Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


april 21, 2001 - Issue 34



Americorps: Program Provides Community Services, Aids Students


By Nathan J. Tohtsoni The Navajo Times 


Americorps member Ramos Benally shovels out dirt and weeds from a canal for a cement pour north of Many Farms. (Times photo - Paul Natonabah)

MANY FARMS, Ariz. (April 5, 2001) - For AmeriCorps volunteers like Ramos W. Benally of Tsaile, Ariz., a ditch canal repair project in Many Farms was a welcome challenge.

Benally, a member of the Tribal Civilian Community Corps-Navajo Nation Region, began his 10-month commitment to the Navajo AmeriCorps program by shoveling debris from the bottom of the canal in north Many Farms March 26.

It was the first workday for 47 corps members who will be working toward a grant that will enable them to obtain a higher education.

The civilian corps is working on two projects in Many Farms and four in Chinle. Once they complete those projects, they will move onto other projects on the Navajo Nation.

The Corporation for National Service in Washington, D.C., awarded the Navajo Nation with an AmeriCorps program last year. AmeriCorps will award each member with a $4,725 educational grant to be used toward college tuition, graduate school, vocational training or an outstanding student loan.

It also awards bi-weekly stipends and offers GED classes for those members who have not obtained a high school diploma.

The Navajo civilian corps began recruiting corps members between the ages of 18 and 25 in the fall. They are housed in a residential dorm in Rough Rock, Ariz.

Geneva Nez, community relations representative, said the corps members each brought a variety of skilled experience.

"It's very interesting," she said. "They really like it. They want to do a lot."

Team leader Dwayne Yazzie is supervising 10 corps members - including Benally - who are working on the canal project and bathroom additions for six homes in Many Farms. He is sharing his carpenter trade with the other members.

"It's a real good program. I wish there was a program like this when I graduated," Yazzie said. "We're building respect for the community - that's what our program is about, we're giving back to the community."

Before their official workday, corps members picked up trash in Chinle.

Many Farms Irrigation Department Site Supervisor Chavez Harrison was relieved to get help in repairing the five miles of canal from Many Farms Lake and north parallel to U.S. 191. In years past, two department workers would get temporary assistance from the tribe's 10-day work program.

"It's a big project and we need all the manpower we can get," Harrison said.

Nez said each member will eventually work 1,700 hours between now and Dec. 21. The civilian corps is working on projects that were requested from chapters, businesses and organizations. If they run out of jobs, she said beautification and community chores would be conducted.

"It all depends on the projects," she said. "If we have projects in New Mexico, Utah or Colorado, then we can go out there and assist them."

Corps members and project sites are not confined to Navajo. Nez said the neighboring tribes of Hopi, Jicarilla Apache, Laguna Pueblo, Southern Ute tribes, Zuni and other surrounding tribes are welcome to join or submit proposals.

"It's a good experience," Benally said. "It opens minds for new things."

Benally left the reservation in 1996 and returned in June. He was employed as an ironworker in San Antonio. What he likes about the program is it will give him the opportunity to obtain his GED and enroll at the University of Texas in Austin, where he intends to study medieval literature.

"Like many people, I hope to return back here and help the people do the best I can," he said. "I feel good about myself. We all live together in a residential hall, so basically it's my home away from home. I consider these people my brothers and sisters."

There are three remaining slots available as corps members.

The civilian corps must conduct services that meet educational, environmental, public safety and emergency needs. The Navajo program is the fourth Native American organization in the country.

Information: (520) 728-3600.





  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.



The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.