Adopt a Native Elder Program:
What is the Adopt a Native Elder Program All About?:
About the Elders:
Many Elders have made their living by raising their own sheep and cattle. The sheep provide wool and food. They weave the wool from their sheep and goats into rugs that they can sell for cash to meet their needs.
And, as I found out, many of the elders assisted by the program are 80 - 106 years old!
How Do Volunteers Help the Elders?:
- Adoption Program which matches one to two program supporters with a Navjo Elder
- Twice yearly food runs which involve driving boxes of food, gifts and clothing to remote areas of the Navajo Reservation
- Program support such as working at the Salt Lake City warehouse or helping with the annual Rug Auction and much, much more. See Adopt an Elder Website
How is the Adopt An Elder Program Different:
The program is assisted by traditional Dine' (Navajo) people who serve as coordinators in various parts of the reservation to help determine the needs of the Elders in their own culture and lifestyle.
Volunteers who participate are enriched by their experiences with the program and with the Navajo people as much as the elders benefit from the program. ANE is truly a cross-cultural meeting of the hands.
The Best Way to Start:
What does the Program Need Most?:
Is ANE a Registered Charity?:
Participating in a Food Run - VolunTourism on the Navajo Reservation:
I soon learned that ceremony and letting go of belagana (white) ways was just as important to preparing for the food run as was loading the trucks. Sage smoke was wafted over and around me as I entered the building for my first ceremony with the food run volunteers. One morning I had the honor of greeting the dawn on a rocky lakeside outcropping with Navajo prayer and chants. I learned that the program had built strong and trusting relationships with the traditional Navajo people and their knowing that the volunteers who would enter "The Land" had been spiritually cleansed and prepared added to their trust of us.
Each day we lined up and caravanned to a different remote location. Each day food boxes were carefully placed in a semi-circle for the Rainbow Circle giveaway. Boxes represented donations for adopted elders as well as medical supplies.
Each day we prepared food for the elders, gave away small gifts and enjoyed getting to know each and every participant. Food was also provided to family and friends of the elders and the day took on a festive atmosphere. As people socialized, program nurses did assessments of the elders to determine their needs - often as simple as a walker, a cane or a box of Depends.
The elders and their families also gave back. Beautifully woven rugs were donated to the program for the annual rug sale and small gifts of appreciation were exchanged. The stories of gratitude, all delivered in Navajo, were heart wrenching.
The most difficult part of the experience was knowing that there were elders who were not in the program, needs that were not yet met and that we volunteers had to leave the beauty and simplicity of "The Land" and return to our belagana lifestyles.