March of 2009 gave me the wonderful opportunity to journey to the Navajo Nation for the purpose of documenting and promoting experiences had by Non-Profit Management graduate students of Regis University. The students were participating in the University's March 2009 SOFE (Service Oriented Field Experience) trip throughout this sovereign Nation which spans primarily Arizona, some of Southern Utah, and Western New Mexico. Similar in size to West Virginia, the Nation is home to nearly 200,000 Native Americans, often referring to themselves as Diné. 70% of the residents are living without electricity or running water, however, there was no shortage of friendly, welcoming locals with stories to share.
During the nearly two-week program participants challenged themselves daily. They were immersed in the Navajo culture, explored the land, and met a range of people stretching from government officials and cultural ambassadors, to World-War II Code Talkers, Navajo elders, and expert local tour guides. However, most importantly, they individually worked with specific non-profit organizations to bring about positive change in the Nation. Some would accomplish this through cooperating with companies constructing low-income housing, work to repair infrastructure, or take surveys in National Parks to find necessary improvements, also raising cultural awareness. All, however, would grow as people, and be touched by the experience forever, as they worked to help keep a Nation alive.