David Haney is a member of the St Paul Catholic Church since 1995 and a member of the Pinellas Support Committee since 2003. Maria McCourt is a NFWM Board Member and Coordinator of the Pinellas Support Committee in Florida.
A Santa Story by David Haney
Maria and I, with the help of many wonderful supporters, contributors, and volunteers, visited some twenty migrant farm worker camps in Plant City and Dover each year providing these workers with food, clothing and Christmas gifts during the long winter months when they have little work and meager pay checks. This year we provided Christmas gifts to nearly 770 children.
One of the many generous contributors during the past two years has been Country Park Trailer Park, a 55+ community located in Clearwater, Florida. Most of these volunteers live up north but fly south to Clearwater during the winter months (Snow Geese). Many of the Country Park residents collected money and graciously provided Christmas Gifts to about 14 migrant families, living at a migrant camp outside of Plant City. A dozen of these Country Park residents and I drove in a convoy to a pre-designated migrant camp, our vehicles loaded with Christmas gifts, food, clothing items, and lots of Christmas cheer. As we arrived, we all got out of our vehicles and donned our red & white Santa hats. We knocked on the door of each of the six trailers, one by one. These individual “Santa’s” provided each family with Christmas gifts for each child, an impressive amount of food, a Christmas card, and some clothing. Then the Country Park volunteers sang “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” before heading out to the next trailer, until all six trailers were visited.
While we were visiting each family in our Santa hats, singing Christmas songs, and delivering the bundles of toys, food and clothing, a small boy came running over to our group from across the street with a letter in his hand. No one knew who he was, running over by himself from a distant trailer. He wasn’t a resident of the trailer park we were visiting but it was difficult to ignore his enthusiasm. The boy, no older that seven years old, handed one of our volunteers a letter and then quickly disappeared back to his parent’s trailer, across the street. The top of the letter had a drawing of Santa Claus, where the little boy colored in Santa’s rose colored cheeks and large red hat. Underneath the Santa drawing were lines where the elementary grade teacher obviously instructed her little students to write a letter to Santa, using their best writing skills.
“Dear Santa Claus, How are you…would like 1….2….3. I like to hav a meshen tomes and two cars and I like three backogans”, signed Rigoberto.
The Farmworker Advocacy Network invites you to a Thanksgiving gathering…
The Harvest of Dignity Campaign Kick-Off!
Who: Farm workers and allies, people of faith, local media, local chefs, and you!
What: The Harvest of Dignity Campaign Kick Off
Luncheon and media event
When: Thurs., Nov. 18th, 12noon-2pm
Where: Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC
Why: To get the word out about the Harvest of Dignity Campaign – a new campaign that demands safe living conditions & working conditions for farm workers, and enforcement of current laws that protect these workers. This is our opportunity to share stories with the press & to share a Thanksgiving meal with farm workers, farm worker-allies and local media!
RSVP by Nov. 11th: We need your support and presence at this event!
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: (828) 273-0927. Leave your name, organization/community affiliation, language preference (Eng./Spn.) and any food restrictions you may have.
NC Farmworkers need your strong support over the coming months to make much critical policy changes for safe workplaces, safe places to live and stronger enforcement of existing laws.
Endorse the campaign
Have you and/or your organization endorsed the campaign? Now, you can endorse Harvest of Dignity on the FAN website! It’s easy and takes 30 seconds… Go to: http://www.ncfan.org/organization/
Host a House Party
Contact your local NFWM staff to get you started. We’ve got party-planning guides, recipes, materials on the campaign and more! Email: email@example.com or call: 919-597-1080
Please consider joining NFWM-NC at one of these great films!
Harvest of Shame and Harvest of Dignity at the NC Latin American Film Festival
Tuesday Nov. 16 | 7-9 pm | UNC Global Education Center
Join NFWM NC along with the NC Council of Churches and local filmmaker Charles Thompson for an extraordinary evening in Greensboro as we premiere the new film Brother Towns / Pueblos Hermanos. Afterwards, Dr. Thompson will answer questions about the film.
Tuesday Nov. 16 | 7-9 pm | Stallings Ballroom – B, Memorial Student Union NC A&T University
The board & staff of NFWM met in Los Angeles the weekend of July 30 & 31, 2010. On the 30th, we traveled north to the area around Arvin and met with farm workers and UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta.
We then went to the edge of a grape vineyard and held a prayer vigil honoring those workers who have died working in the heat of California fields in recent years.
From there we went to Bakersfield, where NFWM President Felix Garza was featured speaker at an Immigration rally on the day that Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill was to go into effect. Before leaving Bakersfield, we had dinner at Believers in Jesus church and heard from several Giumarra workers.
We then traveled back to our conference site, Mt. St, Mary’s College. We were delighted to be joined throughout the weekend by co-founder of the Orange County Interfaith Committee to Aid Farmworkers and former NFWM board member, Jeanne Giordano and her husband Roy.
For more photos of the weekend, click HERE.
By Blake Daniel, Duke Divinity Intern
Yesterday I traveled to a remote farm in north-central North Carolina as part of the National Farm Worker Ministry’s farmworker outreach project. My fellow NFWM workers and I traveled with some ten members of the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to pay a visit to a group of migrant Latino men who have been working in the tobacco fields all summer. Our goal in visiting was one of solidarity. Most of us from NFWM and ERUUF have spent time learning about the lives and hardships of migrant workers in the U.S. and, as such, we were eager to dialogue with and befriend members of this group that so often goes unnoticed.
We spent the better part of the afternoon in fellowship at the workers’ house, which was an aged trailer sitting in solitude amongst acres of tobacco crops. My fellow intern Lauren led us all in introductions and ice-breakers. Members of ERUUF provided a lunch replete with ham, macaroni salad, fresh fruit, and ice-cold Pepsi.
