Tag Archives: Arizona

The Great Risk to the Navajo Nation

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham raised concerns in the past weeks about the “incredible spikes” in coronavirus cases in the Navajo Nation, which she feels could be detrimental to some tribal nations that are already living in vulnerable situations. According to NPR, after New York and New Jersey, the Navajo Nation has the highest coronavirus infection rate in the U.S. 

Today, we want to shed some light on the harsh realities that families living in the Navajo Nation experience — and how our sponsorship program, volunteer coordinators, and special COVID-19 Fund are helping children and families in need in these unprecedented times.

Today, we want to shed some light on the harsh realities that families living in the Navajo Nation experience.

Understanding the Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation is an American Indian territory that covers a large amount of land — over 17 million acres — and encompasses portions of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah.

It also holds the famous Four Corners Monument, where one can stand on a quadripoint and be in four U.S. states — Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado — at the same time. The adjacent Utah land is part of the Ute Mountain and Southern Ute Reservations.

The largest portion of the Navajo Nation lies within Arizona, where the Hopi Reservation is located and surrounded on all sides by the Navajo Reservation.

The Navajo Nation land in New Mexico is nicknamed the “Checkerboard” area because the federal government attempted to diversify Navajo lands with non-native lands. Thus, the Navajo lands in New Mexico are intermingled with fee lands, owned by both Navajo and non-Navajo, and federal and state areas under various jurisdictions. Additionally, there are three recognized groups of Navajos living in New Mexico outside of the regular reservation boundaries: the Ramah Navajo, the Alamo Navajo, and the Tohajiilee Navajo Reservations.

Abhorrent Poverty in the U.S.

The Navajo Nation is the largest American Indian tribe in the United States. While it makes up just 1.7% of the total U.S. population, it makes up 10.6% of the New Mexico population.

In New Mexico, 27% of Navajo households are headed by single mothers, and  8.4% of Navajo children are being raised by a grandparent. About 16% live in multi-generational households.

In January 2018, a reporter for the Navajo Times researched the well-being of women and children on the Navajo Nation and found that New Mexico children were at the top of the national list for poverty and food insecurity, and at the bottom for education and overall well-being. Per the report: “This financial insecurity within families leads to fewer opportunities for young people as well as a variety of health, cognitive, and emotional risk factors for children.”

We are grateful to be able to support children and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The report also mentioned that “[c]hildren who grow up in poverty are also more likely to be food insecure, to suffer from adverse childhood experiences, like abuse and homelessness, and to live in poverty as adults.” It cited a National Institute of Justice study that found nearly half of Native American women reported domestic violence in the home. The research confirmed what many social scientists already knew — poverty, abuse, and insecurity drastically affect the well-being of children.

While infrastructure and utility services are improving slowly in the Navajo Nation, there is still a long way to go. Many roads are unpaved and are instead small dirt paths that contribute to isolation and lack of access to services. Access to the power grid is almost essential, yet there are still many families without it.

A May 2019 investigative report by NPR stated about 10% of Navajos on the reservation live without electricity, and almost 40% have to haul their water and use outhouses. More than a quarter of Navajos have experienced problems with electricity, the Internet, and the safety of their drinking water.

For many, finally getting access to the power grid can be life-changing. In the NPR report, families shared their gratefulness for being able to use nebulizers, and for their children having bright, clear lighting to study at night — as well as having the Internet. Families were also able to charge their phones and store food safely through refrigeration. One reporter shared seeing a group of teenagers in battered old cars in a hotel parking lot. They were clustered as close to the hotel as they could get so they could use the hotel’s Internet to complete some of their homework assignments.

While it is impossible to talk about the Navajo Nation without addressing poverty, it is important to stress there are many strengths of the native culture.

The strengths of children and their families

While it is impossible to talk about the Navajo Nation without addressing poverty, it is important to stress there are many strengths of the native culture. For example, many Navajo children can speak both their native language as well as English, and research shows that bi-lingual children can have better problem-solving skills than children who can speak just one language.

Another strength is their tie to their lands. While many other native peoples were moved from their ancestral lands, most of the Navajo people were able to maintain this vital connection.

Our Work to Help

We work with twelve affiliated projects in Arizona and nine in New Mexico to support children and their families in need. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we are providing support to our volunteer coordinators — thanks to donations from our sponsors and donors — who are providing meals to children who are out of school. Many of our coordinators are personally dropping off bags of food that include fruit, juice, sandwiches and other simple items that children eat for lunch and dinner.

We are incredibly grateful for these partnerships, and to our sponsors and donors who are providing crucial support at this time — and all year long.

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How can I donate to the COVID-19 Response Fund?

