On May 25th, Arizona Healthy Hearts partners SEAHEC, represented by Executive director Gail Emrick, and Intertribal Council of AZ, represented by Naomi Lane, traveled to San Carlos of the San Carlos Apache Nation, for the presentation of certificates of completion to the Community Health Representatives of the San Carlos Tribe.  It was a very special afternoon, as CHRs shared some of their stories about what motivated them in their work in community and what they had accomplished through the NHBLI Heart Health program.

As we sat in a circle and went around the group, CHRs told stories of dedication and caring.  One woman had served as a CHR for 39 years!  She said that her work and the warm response from her community was what kept her motivated all these years.  She has no plans of retiring.  Another woman who had been the receptionist at the Community Health Office, had just been promoted to CHR and said she had plans of utilizing her experience to move up the career ladder and become a registered nurse for the tribe.  Many others shared their stories of how they got started and why they continued their valuable work.  Their roles include such diverse activities as checking blood pressure and transporting the elderly to their clinic appointments to providing health education and modeling behavior.  Most recently, when the Apache Nation had a power outage for three days, and the water pumps were unable to provide water, the CHRs played a vital role in going house to house delivering water to people who were unable to leave their homes to go find water.  Truly these women are making an impact on the lives of their community members.

The women shared their stories on the impact of participating in the Arizona Healthy Hearts Initiative and learning about the heart health curriculum.  One CHR, and grandmother of 6 told how her learning had been so important in opening her eyes to the care of her grandchildren and educating her own children about the importance of diet and nutrition starting at a young age.  She gave an example of how her grandchildren used to snack on “hot Cheetos” while watching television and now, when they see Grandma coming up the walk, they make sure no Cheetos are to be found.  They have now been seen eating broccoli and carrots!  Several women started exercise groups, walking with family members and friends.  One of the elder women shared the story of her nephew, who was over 300 pounds; at her nudging, he cut out the sodas and sugary beverages and upon seeing him a few months later, she barely recognized the handsome younger man who had lost nearly a hundred pounds!

At the close of the sharing, certificates were handed out to each of the women by SEAHEC and by their CHR Director.  It was truly a time for celebration.