The team was also able to meet two young girls who were greatly impacted by the first twenty-foot container. At ages 5 and 2, these children were taken out of an abusive home and given a safe place to live. The containers allowed the girls to be transformed from timid, shy, and scared to bold, outgoing, and joyful. This is just one example of the ways containers have been impacting the community at Pine Ridge. ContainIt looks forward to hearing more stories of God’s provision through the containers as they provide refuge for those in broken situations.

For more information on ContainIt, visit or contact Covenant Day Marketing Director, Megan Fair, at

Article and photos submitted by Covenant Day / ContainIt

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