By Blake Daniel, Duke Divinity Intern
I’m always struck by the drive out of Durham and into farm country.
Lauren and I meet up with Rebecca from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and the three of us make the trek to visit farmworker labor camps in rural North Carolina. We leave behind the gothic architecture of Duke University and the exposed brick of downtown Durham to, abruptly, find ourselves immersed in agriculture. As my fellow intern Lauren drives, I look out the window to see classic signs of Americana: red barns with Coke logos painted on the side, American flags flying in front of quaint farmhouses, “Jesus Saves” scrawled on makeshift marquees, and rusted-out Chevys, amongst other detritus, littering the shoulder, all of which seem to reach back into a bygone era. I take in the landscape glowing amber in the setting sun as we suddenly pull off the road and into a gravel parking area. A stray dog ambles by, a rooster crows, and I look up to see a single-wide trailer at the end of the driveway. We’ve reached the farmworker labor camp.
A group from Los Angeles and a group of pastors from Bakersfield traveled to the fields to visit with Giumarra workers.
Students of the Charismatic Renovation of the Pastoral Region of San Gabriel celebrate the Memorial mass in the Cathedral. Several students participated in the mass as eurchristic ministers, ushers, and in the procession. After the mass the students helped with postcards supporting Immigration Reform.
By Blake Daniel, Duke Divinity Intern
We pulled up to the ramshackle farmhouse in the boondocks of North Carolina just as the sun was setting. I took stock of the rural imagery as we parked and got out of the car. This sunset is beautiful, I thought – yet my thoughts quickly ran to the farm workers whom we were preparing to visit: Each sunset merely concludes a day of sweltering summer heat. And what beautiful farmland! But would I like to work this farmland on my hands and knees twelve hours a day, six days a week? Indeed, much of the bucolic setting comes at the expense of unrewarded human labor. I couldn’t help but think, How much of this soil has blood in it?
Thankfully my cascading thoughts were diverted as we padded our way onto the front porch of the house. Both curious and cautious, we knocked on the trim of the screen door and peered through the mesh. A smiling face quickly appeared and greeted us warmly in Spanish. Alex’s disposition changed immediately as she recognized Luis, a farm worker from Veracruz, Mexico with kind eyes and a gentle presence. Luis ushered us inside and introduced us to his two coworkers and housemates, who are also from Veracruz and, like Luis, are working in North Carolina as part of the government’s H2A guest worker program.
For ninety minutes, we – Alex, Lauren, and myself – sat in the front room of this old farmhouse, beneath one exposed lightbulb and amidst stifling humidity, and we told stories. Sometimes our stories were of lighter fare – our thoughts on the World Cup, for instance, or on the awkwardness of learning another language – and sometimes our stories focused on more serious issues, like immigration reform and the recent death of a farm worker friend. Since my Spanish is pretty rusty, I spent most of the time listening.
By Blake Daniel, Duke Divinity Intern
This past Saturday I learned how to build chicken coops. No, not long, industrial chicken coops like you see on poultry farms; rather, chicken coops made from two-by-fours and wire, made to sit comfortably in one’s own back yard.
I learned this as part of a service project we did in Hurdle Mills, NC, at the home of a wonderful Latino farm worker family. Alexandria Jones, my wife Erin, and myself met up with some friends from all over central North Carolina to put our muscles to work building two chicken coops, both of which can hold at least ten chickens and provide meat and eggs for an entire family. While working in the hot sun for several hours was very tiring, the group’s enthusiasm, humor, and desire to serve more than compensated for the hard labor. It was a great opportunity to meet a farm worker family first-hand, to practice Spanish, and to get an inkling of an idea of what life is like for farm workers who work all day, every day, in the hot North Carolina sun.
Forfeiting the usual Saturday sleep-in, Erin and I awoke early to drive to tobacco farm country in Hurdle Mills, NC. We showed up to the farm property, unsure of who exactly we were helping and what condition their home was in. But, as we approached the home, we were greeted in Spanish by Francisca, a young mother of four with a patient, hospitable spirit. She extended a warm welcome and we were promptly invited inside their doublewide trailer to watch Sponge Bob with the kids and drink 7-Up.
As we waited for the rest of our team, Erin and I warmed up our rusty Spanish conversation skills in getting to know Francisca and her kids. Their hospitality and warmth was staggering. Erin sat on the couch and chatted with Gilberto, the youngest son, about “Silly Bands,” while I tried to get a better handle on the family’s life by talking in the kitchen with Francisca. Soon after, the rest of our party arrived, and we began working outside on the family’s two chicken coops.
by Alexandria Jones, NFWM NC Staff
These questions set the stage for ERUUF’s religious education time for youth on June 6, 2010 led by staff and volunteers from the National Farm Worker Ministry. Young ERUFFians participated in two fun and informative hands-on activities to learn about the men, women and kids who’s hard work in the fields brings the fruits and vegetables to our tables each day.
In the heat of the mid-day sun, the kids participated in the “Sweet Potato Challenge” where they suited up in protective gear, dug for sweet potatoes, and raced back to their “family”. The family that was able to dig the most sweet potatoes in the shortest time was awarded the wages that farmworkers would have earned in the fields for the same work. Needless to say, the group was not impressed with their wages and most left the activity feeling decidedly better about their own allowance at home.
Then, the kids divided into “families” again and put together skits which displayed some of the joys and challenges farmworker families go through on a daily basis including waking up early to cook the day’s meals and coming home after a long day of work to wash pesticides from their clothing.
Overall, it was a great day with lots of learning and fun. Thanks ERUUF RE coordinators for inviting NFWM again this year!