We have created a COVID-19 Response Fund so that we can support children in crisis in the upcoming months. Donations will be used to provide food and emergency supplies to the children in our program who are in immediate need.

DONATE TODAY

Natural Beauty and Difficult Poverty in Monument Valley

Amid the incredible desert beauty of northern Arizona, the remote community of Kayenta lies situated on the Navajo Indian Reservation, along the southern edge of the spectacularly beautiful Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is a major tourist attraction in the area, located only 25 miles from Kayenta and our affiliated project,  Kayenta Community School. The town has several lodging options to accommodate tourists who are traveling to see the gorgeous scenery and dramatic rock formations, where some of the parents and guardians of children in our sponsorship program work seasonally.

Unfortunately, for these families, when the tourist season ends, so do many of the jobs at hotels and motels, and parents find themselves scrambling to find work — an annual routine that keeps them in abject poverty.

Unfortunately, for these families, when the tourist season ends, so do many of the jobs at hotels and motels, and parents find themselves scrambling to find work — an annual routine that keeps them in abject poverty.

Serving hundreds of children in need

The Kayenta Community School is funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and operated by the Navajo Nation through a BIA tribal grant. The school has a dedicated faculty that provides children with a quality education.

The school itself is large, serving 450 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. One hundred of those children live far away from Kayenta and reside in the school’s dorms throughout the year. The children go home during summer and winter break, as well as most weekends during the school year.

During a visit to Kayenta Community School, our U.S. Director of Programs, Renée Kube, and Children Incorporated President and CEO, Ronald Carter, met with our volunteer coordinator, Gloria.

Gloria is a teacher’s aide at the school. She met with Ron and Renée in the school’s library, where they talked about the community, the school, and how our sponsorship program is helping the community’s children.

“Although many visitors to this area of the U.S. only see the incredible natural beauty that it has to offer, according to Gloria, they don’t often see the difficult poverty that families face,” said Renée.

Getting to visit with our sponsored children

After their meeting, Gloria invited a few of our sponsored children to the library to speak with Ron and Renée.

An exterior photo of the school

First, they met with Jenny.* Jenny is an outgoing fourth grader and the middle of three sisters who are being raised by their grandmother. The grandmother is a homemaker who struggles to provide for the household on a very limited amount of tribal public assistance. Jenny told Ron and Renée that she loves to draw, and she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She also loves having a sponsor because it makes her feel good to get new clothes and shoes during the school year.

Next, they met Bethany. Bethany is a happy and active fourth-grader who likes volleyball and playing outside. She and her little sister live with their parents. Their dad is unemployed, and their mother has a low-paying job at a local fast-food restaurant. Bethany thinks being sponsored is very cool, and it makes her proud to know someone cares about her.

Luke’s special guest

Lastly, Renée and Ron met with Luke — who is Renée’s sponsored child!

Luke is in fifth grade, and he likes learning about Navajo culture and watching scary movies. He is the youngest of five siblings (two brothers and two sisters) who are being raised by their mother and grandmother. Their mother is out of work at this time, and the grandmother has a low-wage job in town.

“Luke was pretty surprised to learn that I, the lady from Children Incorporated who was visiting his school, was his sponsor,” laughed Renée.

“He took it very well after the shock wore off. I think he couldn’t believe he was meeting his sponsor. He is a great kid, and I really enjoyed getting to meet him in person.”

*Names changed to protect the children.

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How do I sponsor a child in Arizona?

You can sponsor a child in Arizona in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Serving Disabled Children and Adults in Arizona

Located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona, the St. Michael’s Special Education School is a nonprofit educational institution that offers support to children and adults whose disabilities have made conventional school impractical or impossible.

The school has been a Children Incorporated affiliated project since 1979. It consists of an Educational Division for disabled children (ages 6-22) and a Day Treatment Division for disabled adults (ages 22 and older). The school’s devoted and highly trained staff provides students, like those in our sponsorship program, and adults with the personal attention they need, as well as nutritious meals and encouragement.

As the only school on the Navajo Reservation that is dedicated to the care and education of moderate to severely disabled children and adults, the St. Michael’s Special Education School plays a crucial role in the community.

Nowhere else to receive help

As the only school on the Navajo Reservation that is dedicated to the care and education of moderate to severely disabled children and adults, the St. Michael’s Special Education School plays a crucial role in the community.

“In addition to the academic campus, there is also a group home at the school where some of the children and adults board. The dedicated administration strives to see that each person in attendance is given the chance to reach their best potential in a safe and caring environment,” explained Renée Kube, Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs.

“The institution itself runs on a skeleton budget and is able to accomplish miracles for the students and adult members thanks to a variety of partners and tireless advocacy.”

