(ABC4) — An experience that stands out to Pete Sands from his relief work with Navajo Nation residents happened when he brought groceries to a family living in a remote area on a reservation.
Sands says he left the food on the home’s doorstep since he couldn’t be in close contact with the family for health reasons. Even though it was around 11 p.m., a young girl came outside, ripped open the snacks, and began eating.
According to Sands, the girl thanked him, saying they hadn’t had groceries for a while, and offered him candy.
“That’s one situation that sticks out with me because it drives home the reason why I started it and why I keep on doing it,” he says.
Sands was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Guardians of the Year for providing COVID-19 relief efforts in the Navajo Nation.
As an employee for the Utah Navajo Health System, he helped set up pop-up clinics for COVID-19 testing. In addition, he helped provide and distribute food, firewood, drinking water, as well as water and hay for livestock, to individuals and families who needed it.
“I’m a true product of the Navajo Nation, so I knew what was needed,” Sands tells ABC4.
He said though the task at times felt overwhelming, (according to the article in Time Magazine, cars would line up for miles at food pick-up points), it was always well worth it.
As rates of COVID-19 cases in the Navajo Nation skyrocketed, Sands told ABC4 that increased news coverage of the community yielded positive results.
“Most reservations are third-world countries within a first world country, and America got to see it with all the news coverage they had this year,” he says.
Sands says it’s a good thing for people to see how poorly some people live on reservations.
“We have a group of people who still live like this that are kind of ignored,” he says. “It can’t be ignored now.”
For Sands, appearing on the cover of Time Magazine and having his work recognized was nothing he ever expected, he says.
“It’s a great honor for me… It represents more than just myself, it represents all the hard work other people have done on the reservation as well as on other reservations,” Sands says.
His mother was also happy to hear the news. According to Sands, she told him that he has the ability to put his mind to something and not stop until it’s accomplished.
“… She said it’s a very admirable trait, especially if your goal is to help people,” Sands says. “It’s always an honor to make my mother proud.”