Winter Supplies for a 90-Year-Old Navajo Native

Many Native families find themselves under constant stress, from subpar housing and healthcare to food and water shortages. PWNA’s Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA) program helps Indigenous communities tackle these obstacles through services like Winter Emergency Boxes, where supplies like blankets, gloves, hygiene products, nonperishable foods and other essentials help Elders withstand the winter months. Sarah Etsitty, a 90-year-old Navajo resident of Many Farms, Arizona, received a Winter Emergency Box this year. Living alone on the same property she grew up on, she stays as active as possible to remain healthy. Thanking SWRA donors with a big smile on her face, she said, “I love receiving the Winter Emergency Box supplies. They really come in handy, and I use everything.”

Winter Supplies for a 90-Year-Old Navajo Native

Many Native families find themselves under constant stress, whether facing subpar housing and healthcare, limited access to utilities and transportation or food and water shortages. Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA), a program of Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), helps Indigenous communities tackle these obstacles through services like Winter Emergency Boxes. Delivered to select reservations to supply Elders, these boxes contain items such as blankets, gloves, hygiene products, nonperishable foods and other essentials needed to withstand winter storms and outages.

Sarah Etsitty, a Navajo resident of Many Farms, Arizona, recently received a Winter Emergency Box. Sarah believes she is 90 years old but is uncertain. As our program partner LaQuinta Yellowman notes, due to discrepancies between Navajo and Census records, many Navajo women have multiple birthdates on file. Born in the hogan that still stands on her property, Sarah has lived in Many Farms her entire life.

Sarah’s mother worked as a weaver while her father worked as a custodian at the old Diné College for $2 an hour. Thinking back to her childhood, Sarah mentioned the hogan “was beautiful back then,” before the road now right behind her house was ever built.

Sarah never went to school and herded sheep all her life. With eight grandchildren, she has three daughters living in Phoenix and one daughter in Many Farms. Sadly, all three of her little brothers have passed away.

Sarah always stays home, except for the rare occasion that her daughter takes her shopping or brings her to her medical appointments. Living alone, unable to travel and with two caregivers that quit in recent months, Sarah said, “I feel like I need help.” Her daughters are grateful for the constant support she receives from the senior center and the nurses that visit regularly to check her vitals.

Relatively healthy for her age, Sarah says she stays very active to stay “tough.”  She does not have many medical issues aside from mild hearing loss and poor eyesight, her vision slowly becoming greyer. She also mentioned that she wakes up with aches most mornings and occasionally has trouble cooking because of her pain, but she shrugs this off as simply “old age.”

Living solely on disability and social security incomes, Sarah barely has money for all her expenses, which include water, food, wood and propane. Luckily, she is grateful to receive help from her community, like food or when the church delivers firewood (now close to $200 per load, according to LaQuinta). Sarah also emphasizes the importance of company and social interaction after 90 years in the same place, saying, “If no one comes around, I’ll get depressed.”

When she is not busy with housework or other maintenance, Sarah loves sewing in her free time. Her favorite food is spam, but she likes turkey and says, “we can’t forget about mutton.” She will also never turn down cakes or sweets.

Grateful for our SWRA donors, Sarah said, “I have a hard time getting to the store, so thank you.” With a big smile on her face, she added, “I love receiving the Winter Emergency Box supplies. They really come in handy, and I use everything.”

Donate to SWRA today to help Native Elders like Sarah through some of the harshest months of the year.

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