Story by Shannon Maho, Program Coordinator
I have known about Red Feather for more than five years, and have been the Program Coordinator for the last year. Prior to being a Red Feather staff member, I was a volunteer for small projects and during a straw bale house project at Hopi in 2014. Prior to coming to Red Feather, I completed degrees in sustainable green building and interior design, while gaining hands-on experience in the private and government construction industries. I truly enjoy having the opportunity to give back to my Navajo and Hopi tribal communities. I am proud of the positive impacts Red Feather’s programs have on the families we help. The team effort that exists among Red Feather staff, and the communities we serve to develop and implement solutions for local housing needs, ensures our work has a lasting positive impact. As the Program Coordinator, my responsibilities are processing applications for the programs, coordinating projects-both big and small, and working with independent contractors and the homeowners to ensure our work is effectively implemented. I’m especially proud of our efforts to develop the local workforce by hiring skilled labor workers and contractors from our partner communities, and providing them with the support they need to be successful. I believe deeply in program efforts to provide hand-ups and not hand-outs wherever possible, by encouraging families to get involved any way they can in their home repair projects. Even without asking, many offer to prepare meals for the workers and donate craft items as part of their gratitude. Red Feather shares many stories through social media, so please check our Facebook and Instagram pages to see how our services help to build ramps, weatherize homes, repair roofs, and educate and empower homeowners to maintain a healthy home.
Red Feather regularly offers free workshops to Navajo and Hopi communities. Our Do-It-Yourself style workshops, including Healthy Heating, Women’s Home Maintenance, and Home Weatherization, are highly popular and often have dozens of names on a waiting list. In the past six weeks we’ve completed three Healthy Heating workshops at the Hopi Sipaulovi Youth and Senior Center. These workshops focus on wood stove maintenance and safety, teach fire safety presented by the Hopi Fire Department, and provide information on alternative heating sources and on-site visits.
Here are two stories I’d like to share that highlight the positive impact of our work:
An elderly lady living on the Navajo reservation applied for our NHRN program and we were able to get her qualified for weatherization services, as well as our USDA Housing Preservation Grant that enables us to provide extended health and safety home improvements. By the end of her project, she finally had a bathroom with working toilet, and to her relief no longer has to leave her home to use the facilities at neighboring convenience stores. Before, her primary heating source was a space heater, which was replaced with a mini-split heating and cooling unit that alleviates safety hazards, spares her from gathering firewood, and lowers her heating cost. She also had a ramp built to prevent falls for both herself and her daughter, who also has mobility issues. The homeowner said, “I had applied and asked for assistance from other organizations and programs, and Red Feather was the first to knock on my door". She was well deserving of our services, for she has raised many foster children and from the stories she tells, they are now doing well and attending college.
Another elderly woman, from the Hopi nation, recently benefited from our weatherization program but still had many outstanding home repairs that we were not able to resolve with any of our current grant sources. However, through the means of a donor-sponsored fundraising campaign, she will soon be the recipient of a mini-split heating and cooling system and an indoor and outdoor ramp for safety measures. Currently, she has a wobbly plastic step that is so dangerous for her to use, she has told us, that she doesn’t leave her home. This woman is just the sweetest. We are all ecstatic that she will be given the help and services she needs.
My experience working with Red Feather has been nothing but fulfilling. I am excited to go to work every day and often find it hard to pull away from work at the end of the day. My favorite part of what I do is visiting the families throughout the duration of their project. In the end we see how just knocking on their door from the very first visit made a difference in resolving their home improvement issues for a safer and healthier living environment. After that first visit, it’s not just a simple hello- hugs are given. At times it does get emotional for me; many of our clients are elderly and they deserve the ultimate respect and care. I am so happy that Red Feather can provide that in what we offer. Being able to go home to the Hopi and Navajo reservation as part of my job is an added bonus, and I am constantly learning who my relatives are. Now I can say I have so many more grandmothers and grandfathers.
It’s important to care and respect our elders and veterans. Respect is what I teach my children, not only for the human race, but also for nature and the environment. Respect. Kyaptsi (pronounced kep-si).
Thank you, Red Feather, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization that has proven to help so many of my people. Askwali Ahéhee'