Phoenix, AZ. Phoenix-based Caravan operator Westwind Air Service, has generously donated a transport flight to the Navajo and Hopi Airlift Program coordinated by Air Serv International. The flight, which employed the use of a Cessna 206 and carried approximately 1,000lbs, delivered virus-fighting supplies to Chinle, Arizona, where they were distributed to adjacent communities by local volunteers. The time-sensitive cargo, which would have taken a volunteer driver approximately two days round trip due to travel and curfew restrictions, was delivered within a matter of hours.
Air Serv, which also operates Caravans overseas for humanitarian programs, partnered with Westwind and the Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund to establish a supply chain which has delivered water, PPE, sanitizer, and basic living essentials for an estimated 2,500 multiple occupant households. The airlift program, funded by the ISTAT Foundation, has been a contributing factor in the reduction of transmission by delivering cargo which is then distributed via contactless drive through.
“It has been an absolute pleasure collaborating with Air Serv International this past month in the fight against COVID-19,” said Elijah Riggs, Westwind’s Director of Operations. “It has been extremely humbling coming together to help our surrounding communities on the Navajo and Hopi Nations.”
The Navajo Nation is believed to have more COVID-19 deaths per capita than any US state, but has shown signs of success in flattening the curve in recent weeks. Part of the decline in confirmed cases has been attributed to stay-home orders and implementation of curfews, which while reducing transmission, has also limited windows during which residents can travel to source food, water, cleaning products, and daily necessities. The airlift program, which has been operational since July 8th and has to date moved over 25,000lbs, has been transporting these items, as well as critical supplies to fight COVID-19, to the people of the Navajo and Hopi reservations. The weekly flights are part of an organized effort to reduce the need for travel to outside areas, thereby reducing exposure and transmission, and to increase access to supplies not readily available within the reservations’ borders.
The airlift program is currently planned to continue through mid to late-August. Cargo sourced from all over the country is collected and inventoried at the program’s operations center in Phoenix, before being flown to various drop points. Upon landing, the cargo is unloaded from the aircraft by volunteers from the Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund, who then transport it to distribution centers where it is sanitized and packed into kits. The majority of transported cargo comes from private donations and corporate sponsors, and the urgent need for donations continues. For more information about the relief effort and what you can do to support it, please visit www.airserv.org and www.navajohopisolidarity.org.
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