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Almost a third of the Navajo Nation’s population lacks clean drinking water. And about 15,000 homes on the reservation are without electricity.

When Kern Collymore and his partner Janene Yazzie returned from New York to her home on the Navajo Nation, they set out to change that.

“We thought we had these big fancy educations and we’d come back and work on issues,” Collymore says. “And we really saw firsthand on the front lines how it’s not that people in these communities don’t know how to do things, or that they need this outside help. It’s that their voices aren’t being listened to.”

So through their company, Sixth World Solutions, the pair is working with residents. They helped install off-grid water filtration systems on four homes. These solar-powered systems provide clean water and some power.

“We’re able to provide electricity for lights at night and then also charging cell phones, charging USB-type things,” Collymore says.

The systems were developed at the University of Arizona, and people from the reservation were trained how to install and use them.

Now the team is gathering feedback on the systems and will incorporate it before installing more.

So long term, the approach could help bring more clean water and clean power to the Navajo Nation.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media