Sunday, October 24, 2010

Recent Food Runs

by Elizabeth Rose

(Note: Liz is an ANE volunteer from Surprise, Arizona, who has been attending the food runs to Sanders, Big Mountain, and Teesto for a number of years. She is a professional travel writer and has written more extensively about her experiences in her own blog which is referenced by the links.  The photos in this blog are from previous food runs while Liz's own images are seen on her blog site.)

I am one of many Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program volunteers. While I haven't adopted an Elder, haven't been to the Salt Lake City warehouse, or had the pleasure of volunteering at the annual Park City rug show, I'm a consistent volunteer and supporter of the program. I work the food runs.

While on the Sanders-Teesto-Big Mountain food run this fall I blogged my experiences. I've been participating in this food run for over three years now and thoroughly enjoy the experience.  I'm a travel writer and this fits right in with what I do for a living. Voluntourism is fast becoming a meaningful way to travel. Travel, learn, enjoy, and do some good while you're at it!

On the fall food run, we were blessed with amazing weather. It was warm, yet crisp enough in the mornings to remind us that winter is right around the corner.  We knew that the Elders had had a very tough winter and we wanted to provide all we could to help them in the upcoming cold season.

On my blog, Travel Writer Rants and Raves, you can follow my experiences day by day. Here are some excerpts from the fall food run entries:

Day 1: We gathered in Winslow, Arizona at the Lodge Motel. It was wonderful to see old friends and meet new volunteers. It is always a good feeling to know that new people continue to join the group and that the program can grow. More on Day 1 in Winslow.

Day 2: The first day began at dawn. Volunteers gathered at the edge of the lake just outside Winslow to greet the dawn just as the Navajo elders do. It is a quiet time. You can hear the beavers swimming in the lake. Often a heron will take flight. As the sun rises the group reflects on why they are there and takes in the spiritual nature of the dawn.

We then gathered at the Flying J and had a breakfast meeting at Denny's where we went over the "rules of the road" for the upcoming food run and talked about how we would load our vehicles with onions and potatoes at Wal Mart. Several of the more experienced volunteers were trying their best to avoid having the onions placed in their vehicles. More on Day 2 and the Evening Ceremony.

Day 3: We had our usual breakfast meeting at Flying J at 6:30am. It was crisp out at that point. As I drove to the restaurant, the pink of the sunrise was absolutely beautiful. We had our meeting, and were reminded to double-up so as to not have to drive empty trucks to this small food run. The Elders in the program numbered 27 grandmothers and 8 grandfathers. That was close to one volunteer per Elder! Of course when you add in the cute kids and family members, the shade house did get crowded. More on the Sanders Food Run and Day 3.

Day 4: Today was a big day for the volunteers. It is the largest food run of the three, serving 61 grandmothers and 26 grandfathers. And, of course there is a large number of family and visitors that show up since it is a very large gathering.

The drive was one of the high points of the day. We headed north off I-40 toward Second Mesa. It is a long drive with amazing expanses of scenic high desert and rock formations. Gone were the dust storms experienced in the Spring. In their place was a perfect sunny day full of peace and joy.

Everyone eagerly anticipated this food run. Big Mountain is where the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program started many years ago. Big Mountain is where the Elders resisted being relocated by the government during the Hopi land dispute. With Linda and Grace, program founders, in the lead, it was like a homecoming and we were all starting to feel like family with one heart, one mind and one direction to travel. More on the Big Mountain Food Run and Day 4.

Day 5: It's the last day of the three-part food run with the Adopt-A-Native-Elder Program. Yesterday was amazing. The Elders, many of whom have visibly aged, were there in full force. Everyone showed up! I even purchased a beautiful rug to display on a wall in my hallway.

Today we actually slept in a bit. There was no morning meeting, but we did need to pack our cars and check out of the Lodge Motel in Winslow if we were to drive home after the Teesto food run. More on the Teesto Food Run and Our Sad Farewell.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Youthful Food Run

by John Aldrich

The group of volunteers that come together for each food run give each event a unique character. On the recent food run to Oljato and Navajo Mountain a share of this flavor was provided by some unusually youthful participants.

At Olajto we were honored to be joined by Carley Nez, our Shi Yazhi Princess. Carley's family comes from the Montezuma Creek area of the reservation. She and her father traveled there and then came to Oljato joined by Carley's grandmother.

Here is Carley with her father and grandmother, a retired school teacher. Carley has been doing a beautiful job this year representing ANE at a variety of events such as pow wows.

Carley is joined at the door by volunteer Glenda Carson and by Stryder Underwood of Alfred, New York. At age nine Stryder is the youngest volunteer to ever participate in a food run. She brought her grandfather, John del Campo, with her. John has been volunteering on food runs since the early years of the Program and has brought all of his family at various times over the years.

As part of the greeting committee, Stryder welcomes Gladys Oliver to the food run.

The youngest member of the volunteer group, although perhaps not quite a full-fledged worker yet, was eighteen-month old Samantha Carey. This might have been a deja-vu experience for her as she had actually been to Oljato once before while in the womb. Brenda was Linda's assistant until Samantha arrived.

As part of the Program giveaways at each food run all the children in attendance receive a gift. Carley and Stryder have just passed these out to the youngest members of the Elders' families.

And here Carley presents a gift to Alice Featherhat, a spry Elder of 104.

Samantha wonders if she should be here.

The following day at Navajo Mountain Samantha is introduced to the Elders along with her parents, Brenda and Pete.

Morris Burns presents Stryder with a specail gift.

Samantha meets Jerry Smallcanyon, newly adopted by the Carey family.

The Navajo people have an unusually strong sense of family, and they love children. The Elders brighten immediately when they see a youngster. The presence of Carley, Stryder, and Samantha brought many smiles to their faces.