Yesterday, AFOP’s Washington, D.C. staff had the opportunity to travel to Delaware’s Eastern Shore to see one of our SAFE AmeriCorps trainers in action. The farmworkers got really into it when Dina, our excellent SAFE AmeriCorps member, started enthusiastically handing out prizes. “How can you prevent heat stress?” she asked in Spanish. “Wear light-colored clothing,” one farmworker bellowed from the crowd. “Water,” a woman added quietly from the back. “Yeah, water!” other farmworkers agreed.
We were standing in the shade of a big tree in a pepper field located near Delmar, Delaware. Around 18 farmworkers received their Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and heat stress prevention trainings during this visit. A couple of them had received the training before, but a vast majority were hearing this information for the very first time. The trainings covered a variety of pesticide and heat-related health information in an interactive and culturally sensitive way, including: when it is safe to enter a field that has been sprayed with pesticides; how to prevent pesticide residue from entering your home and harming your children; and how to recognize heat stress (and what to do about it). Things that are not just important to know, but can truly save lives.
That was actually our second stop of the day. In the morning we spent time at a labor camp where farmworkers who are harvesting tomatoes in the area are living. We met men, women, and children who were all eager to participate in heat stress training. As we were packing up to go to our next destination, a group of women and children approached us. “Oh no, we missed the training,” they said. Dina did not hesitate, ran back to her car, and decided to do a LEAF (Limiting Exposure Around Families) and Sol training for those who had just missed out. Carlos, a four-year-old was with his mother, eagerly shouted out answers to the trainer’s questions. “Water!!!” he would scream when our SAFE AmeriCorps member asked his mother how to prevent heat stress.
The harvesting season won’t continue for much longer on the Eastern Shore and many of the migrant workers will continue on to other farms in the United States to make a living. It’s wonderful to see that Dina, our SAFE AmeriCorps member on the Eastern Shore, has been able to form great partnerships with growers, supervisors, and crew leaders over the last few months—she has reached over 1,168 farmworkers just this year! When the season starts again next year, we take comfort in knowing that at least that many farmworkers will have been provided with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe as they work preparing and harvesting our nation’s food. And, for those who haven’t, someone will be there to get into those fields and do as many trainings as possible to continue spreading this life-saving information.