National Farmworker Awareness Week is a time to increase awareness on both the difficult conditions farmworkers live and work under, and of what is being done by advocates to help improve their lives.
This year’s National Farmworker Awareness Week was especially important for farmworker families. At this moment, there are very important policies in the works that could improve the lives of farmworkers, such as the long-overdue proposed revisions to the hazardous orders for agriculture. These child safety rules will keep young children from performing the most dangerous jobs on farms, including handling pesticides and working in grain silos, which has claimed the lives of many young workers.
At AFOP, we have programs to help farmworker families overcome many of their biggest challenges today, such as our Health & Safety Programs and our job training programs. AFOP goes deeper into the issues by empowering the farmworker families they serve, including farmworker children. For AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign, the focus is not just on what is being done for farmworkers to improve their lives, but also how our youth are leading us to the cultural changes needed to improve the lives of other kids like themselves.
As a former farmworker child, my family and I were helped by the services AFOP members provide to farmworker families. But AFOP did much more than that — they helped me break the generational cycle of poverty my family was trapped in. They taught me computer skills, gave me the tutoring I needed to graduate from high school, trained and placed me in a job that helped me pay for college, and something nobody else had ever done: they made me feel like I mattered. They made me see my potential; they helped me believe I could be more than just another farmworker statistic. They helped me find my voice and enabled me to share my story with others who didn’t understand the barriers farmworker children face every day that keep them from getting their education. They empowered me and it is because of their support and confidence in my abilities that I became the fierce advocate for farmworker children’s rights I am today.
As the Director of the Children in the Fields Campaign, I am committed to helping the next generation of leaders in the farmworker community. Along with the help of dedicated staff, the Children in the Fields Campaign is encouraging farmworker youth and working to amplify their voices. We are especially excited for the enthusiasm we have seen in the youth. Although shy at first, once the kids are speaking, they share incredible stories of defeat and triumph. They have a contagious determination to change the world so other kids don’t have to continue in the generational poverty they were born into. The Children in the Fields Campaign youth council activities that took place this week gave local farmworker youth the opportunity to build their leadership skills and share their testimonies. We will be doing that again at the national level next month at our child labor conference, Youth Voices in Action.
Our youth need us to believe in them. They have the potential to be the next Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, or even the next President Barack Obama. Join the Children in the Fields Campaign in supporting these amazing youth and find programs in your area that support farmworker children. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of these vulnerable children.