Nagi Foundation Unites People And Animals on Salt River Indian Community

Nagi Foundation Unites People And Animals on Salt River Indian Community
5 years, 5 months ago Comments Off on Nagi Foundation Unites People And Animals on Salt River Indian Community
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By Tom Callinan

It was an uplifting and important Thursday morning as Social Venture Partners Arizona presented a $2,500 check to The Nagi Foundation at The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Sheila Iyengar

The Nagi Foundation’s mission is to “restore the sacredness of the Native American community by uniting people and animals. We do this by providing a variety of animal services, educational programs, behavioral health supports, and family resources that coincides with traditional values and core principles of First Nations communities.”

The SVP partners were particularly impressed by Nagi founder Sheila Iyengar’s passion and the organization’ impact – providing more than 100 tons of dog and cat food to the community and free and low cost veterinary care and spay and neuter clinics on the reservation.

For me, the most powerful moment in our visit to Nagi was when Sheila explained that there are less than 7,000 people living on the reservation but based on tribal lands nationally there are one to two dogs per person – more than 10,000.

One factor is that because the Native culture values animal life, owners “dump” unwanted animals on the reservation rather than having them killed.  This misdirected thinking leads to overpopulation and with limited medical resources, unhealthy animals that threaten the community as a whole.

The SVP partners agreed Nagi’s program was unique and narrowly focused and our grant would likely have an impact.  Nagi’s vision is to open a full-service facility that focuses on improving the lives of people and animals by providing a wide range of animal welfare services including veterinary care, emergency medical treatment, shelter, adoption, animal-assisted children’s literacy and behaviorial training.  The center will also support families, children and youth through a variety of educational programs.

As an indigenous woman leading the foundation, Sheila believes it is her duty to “give back to the First Nation communities so the community is strengthened and that young people who are facing difficult times can have the support they need to persevere and ultimately find a direction for their lives.”

“The SVP committee found the Nagi Foundation is helping to create an infrastructure within the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community that will impact community members for years to come,” said Suzanne Durkin-Bighorn, Partnership and Engagement Manager for SVP.

The Nagi Foundation does great work and the grant was well-deserved.  But for four newcomers to SVP Arizona  who participated in the “SVP 101” initiative, it was not an easy task as we considered three Phoenix area nonprofits.  Partners Laura Armstrong, Linda Bair, Tom Callinan and Maura Goldsberry conducted research and visits to Nagi and two other nonprofits, Support My Club and Cancer Support Community of Arizona before making their decision on the grant.

The Cancer Support Community’s mission “is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. We were fortunate to tour its historic home in Central Phoenix, where it provides support services, healthy lifestyle activities and social connections for those living with cancer and their families.

Support My Club’s mission: Supporting students on their path to graduation by engaging communities to fulfill the needs of school clubs and teams.  We spent a high-energy morning at this innovative nonprofit, which hosts an easy-to-navigate web site where donors can select clubs and schools to support at a variety of levels,

We selected The Nagi Foundation because it was apparent that this modest investment would make an impact on the work they do.

The selection discussion focused on SVP’s mission to “cultivate effective philanthropists, strengthen nonprofits, and invest in collaborative solutions building powerful relationships to tackle our desert community’s social challenges.

If you would like to contribute to The Nagi Foundation or volunteer, please contact


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