Without additional second wave funding, the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund must stop providing food boxes to families in a matter of weeks
TÓ NANEESDIZÍ, DINÉTAH, Tuba City, Navajo Nation (November 25, 2020) – As of November 23, there were 15,039 positive cases of COVID-19 and 631 total confirmed deaths on the Navajo Reservation. Numbers are also on the rise on the Hopi Reservation, and both tribal governments have placed their communities in lockdown again. Key relief effort, the Navajo & Hopi Families COVD-19 Fund, needs a second wind, and a second infusion of donations, in order to carry these communities through this second wave of COVID.
According to the CDC, Americans living in rural areas like the Navajo and Hopi reservations are three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those in urban centers. In May the Navajo Nation surged ahead of New York and New Jersey as the jurisdiction with the highest COVID contraction rate in the country, and has struggled to keep its numbers down. Without new funding, and with limited resources and an uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, community members may face grave health and life consequences.
Meanwhile there remains a severe lack of response infrastructure on both reservations:
- Only 16 hospitals and 2 clinics serve the two reservation communities
- 1/3 of the people on Navajo and Hopi don’t have electricity, and another 1/3 don’t have running water
- With only 14 grocery stores in an area of 30,000 square miles (an area larger than West Virginia), the Navajo and Hopi reservations are classified as extreme food deserts due to their residents’ limited access to affordable and nutritious food
- More than 1/2 of the people living on the two reservations are unemployed; 45.5 percent of Navajo families with children live in poverty, and 14.9 percent live in extreme poverty
With COVID-19 on the rise and with all of these variables stacked against them, it has made this situation even more extreme for the Navajo and Hopi people.
The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, a dba of Yee Ha’ólníi Doo, has been hard at work providing direct relief to over 46,000 households with elders, immunocompromised, and children on the two reservations. Each week since April 12 they have consistently brought $150,000 to $200,000 worth of food, water, PPE, and cleaning supplies to 15 to 20 Navajo and Hopi communities, but their initial funding is almost depleted and they anticipate having to stop providing their Kinship Care Packages, which consist of 2 weeks’ worth of food, water and PPE, to Navajo and Hopi families, within a matter of weeks.
As the Relief Fund’s Interim Executive Director, Ethel Branch, puts it, “It will be devastating to our communities if we cannot continue providing food to our people during this fraught time. With a surge of 2,216 new cases on Navajo Nation in the last 12 days, it is not a safe time for our people to be searching for food in order to stay home and 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.” Relief Fund Deputy Director Cassandra Begay added “We do not want our relatives to be in need of food, especially during the holiday season. 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.”
The Relief Fund seeks to raise enough fund to carry Navajo and Hopi families through this second wave, through the cold and flu season, and to the end of the COVID pandemic in these communities. They estimate needing $6.5 million in order to meet that goal. By donating, you will help the most heavily impacted community in the USA. For $100, you will help a family of four by providing them with 2 weeks’ worth of food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). For as little as $10, you can help feed a family of 4 for an entire day. Donate today to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund.
ABOUT NAVAJO & HOPI FAMILIES COVID-19 RELIEF FUND
The Relief Fund was established on March 15, 2020, when Ethel Branch, the former Navajo Nation Attorney General, started a GoFundMe Campaign to raise money to assist a few Navajo and Hopi families with purchasing two-weeks’ worth of food so they could self-quarantine as protection from the initial onslaught of COVID-19. The Relief Fund soon had a Leadership Team of 12 amazing Navajo and Hopi women leaders and formed Yee Ha’ólníi Doo, a nonprofit that does business as the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, to do this work.
The primary objective of the Relief Fund is to flatten the curve on the Navajo and Hopi Nations. Providing food and water to high risk, vulnerable, and COVID-positive community members enables them to stay home and successfully distance or quarantine. The Relief Fund also provides PPE to community members and high-risk groups, such as community health representatives, first responders, police officers, and medical staff. They also raise public awareness on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through the use of beautiful, bilingual flyers and posters.
To date, 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. The team and a legion of hundreds of Navajo and Hopi volunteers all over the two nations has provided food and water to over 46,000 households (each roughly averaging 4 persons per household, and amounting to over 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 deployed over $4,060,196 in direct purchases of food and over $565,500 in PPE in Navajo and Hopi communities. They are 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 due to depleted funding. Through the masterful coordination of the team’s Super Volunteer and now Logistics Coordinator, Theresa Hatathlie-Delmar, they also facilitated the transfer of some 73,441 masks, surgical gowns, bunny suits, and bootie covers to Navajo and Hopi community members and first responders. They also distributed in-kind donations of 48,000 cans of water from Jason Momoa and Mananalu, and 8 tons of canned water from Can’d Aid. Through the Airbridge program held in collaboration with Air Serv International (in their first domestic relief operation) they were able to fly over 48,000 pounds of PPE and other relief items to remote Navajo and Hopi communities.
