National Farmworker Awareness Week is a time for all of us to recognize the challenges faced by the 2.5 million workers on America’s farms. Of those farmworkers, it is estimated between 400,000 and 500,000 are children. AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign is committed to improving the lives of farmworker children and amplifying their stories in our Nation’s Capital.
Many times in the advocacy world, without intending to, the voice of those we represent is lost. The Children in the Fields Campaign believes the best way to advocate for farmworker children is to have them advocate for themselves. Through the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we created farmworker youth councils in the agricultural communities of Texas and North Carolina and worked with them to develop their leadership skills.
Over the years, we have brought farmworker children from all over the country to Washington, D.C. to share their powerful testimonies with top policy leaders. We also gather these stories of their struggles with school, the long days of work in the fields, and the sacrifices they make to help their families put food on the table to help educate the public.
Through AFOP’s annual Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay & Art Contests, we have been able to collect the stories and art works from hundreds of farmworker children from around the country. The contest entries reveal the incredible talent farmworker children possess and their willingness to share how the farmworker experience has shaped their lives. The Child Labor Coalition, of which AFOP is a member, helps promote the contests and select the winning entries each year.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a member of the Child Labor Coalition, has taken its commitment a step further. This year, AFT will be sponsoring the 2013 Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay & Art Contests. Together, AFOP and AFT have selected this year’s contest theme: Cultivating Brighter Futures. All entries will be due on August 2, 2013. Full contest guidelines and entry forms can be found on the Contests webpage.
The selected winners of the contest will win cash prizes to help their families cover educational expenses, such as school supplies and backpacks. Their winning entries will be featured by AFOP on the organization’s website, in its national newsletter the Washington Newsline, and in its educational materials distributed to national policy leaders, media, and the public. Press releases will be distributed to the local papers of the winners to ensure they receive recognition in their communities too. In addition, our national partners typically publicize the winning entries on their websites and through their networks.
Along with the cash prize, all first-prize winners are offered an all-expense paid trip to the AFOP National Conference. The 2013 winners will be joining the AFOP community to receive their awards in Washington, D.C. this September.
In honor of National Farmworker Awareness Week, we ask our partners and allies to help us spread the word about this opportunity, and to encourage farmworker children in their communities to participate in the essay and art contest.
Contest guidelines can be found on our website. For additional information or questions, please contact Norma Flores López, Director of the Children in the Fields Campaign.