In 2009, Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP) — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — was formed to ensure that Zuni youth would be healthy and prepared to continue the important traditions of the Zuni culture. The inspiration for ZYEP grew from a simple question: “What are you doing this summer?” ZYEP founder and local pediatrician Tom Faber would ask his young patients this question as a lighthearted way of breaking the ice during checkups. The kids’ responses led to the realization that many Zuni kids did not have opportunities to be active and creative over the summer and after school. Inspired by the idea that summers should be a special time for Zuni kids when they explore their lands, learn new things, make new friends, and have fun, a small group of community members planned the first annual ZYEP summer camp in 2009. That first camp was a huge success for kids and adults alike, and it helped instill a belief that together we could contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth.
The results of this early work grew into ZYEP, a nationally recognized, Native-led nonprofit that offers a year-round schedule of fun and meaningful youth programs to more than 800 youth annually, free of charge. In our efforts to support Zuni youth through direct programming, we learned about their need for safe places to be active. To this end, we have worked with our partners to develop 50+ miles of walking/running trails, multiple community gardens sites, and a youth center and park in the heart of Zuni’s main village. Along with our focus to increase access to health promoting spaces, we also work closely with our community partners to implement policies that promote health in a systematic way.