Four Directions Walk emphasizes diabetes prevention
LEUPP, Ariz. - Over 300 walkers converged upon the Leupp Senior Center on Sept. 12 to support the Second Southwest Annual Four Directions Walk, sponsored by the Navajo Special Diabetes Project (NNSDP), Winslow Service Area Office and the Leupp Senior Center.
Four teams, representing each of the four directions, began their walk five miles from the senior center, coming from the directions of Birdsprings, Winslow, Flagstaff and Tolani Lake. Nineteen walkers came from the east, 29 walkers from the south; an impressive 256 walkers came from the west and 14 came from the north.
Many in each group wore colors corresponding with their respective direction according to Navajo cosmology - white for the east, blue for the south, yellow for the west and black for the north.
Each team began their walk at 9 a.m. DST and stopped for a break midway. Water and fruit were provided by the Leupp Chapter and the STAR School. The youth provided inspiration for the older walkers.
Walkers from the west were fortified by students from Leupp Schools, Inc. (LSI) and the STAR School. STAR's entire staff and student body participated and remained to listen to some of the presentations made largely in Navajo. Navajo speakers among the staff translated some of the information for interested students who enjoyed their lunches in the shade.
Hank Hankie, a senior nutritionist for the Navajo Area Agency on Aging (NAAA) Central Office served as emcee.
Alfred Tsosie, the van driver for the Leupp Senior Center, explained the meaning of the Four Directions Walk and the attributes of each direction.
The east embodies the concept of thinking (Nitsáhákees); the south embodies planning (Nahat'á); the west embodies living (Iiná) and the north embodies assurance (Sihasin), he explained.
Selena Holgate, a nutritionist from the Dilkon Service Area-NNSDP, explained the importance of nutrition/wellness. Genevieve Davis, also from the Dilkon Service Area, presented information about blood sugar.
Dean Roan got the room moving by teaching some appropriate aerobic exercises.
Closing remarks were given by Roy Wilson, president of the Leupp Local Senior Council.
Lola Bahe, supervisor of the Leupp Senior Center, gave the benediction.
In a follow up interview on Sept. 19, Bahe shared her gratitude. "I want to just say I am thankful to all the participants, including the children from LSI and STAR and our elderly," Bahe said. "The help from the schools and other people who joined us were an encouragement to me.
"Our elders are always glad to walk," Bahe continued. "Walking has always been something I've wanted to do as part of my work with my elders. I enjoy making them happy and healthy."
Bahe embodies the goals of the walk. A picture on the wall near her desk shows Bahe last year-one can immediately recognize a big difference. Since she walked in the First Four Directions Walk, she has lost a considerable amount of weight. She credited her seniors for her progress.
"They encouraged me to lose weight," Bahe said. "They told me that they wanted me to do it. I have been walking more. I am constantly walking to help myself and ... other people who are like me. It is not the end of the world; we all need to take care of ourselves. I just had to do it."
Bahe enthusiastically invited all seniors in the community to join in the food and fun.
Waylon Curley, the senior community health worker said that the Four Directions Walk was a success.
"The communities that were involved really put out-especially the walkers. We had a big turnout with the kids from Leupp Schools, Inc. and the STAR School. The elderly did turn out and the majority did complete the walk."
Elderly who could not complete the entire walk still did what they could-several vehicles as well as the Navajo Nation police and a fire engine ensured the safety and comfort of all.
"Our office provided gift bags for the students who walked, as well as T-shirts," Curley said.
"Our office also provided speakers who explained complications of diabetes, and the benefits of eating correctly and exercising. Window Rock sent out a recreation specialist, Dean Roan. He was really good; not only did he lead exercises, but he talked about the benefits of exercising as it relates to diabetes."
Curley said that he is looking forward to next year's walk.
"We plan this with Lola Bahe. When she needs help, we are more than willing to help her," Curley said. "If there are other communities wanting us to come out and sponsor activities, we are willing to come."
Currently the NSDP office has other fun activities coming up.
"We are sponsoring walks in different communities, including evening walks in Dilkon, under a program called Families in Motion 2008," Curley said. "We encourage surrounding communities to come out and walk with us. The walks are free of charge, and participants who walk in three walks will receive incentive prizes."
Walks scheduled for the near future will take place on Sept. 22, Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. Registration will start at 5:30 with the walk beginning at 6:00 DST. Walkers will register and gather at the Dilkon Chapter House and walk two miles to the rodeo grounds.
Curley said that the NSDP will also be sponsoring the Second Annual Chili Cook Off on Thursday, Oct. 16. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. DST at the Leupp Flea Market (See related article on Page 12 of this issue).
"Last year we had a good turn out, with 15 to 20 contestants," Curley said.
"Contestants are to prepare everything at site and should bring everything needed to make their own chili recipes, such as ingredients, utensils and pots. We will provide propane and burners and electricity."
The only sad note to the day was that a video camera owned by the STAR School, used by students to document the walk, was left behind. The camera can be returned to the STAR School, should someone have found it.