Two weeks ago, I spent 10 days with 50 student volunteers from the College of Eastern Utah, Brigham Young University, and the University of Utah. The students were accompanied by an assortment of professionals from Engineers Without Borders, the Bureau of Reclamation, and others with an interest in assisting Navajos living in extremely remote locations. It was a very productive 10 days. Among the many projects undertaken and/or completed were:
- pruning 5 separate orchards around Navajo Mountain, several of which are historic
- clearing a primitive road into an orchard of debris
- painting the exterior of an elder’s home
- making plans to install a culinary water system
- installing 4 septic tank systems
- replacing an elder’s hot water heater
- making repairs to a potential hostel (to be used by future volunteers)
- installing a demonstration grid-tie solar system
- installing a real-time monitoring system on a futuristic home constructed by DesignBuildBluff (a local NGO)
- working on rainwater harvesting units
- starting installation of a solar groundwater pump
- working on the construction of an elder’s home (insulation and drywall)
- installing handicap fixtures in 5 homes in Westwater UT
We also had a chance to inspect one of last Fall’s project, the renovation of a traditional Navajo hogan (for video footage of the renovation see: http://www.youtube.com/user/rogerdhansen#p/a/u/0/58QsFxa1320). After 5 months, the newly restored hogan looked very impressive.
The volunteers appeared to have a great time and got a chance to mingle with Navajos living in isolated corners of southern Utah and northern Arizona. Hopefully, the cross-cultural experience was good for both groups, particularly with Navajos assisting on most of the projects.
The amazing thing for me is the number of people who want to help, and their enthusiasm for the various projects. I would very much like to see religious groups do more to be social agents (with no ulterior motives) just a desire to help. But the help needs to be respectful of the Navajo culture and the Navajo Nation. We need to assist them where they need help . . . but on their terms.