The Sidewalk Project

While visiting the St. Michael’s Special Education School, Renée and our President and CEO, Ronald Carter, met with the school’s Executive Director and our volunteer coordinator, Michelle.

“Michelle explained to me during our meeting that there is a constant, ongoing need for both maintenance of the structures of the school as well as improvements to physical and educational needs of the children and adults,” said Renée.

Renée and Ron also discussed with Michelle the progress of the Sidewalk Project, a special project funded by our Hope In Action Fund, thanks to a generous donation from our partner, International Student Exchange.

The purpose of the Sidewalk Project is to allow wheelchair-bound children to access the playground. Hope In Action Funds covered the required survey, site preparation, materials and supplies. While at the school, Michelle showed Renée the areas around the playground where the survey had been conducted and the site preparation was underway. Next, the concrete will be poured, and then rails will be installed.

The Sidewalk Project under construction

“Michelle is so excited about this project and is so grateful to both Children Incorporated and International Student Exchange,” said Renée.

Support from the community

As they continued to talk, Michelle told Renée about how she unfortunately has had to downsize staff, as salaries use a large percent of the funds to operate the school. The gap is filled as much as possible by help from an organization that provides volunteers for three-year terms in teaching, nursing, and other caretaker roles.

But it all wasn’t bad news. Michelle informed Renée that since Renée’s last visit in 2016, the Navajo Housing Authority awarded a tribal grant for the construction of three new group homes on the campus.

“Michelle feels this will make St. Michael’s more attractive to parents who live at a greater distance and want a nice place for their children to stay from Sunday nights through Thursday nights,” said Renée.

“Another Navajo tribal grant also awarded funds for new buses to get the children to and from school.”

Meeting with our sponsored children

Before leaving the school, Renée had a chance to meet with a few of our sponsored children.

Clay* is a 16-year-old who is very happy and cheerful. He likes to watch football on television, especially the Arizona Cardinals. He also really likes the Disney DVDs of “Cars 1, 2, and 3.”  He has one older brother. Their parents are divorced, and their mother has custody. Both parents work, but their jobs are very low paying.  Thanks to his sponsor’s support, Clay has everything he needs to be comfortable and healthy at St. Michael’s and at home.

Michelle pointed out that both Clay and Kyle are two of the students who will benefit from the new sidewalk installed from the classroom building to the playground, thanks to the Sidewalk Project.

Next Renée met Kyle*.  Kyle is 12 years old. He is an only child, and he and his single mother live with Kyle’s maternal grandparents. Kyle’s favorite subject in school is physical therapy. He also enjoys painting, which is also therapeutic for him. Kyle loves to watch music videos, and he is crazy about country music. Michelle told Renée that when Kyle goes home on the weekends, his chore is to fold all the laundry. Kyle enjoys the task and his teachers told his mom it is good physical therapy for him.

After the children left, Michelle pointed out that both Clay and Kyle are two of the students who will benefit from the new sidewalk installed from the classroom building to the playground, thanks to the Sidewalk Project. Even if they cannot get on every piece of equipment, they still are looking forward to going to the playground. Before the sidewalk, the teachers could no longer carry them, and it was too difficult to push their wheelchairs through sandy or muddy soil. Now, thanks to the sidewalk, all of the wheelchair-bound students will have better access to the playground.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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How do I sponsor a child in Arizona?

 You can sponsor a child in Arizona in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Responding to COVID-19 in the United States

Amidst school closures across the U.S., our concern has turned to how to best help children who are already living in vulnerable situations.

Many kids in our program rely on school lunches and our Backpack Feeding Program to ensure they are receiving adequate meals throughout the day and on the weekends. Additionally, many children living in poverty who we support don’t live in safe and comfortable environments, and the school day is often a refuge from harsh conditions.

We would like to share some stories from our affiliated projects and our volunteer coordinators to show how your donations are helping children and families through this difficult time.

News about the COVID-19 outbreak can be overwhelming and daunting, especially when the news is about parents losing jobs in retail and the service industry — jobs that often pay so little that families live paycheck to paycheck.

We would like to share some stories from our affiliated projects and our volunteer coordinators to show how your donations are helping children and families through this difficult time.

We want our donors to know that we, along with our partnering organizations, are continuing to do the most we can for children in need.

Bags of food for high school students

We received photos from our volunteer coordinator, Karen, at Knott County Central High School of her and another staff member making food bags for kids to pick up and take home while school is closed during the COVID-19 outbreak. Children would otherwise be receiving free or reduced-cost lunches at school — meals that may not be available at home because of the abject poverty in which they live.

