I have been blessed to be able to work in a place where I am helping my children. In the Navajo-Diné culture we have a clan system that ties us together and we use our clan to see how we are related. My grandparents and great-grandparents have lived in this area for generations, so I have many relatives in Thoreau, and many of their children are related to me.
When our community was going through the traumatic event of 15 youth suicides, it was very overwhelming for families, friends and our whole community. We couldn’t even grieve properly for the last child that passed away because we had to make more funeral arrangements or attend family gatherings to give our condolences. We (the community) had to make a change. We needed to step in and help our children.
And so we created the Thoreau Community Center. It has been a home away from home for many children, a place for them to better themselves and a place to just get away. We have been a resource for support, encouragement and guidance for our youth and community members. We have literally saved youths’ lives and intervened when other youth were contemplating suicide. The staff here at TCC is encouraged daily to interact and socialize with the youth to help inspire them, truly get to know them and let them know they are cared for.
We have at times struggled financially to keep our doors open, but with wonderful support from the New Mexico Community Foundation grants, we have continued our mission to inspire hope, joy and progress within the surrounding areas by providing resources and special programs focused on health, well-being, education and recreation.
One of the many programs we are currently planning is our anti-hunger project. We are implementing a greenhouse to provide fresh foods. Our youth will be encouraged to participate in the construction and maintenance of the greenhouse, and to attend healthy cooking demonstrations when the produce can be harvested. These efforts will help decrease the high percentages of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in our community.
We are very thankful for the funding to help our youth and community members.
Priscilla Manuelito is executive director of the Thoreau Community Center.