News Release

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project

At Zuni Pueblo, COVID-19 is very much present in everyday life. Students are still remote learning, and families are remaining safer at home as much as possible. To help community members focus on their own wellness during these isolating and often stressful times, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project assembled 500 self-care kits and distributed them on Friday, February 12.

Of the 500 kits, 170 went to partner programs, including Zuni Education & Career Development Center (ZECDC), Zuni Senior Center, Zuni Veterans Program, and Zuni Social Services Program. Each kit included a “make your own heart” pillow; stationary to write positive letters to loved ones; baking tools such as a rolling pin, heart-shaped cookie cutters, and heart molds; family-friendly board games; a healthy-baking recipe book; and a $20 voucher for fresh fruit and vegetables at Halona Marketplace, the local grocer.

Pictured: In the self-care kits, family-friendly activities included a “make your own heart” pillow. Families took to social media to share their projects with the community.

Pictured: In the self-care kits, family-friendly activities included a “make your own heart” pillow. Families took to social media to share their projects with the community.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone could feel the love during these challenging times,” said Andrea Pepin, Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s program manager. “In lieu of traditional Valentine’s Day items, we wanted to share activities that would bring families together and help people feel more connected. Preparing meals, baking, creating art, writing letters, and playing games — all of these things encourage wellness, and they bring joy.” 

Pepin noted that community members were grateful to receive these items. Many took to social media to post photos of their projects.

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s wellness kits have been a deeply appreciated staple of the COVID-19 pandemic era. Since March 2020, the nonprofit youth organization has distributed more than 4,000 kits, with different themes and contents. Next on deck: spring distributions related to physical activity, agriculture, and water conservation.

“Last spring, as soon as we realized it was no longer safe to bring together large groups of kids, we quickly adapted our operations to meet the needs of the moment,” said Joe Claunch, Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s executive director. “We knew we couldn’t offer our large, in-person youth programs, but we also recognized that we could still find a meaningful way to engage with our kids and our families.”

In keeping with Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s holistic approach, each of the 2020-21 kits have included nutrition, physical activity, art, mental health, and cultural resources that encourage healthy lifestyles. The youth project partnered with 20 funding organizations and hundreds of individual donors to make the initiative possible.

“Our assessments confirm that the kits have a positive impact on several levels,” Claunch said. “They bring families closer together while they engage in healthy activities, they increase our children’s intake of fruit and vegetables, and they contribute to positive experiences and happy memories until we can gather together again.”

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with Zuni Youth Enrichment Project, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).

Zuni Youth Enrichment Project

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. Zuni Youth Enrichment Project fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. Zuni Youth Enrichment Project strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.