From helping with vaccine hesitancy to shifting church services online, some rural philanthropic organizations pivoted and changed their direction and focus areas during the height of the pandemic.

At Con Alma Health Foundation in New Mexico, Executive Director Denise Herrera said she learned that relationships in rural philanthropy really matter. Herrera joined the foundation in May 2021 from a position based in Austin, Texas.

“I’ve noticed that relationships really, really matter when it comes to rural philanthropy,” she told the Daily Yonder. “Because sometimes the community doesn’t have access to the nearest clinic, which is four or five hours away, and hundreds of miles away. So sometimes you really have to rely on the people and the communities and the organizations on the ground doing the work. And you’re not always able to go visit a community or get to know them as closely as you might get to know communities that are a little bit closer by.”

She said that New Mexico is home to 23 Tribal Nations and Pueblos. When the pandemic first hit, the Navajo Nation had some of the highest rates of Covid cases per capita in the country, she said.

“And these are communities that don’t even have running water,” she added.” So when people are saying, ‘Oh, wash your hands,’ and they don’t have access to hand sanitizer and they don’t have access to basic things like running water, that’s a really difficult situation. And fast forward once the Covid vaccine became available, Navajo Nation has some of the highest vaccination rates per capita in the country.”

One community, she said, requested money to refurbish a nearby playground that was near a community clinic where people were getting vaccinated against Covid.

Read the full article about rural philanthropy by Kristi Eaton at The Daily Yonder.