Some Thoughts from the Migrant Farmworkers Project

Mild temperatures and abundant rainfall are making this a beautiful fall season to celebrate our 26th year working with Missouri’s migrant farmworkers and their families. In contrast there are hot, dry falls that make working conditions miserable, and years in which the lack of fruit does not provide enough work.

However, throughout the abundance and the scarcity, the Migrant Farmworkers Project (MFP) staff has been there to assist with meeting the health care, educational and emergency needs of the migrant workers and family members and the year-round orchard families who live and work in Lafayette County, about one hour east of Kansas City.

MFP staff ponders the conditions and trials that these families face daily:

-They think about the children who live in the orchard housing camps, hidden inside the trees, no closet for their toys or clothes, a shared bunk bed, walking the long dirt road up to the highway for the school bus…always smiling, happy to see us coming to pick them up.

-They wonder what Yessenia and Miriam are learning in this second month of college?

-They picture the six little 1st graders and their teachers at Santa Fe Elementary School. What are they doing? They muse that we have a “Mexican take-over” in the making in the small first grade at Waverly.

-They are concerned about “Paco”, the 5th grader in Lexington who would be in 6th grade in Mexico, but just arrived from Mexico and speaks no English at all. Will the school agree with our idea to put him into the 6th grade math class? Will Paco continue to come to MFP tutoring every week?

-They worry about Fernando who is nine years old and doesn’t know the alphabet. Will the doctors at the behavioral medicine clinic find something to help us understand how to better advocate for him?

-They think of the kids who do not ever participate in any of their school’s after-school bands, sports, or debate club because they will miss the bus home or they were not here when it was time to sign up, or they need to go to work for the last 2 or 3 hours at the packing shed to help their family’s finances.

-They speculate which children will not be there when they go to pick them up for tutoring. Families are frequently given very short notice by their crew leader when it is time to leave. So there are no goodbyes, just hopes that they will be safe and return next year.

The faded passage from Hebrews (13:1-3) on the office wall at Legal Aid reminds us that we must:

“Continue to love each other like brothers and sisters, and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

We at the Migrant Farmworkers Project work to provide services to an unnoticed segment of our society that provides so much to our food supply and culture, and yet is often ignored.  And we are very grateful to the numerous volunteers and agencies that have worked with us nearly three decades to improve the lives of the migrant farmworkers.

Charlene Sims

Project Development Writer

Migrant Farmworkers Project

Suzanne Gladney

Managing Attorney

Migrant Farmworkers Project

How You Can Help… Sunday, December 6, 1-5 p.m.

The Migrant Farmworkers Project invites everyone to mark this anniversary and the holiday season with us. On Sunday, December 6, 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 the sales made from 1 to 5 p.m. that day. We will use the proceeds to support our education and leadership development programs for migrant youth and adults.

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