Recently, we had the privilege of serving the people of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Even though it was a hard week emotionally, it was a very fulfilling and eye-opening experience. Witnessing this level of poverty can be overwhelming - we felt as though we weren’t even in the United States but rather in the developing world.
Over the course of the week, we worked alongside Pastor Nathan of New Life Christian Assembly. He and his wife have been working alongside and serving the Navajo for the last 15+ years - he taught us so much about the area and people in the short amount of time we were there.
The unemployment rate in the navajo nation is around 60 - 67% and the families who are unemployed are living on $400-$700/month, well below the poverty line in the United States. Our hearts truly broke for those who are scraping by with their beautiful children ... and at the same time we found ourselves admiring them for their perseverance.
One of the areas of we were able to serve was with the widows within the community by providing firewood to keep them warm in the upcoming winter months ... as there has been an issue recently with widows freezing to death as the majority of families rely on wood for their heat.
A second area we were able to serve was by visiting two schools to discuss eye health and share our story behind Jonas Paul Eyewear. Over 600+ students and faculty were in attendance. We told the children the story behind Jonas Pail, emphasized the importance of accepting those with differences (both physical and social), eye anatomy and the importance of UV protection (especially at the elevation of their community, the UV exposure they face, and the prevalence of cataracts with the older population) and we also shared a recent study we came across from Harvard that discussed the secret of happiness. By sharing this information, we hoped it would provide a positive message to these young children who have little but can find happiness through loving and being loved.
Once the speaking portions wrapped up, we gathered all the students together to distribute sunglasses, eyeglass cases, fun eyeball erasers and tons of yummy candy to the children - the joy on the faces of these beautiful children was priceless knowing that the gift of the sunglasses was something they would cherish forever.
UV exposure is intense in the Navajo Nation because of the elevation and number of cloudless days, causing cataracts in the majority of the elderly population. Our hope is that these sunglasses will help protect children's eyes to prevent a good amount of exposure to the sun while they are most vulnerable to UV exposure.
We also dispensed readers to adults and the elderly over the course of two days. This was a great experience that will help them tremendously with continuing to make a living as many of them are silversmiths, jewelry makers, weavers, and sewers. To see the joy and excitement that the elderly had after receiving their free pair of readers was awesome for us to witness.
It was a busy week but we are so thankful for this experience and to all of you who continue to support Jonas Paul Eyewear. Because of you, we have made our Buy Sight, Give Sight program a reality. Knowing that a purchase of glasses from Jonas Paul Eyewear will not only impact the child that will be wearing these prescription glasses, but will provide sight to another person in need is amazing feeling and we are so thankful that we had this opportunity to serve the Navajo people.
Thank you to our wonderful partner, Restoring Vision, for providing glasses for us to dispense. And thank you to Pastor Nathan for your service to not only the Navajo people but also our team throughout the week.
To read more about our Buy Sight, Give Sight program head to our website!-Ben and Laura Harrison (co-founders of Jonas Paul Eyewear)