ISTAT News | Monday, August 3, 2020
COVID-19 Relief Grant Recipient Spotlight: Air Serv International
Within a week of receiving a generous $70,000 grant from the ISTAT Foundation, Air Serv International mobilized in Phoenix, AZ to facilitate the movement of COVID-19 relief supplies into the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation. Following a week of on-site setup and procurement of items for delivery, the first flight of the airlift program departed Deer Valley Airport on 8 July 2020. Since then, the program has delivered 15,266 lbs of goods to seven different distribution centers as of 21 July.
The Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation cover a land mass approximately the size of West Virginia, yet the territory contains only thirteen grocery stores; an estimated 10% of citizens do not have access to electricity, and approximately 40% are without running water. Due to the exceptionally high infection rate, the Navajo government has also implemented a daily curfew, as well as a full weekend curfew from 20:00 on Fridays to 5:00 on Mondays. The curfews, meant to curb movement around the reservation and therefore the transfer of the virus, also significantly reduce the windows during which residents are able to travel the many hours it may take to source food and basic necessities.
Air Serv International, funded by the ISTAT and ISTAT Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Grant, has partnered with the Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund to directly reach remote and isolated communities in need of everything ranging from PPE and sanitizer to daily living supplies, using Cessna Caravans. In a time and place where needs are immediate, the planes can carry far more, far faster than ground transport. The desert climate and contaminated ground water on the reservation have necessitated the quick delivery of potable water for not only drinking and cooking, but also washing, a critical step in the fight against COVID. In addition, the planes deliver items such as foot pump-operated portable sinks and water coolers with pour spouts for use as hand washing stations, tents and cots to serve as quarantine quarters in multigenerational households, ice chests for the delivery of 1-2 weeks’ worth of food from distribution centers, and personal care products.
Landing locations are determined based on proximity to the distribution centers established by the Relief Fund throughout the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation. An average of three flights per week deliver goods to various locations throughout the area, where they are met on the ground by local volunteers. The cargo is then unloaded and transported by ground to a nearby distribution center where it is sanitized and packed into pallets or kits for drive-through pick up, or in the case of elder or immunocompromised households, home delivery.
While Air Serv has historically operated outside the borders of the United States, the pandemic has created a domestic crisis for the indigenous community which requires quick and immediate action. Due to the vastness of the territory, airplanes can deliver, in a matter of hours, cargo that may have taken 1-2 days by truck. “This grant from the ISTAT Foundation directly enables us to do what Air Serv was designed for,” said Air Serv President Stu Willcuts, “which is to bring aid where it’s most needed.”
The Navajo Nation/Hopi Reservation Airlift Program is not the first time the ISTAT Foundation has directly supported a humanitarian response through Air Serv International. When the second wave of the Ebola outbreak began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018, an ISTAT Foundation grant assisted in the donation of flight services to deliver medicine, medical equipment, and humanitarian personnel.
“We are extremely grateful to the ISTAT Foundation and the ISTAT community of over 5,000 members in the commercial aviation industry worldwide for the generosity they have shown us over the last several years,” said Willcuts. “We could not do what we do without this assistance, and the impact of their generosity is immediate and direct.”
For more information on the inspiring work of Air Serv International, please visit https://www.airserv.org/.