“The best way to honor his [Cesar Chavez] memory is to keep his work going. Your training here is the best birthday present he could have!” –Paul Chavez, son of Cesar Chavez and president of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation at the AmeriCorps swearing in ceremony
As we begin preparations to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day on March 31, I am reminded of the amazing experience AFOP’s Health and Safety Team had with our SAFE AmeriCorps group (Serving America’s Farmworkers Everywhere) at the National Chavez Center in Keene, CA. Every year the SAFE AmeriCorps Program deploys around 28 full-time and part-time members into agricultural communities from Maine to California, reaching thousands of farmworkers and their families.
Throughout the week, the Health and Safety Team trained 18 full-time AmeriCorps members from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maryland, and North Carolina. The members will return to their home states and provide presentations in pesticide safety, take home exposure, and heat stress prevention to farmworkers and their families. They will also participate in a variety of community service activities such as volunteering for food banks, clothing drives, various health outreach, tutoring, and youth mentoring programs.
The National Chavez Center was the perfect backdrop for the training. Cesar Chavez, his family, and his supporters lived on this sprawling piece of land nestled in California’s central valley. Paul Chavez, Cesar Chavez’ son, was kind enough to give us a tour of the grounds and speak at the SAFE AmeriCorps swearing in ceremony on the last day of the training. He encouraged the members, saying, “we should be thankful for the opportunity to help people. Never lose patience! Never get tired!”
By the time the graduation ceremony rolls around, SAFE AmeriCorps members will have given 38,000 hours of their time and served over 20,000 farmworkers and their families. Paul Chavez ended his speech during the swearing in ceremony with “we are honored to have you here. You help us remember the fight- you are an inspiration.” Here at AFOP, we are also honored to have such bright, passionate, and motivated individuals on the side of farmworkers. They are truly an inspiration. As you celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, I hope you keep his work and our SAFE AmeriCorps members in mind.
The fight to protect farmworkers has come a long way, but our work is far from over! For more information on how you can become a SAFE AmeriCorps member, please contact Melanie Forti via email at Forti@afop.org