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With families of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) quarantining themselves to help stop the spread of COVID-19, an EBCI tribal program is helping provide some exercise time. Cherokee Choices, a diabetes prevention and education program under the EBCI Public Health & Human Services (PHHS) Division, is posting online yoga sessions, hosting an online women’s strength training class, and running a Facebook group for children to help keep them healthy and active. The Cherokee Choices Kids Challenge focuses on exercise, art, and nutrition for children ages 3-12. Robin Callahan, Cherokee Choices program director, said that with this program, EBCI is able to offer additional stress-management tools to tribal members while allowing them to stay in their homes. Although the digital divide poses real problems to internet access, this is an excellent example of a replicable service that can be offered to help improve the well-being of tribal citizens in quarantine throughout Indian Country.
For those of us missing community or prayer, the Association on American Indian Affairs began a new weekly tradition this past Friday with the #ShareHealing campaign. Beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern Time each Friday, people across Indian Country are invited to join in 20 minutes united together in spirit and share, where appropriate, what we are doing to pray, meditate, or share healing thoughts.
Outside of Indian Country, we are also witnessing incredible examples of communities coming together (though at a safe distance) to defeat the invisible enemy. In New York City, the hardest-hit area in the United States, more than 76,000 healthcare workers have volunteered to help hospitals fight coronavirus. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the heroism of volunteers and front-line workers: “Being a first responder today, being a public health official, working in a hospital, working with senior citizens, this is really an act of love, of courage.” In a video shared on Twitter, New Yorkers came to their windows and balconies to show their appreciation in a wonderful display of unity. This organized display was coordinated through social media and the #ClapBecauseWeCare campaign, which is still ongoing. The campaign is already having an effect, boosting the morale of health care workers in the city.
For anyone wondering how they can get involved and contribute, the Decolonizing Wealth Project has launched a rapid response fund to provide emergency support for the most vulnerable Native American families and communities impacted by COVID-19. As Edgar Villanueva, the creator of the fund, notes, “in these times, Native American families turn to trusted community organizations for support and resources. In turn, we want to generously support Native American nonprofits on the ground who are caring for our most vulnerable.” At the time of publication, the fund has already raised more than $42,000 for vulnerable tribal communities. Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed healthcare journal, has published a list of other opportunities to offer a hand to the most vulnerable among us in Indian Country. Please donate if you are able.