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Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers visited Kykotsmovi Village on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, and helped repair extensive water damage at the Peace Academic Center.

After a November 2023 freeze, Lance Polingyouma, superintendent of the center, was facing an immense repair job, describing the walls of the school as “an entire waterfall.”

As soon as he was able to repair a pipe, it seemed to burst again.

“One right after another,” said Harriet Tenorio, the center’s administrator. “We couldn’t find anyone to fix it.”

The school, which currently has six students and two teachers, is also going to house offices for people in the community.

MDS replaced plumbing, ceilings, and drywall, working on bathrooms, the teacherslounge, a hallway, and 24-by-23-foot classroom. They upgraded the insulation to help keep heating costs down and keep the school cooler in the summertime.

MDS volunteer Tom Mosier, who lives in Show Low, Arizona—about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the school—got word of the damage from MDS regional operations leadership. He knew he had to see the school for himself.

It was a short-notice project,” described Tom, who promptly became the project director—his first time in that role—then recruited several more volunteers from the region.

Volunteers also brightened the school by replacing worn-out 1950s-era lights with new 4-foot, energy-efficient LEDs. “We added doors to the bathrooms and replaced the stall doors,” said Mosier.

Hopi School AZ. Playground and cafeteria

With about four volunteers onsite each day, the MDS team overcame some unique challenges.

We had no cook for this project, so my wife, Diane, and I shopped for easy-to-prepare foods and we took turns at the stove,” he said. The school cook did prepare some of the noon meals for us, which was nice.”

As a first-time project director, Mosier dug out his experience as a construction foreman. Since I’ve been retired for 18 years, I was worried I had forgotten how, but with good help, it went pretty smoothly,” he said.

Polingyouma said it was an unexpected boost to the center—and the help from volunteers will have a long-term impact as the building becomes increasingly used by the whole community.

“I can’t tell you how it feels to have someone not only take us seriously but then come in here, bring their own materials, fix this—and to do it right,” he said.


Susan Kim, MDS Writer 

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