Ethel Branch hoped to raise about $5,000 to help a few dozen elders with food, water, and cleaning supplies when she launched a fund-raiser to help the Navajo and Hopi communities in March as the coronavirus pandemic was spreading across the nation. It was the least she could do, she thought.
Instead, the efforts of Branch ’01, M.P.P. ’08, J.D. ’08, exceeded her wildest expectations. The Navajo & Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Fund has raised nearly $18 million, which includes a recent $10 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
The fund, which ranked among last year’s top five projects on GoFundMe, has distributed food supplies, water, and personal protective equipment to more than 350,000 people in the Navajo and Hopi reservations, covering all 12 Hopi villages and 93 of 110 chapters in the Navajo Nation.
Branch, who started the campaign with 11 other Navajo women, is ecstatic.
“Never in a million years would I have dreamed that we would raise this much money to protect our communities,” said Branch from her Flagstaff, Ariz., home.
“The incredible love and generosity that the good people of this country — and the world — have shown our Navajo and Hopi people is simply astounding and gives me so much hope for the future of humankind,” she said.
The country’s 6.7 million Native Americans are among the hardest-hit communities by COVID-19 despite the fact that most of the 574 federally recognized tribal nations enforced curfews and strict safety protocols in the early days of the pandemic.