OLIJATO-MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah – Navajo Nation is taking action to heal and learn from the devastating effects of COVID-19.
A brand new community center called “Tse Bii Ndzisgaii Community Center” opened Monday in Monument Valley – a one-of-a-kind center for children and adults.
The center “will serve as a hub of innovation that will give a boost to social entrepreneurship and to rich and natural small businesses that have always existed in our communities but which have long lacked the support and adequate resources to flourish”, have officials said.
The pandemic has exacerbated some of the challenges people face in the Navajo Nation, including limited access to basic necessities such as food, running water, electricity and internet service.
Shandiin Herrera, director of the Tse Bii Ndzisgaii Community Center, grew up in Monument Valley. The recent Duke graduate has returned home to lead COVID-19 relief efforts for her people on scholarship. The next step is the creation of a community center.
People can use a business center, shared workspace, conference room, classroom space and library.
“It’s a big challenge living in a place like Monument Valley. As beautiful as it is, it comes with many different challenges, ”said Herrera. “But in that regard, we’ve seen how innovative, talented and resilient our employees are and we want to elevate that and promote that through our community center.”
There will be Navajo language and food sovereignty classes, as well as financial workshops for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
By early next year, there are plans to include a café, a trading post to sell works by local artists, and a community garden.
Herrera said they plan to use this model to build community centers throughout the Navajo Nation.