Written by Pamela Drake
Executive Director, San Juan County Partnership
This article is part of a project of the local Community Health Improvement Council (CHIC). Health Councils were created statewide in conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) with the goal of getting local citizens and county governments more involved in the manner in which health might be improved in each of their communities. The local CHIC is conducting an ongoing awareness campaign addressing the various areas that can potentially affect a person’s health. September has been devoted to bringing awareness to our local AmeriCorps Program.
During President Kennedy’s administration, the AmeriCorps program was established as a national service program. The program is a win/win for communities all across the nation, as it recruits members who serve communities and then receive an educational award at the end of their service year. Members need to be at least 17 years of age, but there is no upper age limit.
Shiprock and Tse Daa K’aan (Hogback) Chapters of the Navajo Nation currently have an AmeriCorps award. Management of the program is handled by San Juan County Partnership. AmeriCorps members focus on helping veterans access services and improving tribal lands thru environmental stewardship, recruiting volunteers and members. Shiprock can have a total of 13 members and Tse Daa K’aan can have 15. Members are able to serve full time, half time or quarter time positions. Some positions receive a living stipend.
Both Shiprock and Tse Daa K’aan Chapters focus on veterans and military families by connecting them to workforce development and education resources as well as helping to improve their living conditions. AmeriCorps service members have completed projects such as: ramp building; weatherization; home repair; food drives; firewood collection and distribution; and, removal of noxious weeds to prevent wildlife fires from encroaching on homes. The two programs collaborated on providing a traditional Navajo meal to the veterans to welcome them and introduce them to the AmeriCorps program and its members.
The Shiprock Chapter AmeriCorps program has an additional program which is focuses on improving tribal lands, or, environmental stewardship. This component of the program includes improving 20 acres of land and river parkways which includes the removal of noxious weeds, planting trees/plants, and developing four miles of river trail. AmeriCorps members have also coordinated with a local construction company to level ground at the Nizhoni park and improve drainage, planting trees and shrubs on the east side of the park, and removing noxious weeds from the river edge. Collaboration with Youth Conservation Corps to install outdoor fitness equipment as part of Shiprock chapter’s positive wellness campaign is occurring as well.
Businesses and non-profit organizations are encouraged to coordinate with the programs at both Chapter Houses to volunteer their skills and time on various projects. The AmeriCorps programs are always looking for and accepting volunteer help on a regular basis.
Some of the AmeriCorps program benefits, besides the educational award are training opportunities, health insurance and child care, if needed. The choice of hours committed to AmeriCorps may also allow members to attend school or to work at another job along with their service.
AmeriCorps programs provide a positive approach to community needs and, at the same time, give members training that they will use as they move forward with their goals in life. Members frequently complete their service hours with a belief in community service that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
For more information, contact San Juan County Partnership, 505-566-5867.
2017 September 05
KSJE 90.9 FM
The Scott Michlin Morning Program
Interview with Pamela Drake