None of this work would have been possible without the support and help of over 100,000 donors and hundreds of volunteers. In uncertain times, all involved in this international effort found a way to connect across physical, national and cultural divides to preserve the culture and heritage of Navajo and Hopi families. The Relief Fund wishes to extend special gratitude to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Vadon Foundation, NDN Collective, Larry Mullen, Jr., the Sierra Club and its members, the McGovern Foundation, the Rainforest Action Network and its members, Santa Fe Community Foundation, Vervane Foundation, Hopi Foundation, Chrysalis Fund, Jonathan Scripps, Lauren Leander, Brittany Schilling, Jasmine Bhatti, Jade Juriansz Hicks, Sierra Teller Ornelas, David Delmar, Meghan Cox, IllumiNative, The Young Family and Ken’s Tours, Klee Benally and Kinlani Mutual Aid, Defend Our Community, Dennehotso Strong, Kaibeto Covid Group, Families to Families Ajooba’ Hasin, Thomas Kaye and Hopi Relief, Sinmuy Amungen for the People, Navajo Nation Community Health Representatives, Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Program, Utah Diné Bikeyah, the Rural Utah Project, Bluff Area Mutual Aid, Utah Navajo Health System, Diné College, the Kayenta Township, the Chinle Chapter, the White Cone Chapter, Ramah Chapter, Upper Fruitland Chapter, Ganado Chapter, Kinlichee Chapter, Many Farms Chapter, Steamboat Chapter, Jeddito Chapter, Cornfields Chapter, Greasewood Chapter, Sheep Springs Chapter, Lechee Chapter, Coppermine Chapter, Bodaway/Gap Chapter, Pinon Unified School District, Leupp Public School, Apache County, Monument Valley Visitor Center, the Village of Bacavi, the Village of Hotevilla, Hotevilla Community Store, Second Mesa Day School, The Hopi Tribe, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of Dennehotso, Tuba City Juvenile Correction Facility, Tsaile-Wheatfields Dineh Water Users, Litson Ranch Beef, Coffeepot Farms, a farmer in Northwestern New Mexico, the Tzu Chi Foundation, the McCabe Consulting Group, Jason Momoa and Mananalu Pure Water, Can’d Aid, Days for Girls, Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Salt River Project, Air Serv International, Westwind Air Services, Nadine Foik with Catapult Design, Navajo Nation Health Education and Human Services Committee Chairman Daniel Tso, Delegate Carl Slater, Delegate Amber Crotty, Delegate Charlaine Tso, Delegate Paul Begay, Delegate Nathaniel Brown, Delegate Elmer P. Begay, Director of Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety Jesse Delmar, Navajo Nation Department of Corrections, Bashas’ Diné, Levon Thomas and Bear Construction LLC, Lead for America, Navajo Women’s Commissioner Ramona Begay and the Eastern Navajo Seamstresses, Theresa Hatathlie-Delmar and the Western Navajo Seamstresses, Bobby Martin and the Navajo and Hopi Honor Riders, Auntie Sewing Squad, Sewing for Native Nations, Mark Frugger and Allen Maclennan and Chuck Farmer of Shamrock Foods, Danielle Singer and colleagues, Lynette Adams and Infinity Home Care, Soaring Eagles Home Care, the Irish people, and the many individual donors who spared what they could with their donations of $500, $100, $50, and $10. The Relief team and our communities were empowered to stage a profound battle against COVID over the last 8 months through this generosity.
The COVID relief effort in Navajo and Hopi communities has entailed physically demanding and dangerous work undertaken at great risk and personal expense by the hundreds of Navajo and Hopi volunteers who have unloaded, unboxed, portioned, sanitized, repackaged and safely distributed every single pound of $5.3 million worth of wholesale-priced food and PPE. The Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund extends heartfelt gratitude to the distribution teams led by Walton Yazzie, Hector Begaye, Glenda Wheeler, Drea Hoshnic, Jonathan Allen, Valerie Fowler, Walter Barrington, Monica Monroe, Elvira Litson, Delores Greyeyes, Lt. Rob Preston, Samantha Honani, Hannah Honani, Marshall Masayesva, Shandiin Herrera, Sahar Khadjenoury, Darnell Maria, Randy Chatto, Carla Chief, Jonathan Yazzie, Lou Tso, Margie Barton, Elisa Bennett, Lorita George, Francis Lester, Lisa Byrd, Hazel James, Cathy Manus, Shannonlyn Chester, Mario Atencio, Kim Smith, Janene Yazzie, Lilian Hill, Pam Lalo, Eddie Enditto, and Brandon Benallie. We also want to recognize the above and beyond generosity of time and resources invested by Yee Ha’ólníi Doo Board Member and Super Volunteer, Vanessa Tullie, and her homecare business, Ahehee’ Shidine’e Homecare LLC. They dedicated significant staff and other resources to the relief effort, including by answering the Relief Fund’s toll-free phone line around the clock to make sure COVID-positive families have the resources they need in a timely manner.
The Relief Fund is organized under the auspices of a nonprofit, Yee Ha’ólníi Doo, and, with the exception of one, the Governing Board and staff of Yee Ha’ólníi Doo are all Navajo women. The present fiscal sponsor is Nonprofit Legal Services of Utah d/b/a Nonprofit Fiscal Services, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit. You can make a donation to Yee Ha’ólníi Doo via the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund’s GoFundMe campaign page or by sending a check (add “Navajo/Hopi Aid” to the memo) to Nonprofit Fiscal Services at 623 East 2100 South, Suite B1, Salt Lake City, UT 84106.