Migrant Farmworkers Project update

By Megan Hope

To everything there is a season. We at the Migrant Farmworkers Project found ourselves remembering that in 2007, at the end of the worst Missouri apple harvest in our 24-year history. A severe, late spring freeze destroyed 90 to 95 percent of the corps in the orchards along Highway 24 in Lafayette County (about an hour east of Kansas City), where the farmworker families we serve live and labor. Few workers found sufficient work, and many left early.

Things have turned this year. Some migrants are staying in Missouri longer than usual, and women expect their jobs in apple packing sheds to last until mid-December. Beyond having more families present and finding work, we have numerous small victories to celebrate.

An average of 10 adult farmworkers made heroic efforts to attend twice-weekly English classes after working 12- to 16-hour days in the orchards. Nine migrant kindergarten and grade school students won “Kids With Character” awards at their school.

Seven migrant youth have applied to participate in the challenging outdoor winter program of Aspen Youth Experience (AYE), a prestigious national youth development organization. Other teenagers who participated in two AYE programs during the summer are attending follow-up sessions with our staff to keep them on track with their personal and academic goals. We are in frequent contact with six migrant students in college at the University of Central Missouri, Donnelly College, and Blue River Community College, and one graduate student at Christian Brothers University. And we continue to accompany the parents of Mundito, a young boy with cerebral palsy, and other migrant kids with special needs through a maze of teachers, therapists, and technologies.

To be sure, difficulties persist for the migrant community, even during better seasons. Families claimed bags of supplemental groceries throughout the fall, a testament to the effects of high food and fuel prices. Two weeks ago, a fire destroyed the rundown, former school building that four families had called home for years. All escaped safely, and Lafayette County churches, schools, and other agencies have helped them replace necessities and some funds. Currently all four households are sharing a four-bedroom, two-bathroom, one-kitchen house until something better comes along. The sinking economy will make for a tough winter for farmworkers throughout the country.

***

The Migrant Farmworkers Project invites everyone to mark the upcoming season of holidays with us. On Sunday, December 7, Ten Thousand Villages will host MFP for a Community Benefit Shopping Day. The store, located at 7947 Santa Fe Drive in downtown Overland Park, features beautiful, fairly traded home décor, jewelry, gifts, and more made by artisans in developing countries. MFP will receive 15% of sales made from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. that day. We will use the proceeds to support our education and leadership development programs for migrant youth and adults, about 200 of whom live year-round in Missouri.

For more information about the Migrant Farmworkers Project, please call (816) 474-9868 or write to Megan Hope, Project Development Writer, at immigrantsurvivors@yahoo.com.

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1 Comment »

  1. Massimo Ferrara said

    Hello, my name is Massimo, I would like to do volunteer work to help immigrants. I am a graduate student at the University of Kansas I would like to use my opportunity to do research for my master in International Studies to highlight problems immigrants have to face in this country, especially farm workers. Please write to me if you can help me in any way, thank you, Massimo.

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