Breakfast and lunch for children 

A sponsored child in Arizona receives bags of food on her front porch.

Our volunteer coordinator, Jenny, of Catlettsburg Elementary School, shared with us a picture of herself with her school teammates. Their team had just returned from delivering breakfast and lunch to 53 children in the area who are from families that struggle to provide even the most basic needs to their children.

A countrywide response

Schools across the country have done a fantastic job of sending home educational packets and making schoolwork available online while our nation navigates the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, in states where we work, school staff members are feeding children by coming into the school building each morning and preparing free breakfast and lunch for the students. Many counties have arranged pickup points for parents to receive food bags. Other districts are also going out into the communities, setting up in public spaces such as church parking lots.

Beds and linens for sisters

Donations to our Beds and Linens Fund were able to help two sisters in need before they weren’t able to return to school for some time. Our volunteer coordinator, Jackie, at one of our affiliated schools, became aware that two young girls enrolled in our sponsorship program didn’t have beds at home. With funding from Children Incorporated, she purchased blankets, sheets, mattresses, and bed frames and arranged for them to be delivered and set up in the family’s home.

Working together to make an impact

Together, we will do our best to ensure that children are looked after during this crisis. Thank you for all that you do for children in need through your sponsorships and donations. We are incredibly grateful for your support, especially during this difficult time.

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We have created a COVID-19 Response Fund so that we can continue to support children in our program in the upcoming months. Donations will be used to provide food and emergency supplies to the children in our program who are in immediate need.

DONATE TODAY

No Running Water in Red Lake

Situated in northern Arizona, the remote community of Tonalea (a Navajo word meaning “Red Lake”) is surrounded by a stark and mysterious landscape, created by sandstone mesas that rise from the barren desert floor.

It is here that a Navajo school called the Tonalea School functions within the boundaries of a Navajo Indian reservation — a reservation rich in culture but desperately poor.

Today, there is virtually no employment in Tonalea. To develop economically, the community is trying to attract more tourism.

A history of Tonalea  

Tonalea’s population has dwindled since 1974 when the U.S. government divided land in the region between the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Many Navajo families suddenly found themselves living on Hopi land without many rights. Navajo families were not allowed to even fix up their dilapidating houses without the approval of the Hopi Tribe or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Subsequently, they moved away to try to find a better life for themselves.

Today, there is virtually no employment in Tonalea. To develop economically, the community is trying to attract more tourism.

Tribal women weave beautiful “storm pattern” rugs that are favored by collectors and sell them at local trading posts. With permission from the Arizona Department of Transportation, Tonalea community members are working to gain the right-of-way to a natural attraction, a rock formation known as “The Elephant Feet,” that could easily bring more tourism and create jobs within the town.

The Tonalea School

The famous Elephant Feet rock formations

Located in an older school building that the maintenance staff works hard to maintain, the Tonalea School serves around 200 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Our volunteer coordinator, Linda, works as the school secretary. She knows the families of the students — including those of our sponsored children —very well.

“Linda is fortunate to have the support of the school’s principal, Mrs. Kaye, who appreciates the Children Incorporated program. Principal Kaye gives Linda time to handle the responsibilities of running our sponsorship program, and flexibility in her schedule to go on shopping trips for sponsored children,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

While Renee was visiting Linda at Tonalea School, Linda gave Renée a tour of the building and grounds. She told Renée that in addition to shopping for the sponsored children, she also uses sponsorship funds at the school’s book fair. Otherwise, children wouldn’t ever have any new books to take home to read over winter or summer breaks.

A special lunch for Renée

Linda took Renée on a tour of the school, which ended at a trailer across the staff parking lot.

When they entered the trailer, Renée was greeted by our sponsored children sitting around tables waiting for her and Linda. Linda had surprised Renée with a special lunch with the kids. After they sat down, two staff members wheeled over carts of foil containers with fried rice, beef with broccoli, and pork lo mien.

During the lunch, Renée had a chance to get to know some of our sponsored children. She met with Nicole*, who is in the sixth grade. Nicole talked about how much she liked science and liked to draw.

About 40% of families do not have running water in their homes. Instead, they may travel many miles with five-gallon buckets and spare containers to a community well to collect water.

Renée also spoke to Rodney*, who is in the second grade. Rodney likes math and reading and is happy and funny. Renee could tell he was a bit of a “class clown.” After the lunch was over, Linda and Renée went to Linda’s office to talk.

Linda told Renée that Rodney has a brother and three sisters. His father is a welder and does not have steady employment. At the end of each job he gets, he is laid off until the next time there is work available. Rodney, his siblings, and his parents live in a small house that has electricity but no running water. 

