Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, June 18

Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund needs more money to continue its cause

Shandiin Herrera and her family provide Kinship Care Packages to elders, immunocompromised, and struggling families, including Darell Whitehorse, in the Monument Valley area. 
(Photo courtesy of Shandin Herrera)

Shandiin Herrera and her family provide Kinship Care Packages to elders, immunocompromised, and struggling families, including Darell Whitehorse, in the Monument Valley area. (Photo courtesy of Shandin Herrera)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — With COVID-19 cases spiking on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund is sending out an urgent plea for more funds so it can continue to help families in need on both reservations.

The relief fund hopes to raise enough money to carry Navajo and Hopi families through the second wave of the pandemic and through the cold and flu season.

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Anton Gray and Wynonna Wilson at Bashas’ Dine’ Market in Chinle the first week of November.(Photos/Mateo Herrera and Shandin Herrera)

The group estimates needing $6.5 million in order to meet that goal. In breaking down the cost, the relief fund said a $100 will help a family of four by providing them with two weeks’ worth of food and personal, protective equipment (PPE). As little as $10 helps feed a family of four for an entire day.

“It will be devastating to our communities if we cannot continue providing food to our people during this fraught time,” said Ethel Branch, interim executive director of the relief fund.

Branch said with the surge in cases throughout the Nation, which has continued to send out emergency declarations of uncontrolled spread of COVID in many chapters on the Nation, it is not safe for people to be out searching for food instead of staying home and trying to remain COVID-free.

“We ask that everyone look into their hearts and pledge what they are able to in order to help our communities through this continued crisis,” Branch said.

Since April 12, the relief fund has provided direct relief to 46,000 households with elders, people with immune problems and children on both the Navajo and Hopi reservations. It has brought $150,000 to $200,000 worth of food, water, PPE and cleaning supplies to 15-20 Navajo and Hopi communities.

But with its initial funding almost depleted, the relief fund anticipates having to stop providing Kinship Care Packages, which consist of two weeks’ worth of food, water and PPE, within a matter of weeks.

“We do not want our relatives to be in need of food, especially during the holiday season,” said Relief Fund Deputy Director Cassandra Begay. “It has been an honor to be able to protect our communities thus far. We hope, through an additional infusion of resources, we will be equipped with enough food and PPE for our communities during this pandemic.”

Where the money goes

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Anita Allen from Oljato receives a kinship care package from Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief fund. (Photos/Mateo Herrera and Shandin Herrera)

The Relief Fund has raised over $6 million, and has spent almost all of that on bringing vital resources to Navajo and Hopi communities to help shield them from COVID-19.

The team and hundreds of Navajo and Hopi volunteers from the two Nations provided food and water to over 46,000 households (each roughly averaging four persons per household with more than 186,000 people served, which is more than the combined population of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations) in 335 distributions in over 530 Navajo communities and Hopi Villages (some communities were served multiple times, and are counted each time they received a distribution).

The Relief Fund has distributed over $4 million in direct purchases of food and over $565,500 in PPE in Navajo and Hopi communities.

It is currently in the process of deploying another $800,000 in PPE kit supplies and 17 tons of coal for an elders heating program and will continue distributing the PPE kits through the end of February, even if the fund’s food and coal programs must end in December because of depleted funding.

The Navajo and Hopi reservations have 16 hospitals and two clinics. One-third of the people on Navajo and Hopi do not have access to electricity and another one-third do not have access to running water.

There are 14 grocery stores in an area of 30,000 square miles (an area larger than West Virginia). More than 50 percent are unemployed with 45.5 percent of Navajo families with children living in poverty and 15 percent in extreme poverty.

More information or to donate is available at the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund’s GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/xjgrfa-navajo-amp-hopi-families-covid19-relief-fund.

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