Last week Justinography had the incredible opportunity to film charity work down in Monument Valley. Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii (meaning valley of the rocks) lies within Navajo Nation Reservation in San Juan County on the Utah/Arizona border.
According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2015 72.6% of the residents in Monument Valley fell below the poverty line. A city just hours away from urban Salt Lake City is living in third world conditions, and Ascend Recovery has seen the need to help out this community as best they could.
Two full truck loads and a trailer filled with donated goods began the drive down from Salt Lake early Wednesday morning. By late afternoon we arrived at the elementary school to meet with the school's social worker to finalize details of the service projects.
Next, camp was set up. Tents popped up. Horse shoe stakes were set in place. As sunset approached, there remained an important decision to be made: to eat dinner or set up the RED Epic-W for a spectacular 8K time-lapse? I think you know what the right decision was.
We began Thursday morning with a beautiful sunrise. We returned to the elementary school but this time to take action. Employees and alumni from Ascend Recovery hauled 1x10' & 1x4' pieces of wood, end blocks, rods, hammers, nails, flowers, and soil across the playground to build three garden boxes for the children. During recess kids came over to see the boxes and some even helped plant the flowers. The excitement was truly palpable. I heard a little girl shout, "I just planted my own flower!" as she ran back to class with a huge smile glued to her face. Once the boxes were finished and we were preparing to leave, several young students ran over to give hugs and say goodbye. It was thought-provoking to watch the interaction between Ascend representatives & Navajo students. Bonds were already beginning to form.
In the evening we met with a Native who welcomed us into her home and shared with us the lifestyle of living on the reservation. Everyone listened intently as she shared very personal and even heartbreaking stories. Life on the reservation, to say the least, is not easy. With her help, we were able to gain much insight and understand how to better help this struggling community.
Friday morning we visited with another local and were once again touched by the troubling stories of life on the reservation. She helped us understand more of the history of her people, and the changes she hoped to see in the near future.
As the last matter of business, we traveled back to the elementary school to deliver hygiene bags and donated items. While delivering the bags, the school social worker was excited to see that there were a lot of towels that had been donated. We then learned that most of the students do not have running water in their homes and use the school's shower. The school, however, only has two towels. TWO. Who would have known that such a small and simple donation could have such a big impact?
With humility in our hearts, we said our goodbyes and set off for home. What an incredible experience it was to see firsthand charity given, and charity received. The people at Ascend Recovery did an amazing job researching the needs of this impoverished community and how to best help them. They plan to continue their relationship with the people of Monument Valley, and already have big plans for the future. The hope is that with small steps, it will produce monumental changes.