Too many families without water

Renée was discouraged to hear about Rodney’s family not having running water, but she also knew that it was not uncommon on the Navajo Reservation. About 40% of families do not have running water in their homes. Instead, they may travel many miles with five-gallon buckets and spare containers to a community well to collect water. In some cases, the families may have a water barrel or two for storage outside of the home, and they can arrange for delivery from a water truck, but they have to be able to afford to pay for the water.

“Most people in the United States take for granted their source for clean potable water for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and drinking,” said Renée.

For many of our families on the Navajo Reservation, every use of water must be weighed, and every use of water is stretched. For example, water used for rinsing clean dishes will be used again to wash dishes from the next meal.”

*Names changed to protect the children.

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How do I sponsor a child in Arizona?

You can sponsor a child in Arizona in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

Home Away from Home

The remote community of Shonto is situated on the rim of its namesake canyon, some 150 miles north of Flagstaff, amid the incredible desert beauty of the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Our affiliated project, the Shonto Preparatory School, began in the 1960s as a cluster of “hogans” – traditional Navajo dwellings made of logs and mud, constructed in an octagonal shape. The hogan has only one opening – a doorway – which traditionally faces east.

“This school is incredibly important for families in an area where the child poverty rate is 22.3%. Parents rely heavily on the support that their children get from the school administration and Children Incorporated sponsors,” said Renée.

“Shonto has been affiliated with Children Incorporated since 1969. The school itself is well-respected. Many children are bused-in from communities that are 40 miles away because Shonto provides such a quality education to students,” said Renée Kube, our Director of U.S. Programs.

Helping kids throughout their school years

“This school is incredibly important for families in an area where the child poverty rate is 22.3%. Parents rely heavily on the support that their children get from the school administration and Children Incorporated sponsors,” said Renée.

Additionally, because the school serves children from kindergarten through high school, children in our program often have sponsors from elementary school to graduation.

Meeting with Marlita

Our Volunteer Coordinator at Shonto Preparatory is Marlita. While meeting with Marlita at Shonto Preparatory School, Renée got to hear more about how Marlita manages the Children Incorporated sponsorship program.

“Marlita is very dedicated to her students, and she devotes many hours of additional time to help children at the school as well as in our sponsorship program,” explained Renée.

“She knows the Children Incorporated program well. In fact, Marlita’s mother was a sponsor for many years. At one point, they both visited our office and enjoyed meeting the staff and learning more about how we operate.”

Marlita brings sponsored children to the school’s library to meet with them regarding our program.

According to Renée, Marlita worked for many years as the school librarian. However, more recently, she was transferred to cover a vacancy as lead teacher for 3rd through 5th grades.

“The library is still Marlita’s ‘home away from home.’ She has a great relationship with the library manager, Mrs. Kee, who lets Marlita use the library to meet with students,” said Renée.

“Marlita says that because she has use of the library, she has an easy time pulling children out of class and getting to spend a little time with them. While she meets with sponsored children in the library, she gives them gifts from their sponsors or has them write letters, and they can take their time in a quiet place where they feel comfortable and won’t be bothered.”

Getting to know our sponsored children

During her visit, Marlita called a few sponsored children into the library to meet Renée.

Renée first met Elise*, who is a confident and happy fourth grader. Elise told Renée that her favorite subjects are art and Navajo language and culture, and she likes to draw. She also loves kittens.

After Elise returned to class, Marlita explained to Renée that Elise comes from a large family of three brothers and four sisters. Her father is unemployed, and her mother has a low wage job for a small local company. The family lives in a house with no running water or electricity.

“Marlita is very dedicated to her students, and she devotes many hours of additional time to help children at the school as well as in our sponsorship program,” explained Renée.

Next, Renée met Marcus*. Marcus is a sweet and rather shy second-grader.

He loves math and wants to be a doctor when he grows up. According to Marlita, every day is a struggle for his family. He and his four siblings live with their parents. The mother is a homemaker. The father has a very low-paying job and has a tough time providing basic necessities. They live in a small house with no running water. Like many on the reservation, water is hauled into the home in an assortment of bottles and buckets or is delivered and poured into a barrel. Marlita said that even though the family is very poor, the children are always neat and have clean clothes.

Lastly, Renée met Alexandra*. Alexandra is in seventh grade this school year. She is a bright and rather quiet girl who is the youngest of eight children. Alexandra’s mother is a homemaker, and her father is unemployed. They live in a traditional Navajo hogan without running water. Alexandra told Renée that when she grows up, she would like to join the Air Force.

*Names changed to protect the children.

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How do I sponsor a child in Arizona?

You can sponsor a child in Arizona in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.