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Air Bridge Program Delivers Thousands of Pounds of Relief from COVID-19 to Navajo and Hopi Communities  

The Navajo and Hopi Air Bridge Program successfully concluded its 7-week program in late August with delivery of 48,193 pounds of direct relief via 24 flights to remote Navajo and Hopi communities.  The Air Bridge Program was an unprecedented humanitarian partnership between Air Serv International, ISTAT Foundation, Westwind Air Services, and the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund.  The Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund is an initiative of Yee Ha’oolníidoo (translates into “May the Navajo People Have Fortitude”). 

Air Serv International, which operates humanitarian programs overseas, partnered with Westwind and the Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund to establish a supply chain that delivered water, PPE, hand sanitizer, and basic living essentials to Navajo Mountain (UT), Chinle (AZ), Kayenta (AZ), Shiprock (NM), Montezuma Creek (UT), Monument Valley (UT), Page (AZ), Polacca (AZ), Crownpoint (NM), Tuba City (AZ), Farmington (NM), Upper Fruitland (NM), and Hogback (NM).  The Air Bridge Program, funded by the ISTAT Foundation, sought to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within the two tribal  communities by delivering cargo that was distributed via contactless distribution.

“Thank you to the ISTAT Foundation, Air Serv International, Westwind Air service, and Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund volunteers and staff for pulling off this monumental effort to help protect and save our Navajo and Hopi relatives.  The Air Bridge Program came at a critical time when COVID cases in surrounding states were spiking.  Providing this relief, and an alternative to shopping off-reservation for essential items, was crucial to helping reduce the number of COVID cases in our communities,” said Yee Ha’oolníidoo Deputy Director, Cassandra Begay, who coordinated the effort for the Relief Fund.

The Navajo Nation has one of the highest case rates of COVID-19 in the United States, but has shown recent signs of success in flattening the curve. According to ABC News, part of the decline in confirmed cases has been attributed to stay-home orders and implementation of curfews, which while reducing transmission, has also limited windows during which residents can travel to source food, water, cleaning products, and daily necessities. The Air Bridge Program, operational since July 8th, transported these items as well as critical supplies such as hand washing stations to help Navajo and Hopi families, elders, and immunocompromised fight COVID-19 while remaining at home.  

 

“The Air Bridge flights were exciting to see as deliveries were made throughout the Navajo Nation. This has never been done where essentials were delivered to the most remote areas to be delivered to families who were most in need. I will treasure the smiles of individuals who received supplies that they needed!  Thank you!” said Delores Greyeyes, Yee Ha’oolníidoo Board Member and Volunteer Distribution Coordinator.  

 

Cargo sourced from all over the country was collected by Air Serv staff at the Air Bridge Program’s operations center in Phoenix before being flown to various drop points. Upon landing, the cargo was then unloaded from the aircraft by volunteers from the Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund, who then transported it to distribution centers where it was sanitized and packed into kinship care packages. The care packages were then distributed to elders, immunocompromised, and struggling families.  The majority of transported cargo came from private donations and corporate sponsors.  The Air Bridge Program concluded on August 20, 2020.  

 

“The Air Bridge Program was an innovative and exciting way to ensure our people received the items they needed in a timely manner, and a reminder of the good we can bring into our communities,” said Shandiin Herrera, Yee Ha’oolníidoo Board Member and Volunteer Distribution Coordinator.  

 

The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund is currently seeking additional funding to continue an extension of the Program through the winter months.  Please email navahopicovid.smedia@gmail.com if you are interested in helping fund this project.  For more information about the Relief Fund and what you can do to support its work, please visit: www.navajohopisolidarity.org.

 

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