By Johnny Zillgitt
Construction Coordinator from Corona United Methodist Church
Returning to Tsaile, AZ was an interesting and amazing journey for me. The last time I was in Tsaile was in 2013 as a youth volunteer, and now I was finally able to return to go on a site visit with my Site Director Jacob White and SSP’s Communication’s Coordinator Pascal Domicone, who was the Tsaile Site Director in 2013. The Navajo Nation will always have a special place in my heart. I started my SSP experience there in Teec Nos Pos and returned 2 years later to Tsaile, and I am now fortunate enough to be able to serve the community in Tsaile again.
The first day of our site visit consisted mostly of traveling and reaching Chinle, where we stayed the next few days because there are no hotels in Tsaile. On our way to Chinle, we made a stop in Canyon De Chelly, a large canyon just outside of town.
We took a short hike down to the White House Ruins in the canyon, which is the only hike visitors are allowed to do without a certified Navajo Guide. Seeing the ruins and reading about their history was a great experience that allowed me to learn a little more about the amazing history and culture of the Diné people. On Adventure Wednesdays this summer there will be an option to do this hike!
After a few minutes, Walter was walking back up to the house behind us and immediately started cracking jokes and having a good time.
In Tsaile, we work with the Tsaile/Wheatfields and Lukachukai Chapters to complete home repairs. Most of our site visit was spent visiting homes of community members and taking notes on the work they were requesting to be done. The visit that stuck with me the most was at the home of a man named Walter. When we arrived to his home, we were talking with his wife about possibly building a porch or painting the outside of their home. After a few minutes, Walter was walking back up to the house behind us and immediately started cracking jokes and having a good time.
Volunteers at SSP are doing real work and being exposed to people and being put outside of their comfort zone, so that they can grow as a person, in ways they can’t get anywhere else.
This is what serving through SSP means to me. It’s not just about going to a community that needs service and getting work done, it’s about connecting with the people you’re serving. It’s about learning about an entirely different culture and gaining an appreciation for the way other people lives their lives. Volunteers at SSP are doing real work and being exposed to people and being put outside of their comfort zone, so that they can grow as a person, in ways they can’t get anywhere else.