Live Mic: He started a relief program and now he’s a ‘Guardian of the Year’

Dec 15, 2020, 6:16 PM
Guardians of the Year...
ete Sands, Utah Navajo COVID-19 Relief program project manager, delivers wood to an elder in Oljato-Monument Valley, San Juan County, on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. The Navajo Nation has one of the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rates in the country. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- The frontline healthcare workers deserve a round of applause for their work during the year of the pandemic. 

Or as TIME magazine so eloquently worded it:

“Guardians put themselves on the line to defend the ideals sacred to democracy. In 2020, they fought on many fronts. On the front line against COVID-19, the world’s health-care workers displayed the best of humanity—selflessness, compassion, stamina, courage—while protecting as much of it as they could. By risking their lives every day for the strangers who arrived at their workplace, they made conspicuous a foundational principle of both medicine and democracy: equality. By their example, health-care workers this year guarded more than lives.”

Pete Sands created the Utah Navajo Health System’s COVID-19 Relief Program in February in Montezuma Creek, Utah, where he grew up.

Sands was then named one of Time’s “Guardians of the Year” and joined Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to talk about how his program became a reality.

Facing challenges on the reservation

Before the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the United States, Sands told TIME magazine in May, “there was just something that kind of spoke inside all of us saying, “this (the coronavirus) is going to come here.’”

By May, the Navajo Nation had surpassed New York for the highest case rate in the US.

On the Navajo reservation, many households suffered because they don’t have electricity or running water.

“What type of aid do you offer those who are in need? What is the nature of the program?” Lee asked Sands.

“We have people down here who are out of jobs. People here who don’t have any source of income. People who need food. People who need firewood. People who need water because water is something that’s already very scarce here on the reservation. When people are told they have to wash their hands for 15 to 20 seconds that takes away from the water they have stored in barrels in their homes because there’s no running water,” Sands said.

He said another challenge is delivering food and water to people who live in rural, remote places on the reservation. This area is mainly comprising parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah on about 27,000 square miles or approximately the size of West Virginia.

“Those are the kind of issues we face down here. We have to figure out ways to work around that. We try to help these people by implementing portable handwashing stations . . . A lot of people have trouble with transportation. . . . We here at the relief program were able to give out food to people. We were able to get out food drives every week.  . . . And that’s what we continue to do.”

“That’s admirable. It’s incredible stuff you’re doing. I am inspired just hearing you describe this,” Lee said.

Guardian to be praised

Sands said he was “honored being from such a small town” to have been chosen as one of TIME’s Guardians of the Year.

“Our (Utah Navajo Health System’s COVID-19 Relief) program has reached well beyond our borders into the rest of the country,” he said. “It’s a testament to everybody here who works together day-to-day to make this whole thing operate. It’s just amazing. . . . It’s a high honor. It speaks for how a community or people can start something just out of instinct, just wanting to help people, and people can gather around that idea, and it can inspire.”

Lee asked Sands what advice he would give to others who want to reach out and help others.

“Start out small. Start in your community and help out your neighborhood. How I started was helping my little hometown, and it the just grew from there. Little acts of kindness and gratitude and benevolence are something that goes a long way,” he said.


In his own words, Pete Sands tells his story in TIME: “People talk about grassroots—I mean, this is pure grassroots.”

Deseret News reporter Amy Donaldson travels to Monument Creek to talk to Pete Sands about winning his award: “I thought, ‘That guy looks like me!’”

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Elizabeth Weiler

Utahns found wallet in a wall from 1970, looking to reunite with owner

After a local restoration company was called to remediate an emergency, they began tearing down walls, leading to a wallet found in the insulation. 
17 hours ago
#twitterdown twitter badges shown...
Samantha Herrera

#TwitterDown trends earlier as users experienced difficulties posting

Users across the word are reporting an error code that claims their account has reached the daily limit for tweeting.
17 hours ago
george santos is pictured amongst other lawmakers, he and romney have been exchanging harsh words...
Samantha Herrera

GOP on GOP: Romney scolds Santos, ‘You don’t belong here’

Santos' presence at the center aisle to see and be seen with the arrivals was met with a stern rebuke from a fellow Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney.
17 hours ago
Follow @amandadickson...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: 6 thoughts we have before we call in sick to work

We all have those thoughts before we call in sick. From the paranoid to the considerate, here are some thoughts about making that call.
17 hours ago
Tom Haraldsen

All-Star fans! Oreo cookie wants to upgrade your NBA All-Star party!

NBA fans can add a little extra swagger to their All-Star Game party here in Salt Lake City, with just 10 more days until tip off.
17 hours ago
utah capitol pictured, a new bill about teacher salary has been filed...
Lindsay Aerts

Bill introduced to keep teacher salary increases on pace with inflation

A companion to the school choice bill that was recently made into law seeks to allow teacher salary increases to be adjusted to keep up with inflation.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Live Mic: He started a relief program and now he’s a ‘Guardian of the Year’