Darlene Arviso, a 50-year-old grandmother, is known to her friends as the water angel. Born on the Navajo reservation, she grew up hauling water home from the St. Bonaventure Indian Mission in New Mexico, and that's not unusual. Would you believe sixty-thousand (60,000) Navajos living on the reservation have no running water? Darlene drives a school bus on weekday mornings and afternoons, but while classes are in session, she drives St. Bonaventure's new water truck, known to locals as the Yellow Buffalo.
Photo by Sarah Tory
Where reservation water mains end, the Yellow Buffalo begins. It delivers water to 250 homes. Darlene can usually visit ten homes a day, so the 400 gallons each home receives must last a month. By comparison, you probably use 400 gallons in four days. If bad weather prevents water delivery, and snow can't be melted, some people drink from livestock troughs, even though the water often makes them sick.
In fact, Darlene does much more than deliver water. She's a link between far-flung homes. She gives her cell number to all her clients and sometimes they call her asking for help. Some need food, or extra blankets in winter, or just a friend to talk with. Darlene says, "Sometimes, I just pray with them."