By: Michelle Costa, Director of Programs for GO Campaign
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Thoreau, New Mexico to visit with GO’s first US partner, the Thoreau Community Center (TCC). As I drove the 95 miles from Albuquerque to Thoreau on highway 40, I was struck by the sparse vegetation. It was quite the contrast to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. The nearest grocery store to Thoreau is 30 miles away. There are majestic red mesas which surround the community. It is a place of true beauty, but also many challenges.
TCC was started after a tragic cluster of teenage suicides that took the lives of 15 youth. Their approach to suicide prevention is to reach out to youth and provide them with a safe space to come, play, and connect with their peers and caring adults who will listen.
While there, I met with Priscella Manuelito, the Executive Director of TCC. Priscella expressed her thanks for the support GO Campaign has provided TCC. We have issued three grants to TCC totaling $47,300. In addition to helping them establish a youth leadership board, our funds have been critical to the center remaining open and continuing to provide outreach to the community. In a community where children are so isolated, this center is helping save lives.
Priscella shared a story with me that I wanted to share with you because it highlights the importance of the work that we do at GO. A couple of months ago, two girls came to TCC for the first time. Priscella greeted them with the traditional Navajo greeting, Ya at’ eeh which means hello my precious little child. The girls stayed a little while at the center and left. The next day they came back and Priscella greeted them again with the traditional Navajo greeting. A couple of weeks went by and then one of the girls came to the center alone.
Priscella greeted her saying Ya at’ eeh. Priscella could tell the girl was upset and invited to chat with her in her office. Priscella asked the girl what was wrong and the girl started crying. The girl told Priscella that the day before she and her friend first came to the center, the girls had made a pack to walk to the mesa to jump off and kill themselves. They had come to the center that day and were both moved when Priscella greeted them with Ya at’ eeh. They both came back the next day just to hear Priscella say that to them, and the girl had come to the center that day to hear it said to her one more time. The girl’s grandmother used to greet her that way and no one had said that to her since.
Priscella was able to get the girl and her friend the counseling and help they needed. Now every time that she sees them in the community or at the center, she is reminded of how important the center is to the youth in the community.
As I pass along Priscella’s thanks to all our GO supporters, I share my thanks for helping us to support these projects. Our work matters and together we are saving children’s lives.