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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 9, 2002 - Issue 54


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Miss Navajo Nation Visits Preschool Center

BLUFFVIEW - Families with preschool age children can continue to look at positive things happening at the Little Feet Child Development Center, said Maschelle Torrez, the center's director.

Funding was obtained to hire the first ever full-time nurse for the center. In addition, construction on a new building is scheduled to begin this spring. To top that off, Miss Navajo Nation Jolyana Begay visited the children, parents and staff members during a family night at the center Friday.

Begay, 21, of Rabbitbrush, wearing her silver crown, silver and turquoise jewelry and traditional Navajo clothing, walked through the center and greeted everyone, repeating their names after the introductions so she would remember them. Rabbitbrush is five miles north of Ft. Defiance, Ariz., she said, just inside New Mexico.

She said her main goal during her reign as an ambassador for the Navajo Nation is to focus on the needs of children. She encouraged everyone to learn their Navajo language, adding that parents needed to be positive role models for their children.

"I encourage you to set good examples for your child, and to learn the Navajo culture and language."

Torrez, who came on board last October, welcomed community health nurse Connie Kahn to her staff two weeks ago. Her position was made possible by a Strengthening New Mexico Families grant.

Kahn, who came out from New York last May, is excited about being at the center. She will be working to meet the children's health needs and that of the parents. She will target parents who may have alcohol or other substance abuse problems.

Kahn said she will work on everything from setting up an immunization clinic at the center, to getting each family's health history, to cooking a healthy meal in the kitchen during a diabetes education night. "I'll be talking to each family to find out what their needs are."

She said she is there to provide health education to the families and ensure their medical needs are met. "If I had a child I certainly would put him here."

She and Torrez will also ensure everyone who does not have their own health insurance is signed up for Medicaid. So far everyone is signed up except for two families who haven't yet turned in their paperwork.

The center, operated by Presbyterian Medical Services in Farmington, currently has 33 children, from 8 months to five years old, enrolled in its Early Head Start and preschool programs. There are also 11 families in a home-based program and nine on a waiting list. The facility occupies two houses located in a residential neighborhood next to the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry farms.

The building space is provided rent-free by the Navajo Housing Authority, although San Juan United Way and Head Start funding was used to renovate the homes for the center's needs. The spacious interior includes a kitchen, playroom/classroom, offices and even scaled-down miniature toilets and sinks in the restrooms. They recently got a washer and dryer. Small things mean a lot, staff members said.

The center teaches western and traditional teachings to the children. There is a miniature hogan in the playground outside built last September by William Field Services of Bloomfield which provided the labor free of charge. The San Juan United Way supplied the wood for the walls and beams.

The playground also has wind screens on the surrounding fences, sand boxes and large oversized shade canopies.

Construction on a new building is scheduled to begin this spring. The building would put the current center under one roof. It will be located in the same neighborhood.

For the preschool program, families who meet income guidelines do not have to pay to have their child enrolled. The Head Start 2001 poverty guidelines says a family of four is considered at poverty level if they are making $17,650 or less. A family of eight would have to make more than $29,730 to be above the poverty line.

That would mean 40 percent of all New Mexicans are living below the poverty line, Kahn said, referring to national statistics.

That number is likely higher on the reservation, she added.

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  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, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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