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Melissa Benally

Functional Responsibility in the COVID-19 response: Strike Team

Tuba City

Melissa was born and raised in the land of Tuba City, AZ. She has been the Office Specialist (OS) for the Navajo Health Education Program for the Tuba City Service Area Office for approximately three years and four months. On different occasions, Melissa would help her colleagues in the field – assisting with health education and prevention, especially when it came to “fair time” – when it calls for all hands on deck. A time when large amounts of people would gather – what better way to educate the people? Before becoming an Office Specialist for the NHEP, Melissa had devoted five and a half years to the Community Health Representative (CHR) Program

Recently, Melissa’s role has changed, from office work to being a member of the Tuba City Strike team, assisting in making food and supply deliveries to high risk and COVID+ patients. This new assignment has taken Melissa and her colleagues to working in unfavorable weather conditions and long hours. They also complete home assessments for elders living in overcrowded homes and helping them obtain possible assistance. .

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“Helping the community in any way possible motivates me in this dire time of need. Communicating with elders when delivering food is one of the best feelings and their expression of gratitude for the supplies they received. Seeing this will always be a memory I will long cherish after the pandemic. It is something I can hold on to, despite the terrible impact the virus is having on the Diné people.”

Melissa

The Navajo Nation being geographically vast, getting assistance to people can be arduous, and at times they can be overlooked. Melissa’s goal is to get to those homes that are missed, off the grid, and have no transportation. Sometimes her deliveries will be the first support they are receiving.

On a typical day, Melissa begins with general office duties; she then checks in at the Tuba City Fairgrounds with the Strike Team; determines what areas they will deliver supplies to, load supplies, and they head out. Melissa says most of the day is spent driving miles of sometimes unforgiving dirt roads to reach homes where people have not yet received food or water. It is an excellent accomplishment once the food is delivered to these areas.

“Though our numbers are declining on Navajo, we should continue safe COVID-19 prevention practices and not let our guard down, and protect our elders.”

Melissa
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Melissa expresses her sincere gratitude and the most profound appreciation to all those who have donated to the Navajo Nation. The support from across the U.S. has been breathtaking and heartfelt.
“Ahe’hee Nitsaago.”

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