As the virus spread, its situation became even more serious.
In the Navajo nation, which spans more than 27,000 square miles in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, it is estimated that 30% of residents do not have access to running water, making early washing guidelines hands are impossible to respect.
Many other factors pose a greater risk: lack of resources, information and access to masks, and medical care over poor infrastructure and inadequate housing conditions.
“There are many, many elderly people on the reservation who are at home and alone,” said CNN hero Linda Myers, who provides nonprofit supplies of salvation to Native American seniors. “Some of our seniors live 60 miles from a grocery store. Many of them are traditional and have no water or electricity.”
“We have … families with the virus in different hospitals (on reserve),” Myers said. “One of our elders lost his son, his daughter, his sister and his sister’s daughter.”
Losing the Navajo elders is devastating, according to Myers, not only to families and loved ones, but to Navajo history.
“They keep the lives of their families. They follow the traditions, the ceremony, the language, the fabric. All things come from the teachings of these greats,” he said. “It’s a piece of history, a culture.”
Myers, who lives in Salt Lake City and travels to the reservation several times a year, works with donors and partners in the field to deliver food, masks and other supplies to seniors during the pandemic.
“When the virus hit, we quickly turned it into food certificates, knowing special diets, knowing special medical needs,” he said. “We’ve sent food certificates worth $ 225,000 to our seniors to help them support themselves, to enable them to get the right kind of food, fresh food and fresh meat, so that they are not based solely on canned goods. “
The Navajo nation has implemented some of the country’s broadest closure orders, including curfews, closures and other restrictions. But the new rules also pose a new set of challenges for people in remote areas.
“Our seniors … have to travel 18 miles sometimes to collect water. They wait on long lines. They have to throw barrels of water,” Myers said. “With the trading venue closed, they have very little access to the kind of traditional stuff for the Navajo.”
To this end, Adopt-A-Native-Elder has also spearheaded efforts to send threads to the elderly who are supported through the fabric.
“While they’re blocked, they’ve been able to knit. They send us the carpets. We list them on our website for sale. So we help them stay traditional,” Myers said.
All proceeds from the sale of the carpet go directly to the weaver.
The organization is also working to ensure that firewood loads are delivered to all its seniors in time for the winter, when reserve temperatures can drop below zero.
“Firewood – six or seven loads of firewood – makes a big difference in keeping seniors warm all day and all night,” Myers said.
Myers, who has known these elders and their families for more than 35 years, says his work continues and is inspired by supporters who come together in a time of crisis.
“I also like to focus on the good and positives I see. The most important thing is that people have increased. More people have been brought to consciousness,” he said. “It really made a difference.”