To honor Farmworker Awareness Week I invited a young farmworker woman to share her story. Eva and I first met in 2012 when she won a seven week, paid internship/fellowship in Washington D.C. Her story begins much the same as many migrant or seasonal farmworkers; nevertheless, Eva’s story is anything but typical. As I know her experiences and thoughts would provide a more powerful testament than anything I could write, providing Eva the opportunity to share her story seemed the right thing to do. Robert Crumley, Director of Communications.
Rogelio, my father and hardworking farmworker made a decision that impacted my life forever. Following the American dream, he immigrated to the United States. My father and mothers purpose for immigrating was to raise their children in a safe community and provide a better future-one that allowed us to thrive in a nation of opportunities. Their dream of opportunities became a reality for me, now I have dreams of my own.
Growing up a farmworker child, I never imagined that I was capable of doing work that would impact the lives of thousands of other farm working children. With the help of my parents I learned the value of education and opportunities. Today, I strive to help others who lack the confidence and opportunity to do great things in life.
One of the greatest opportunities in my life was being an intern with the National Migrant Seasonal Head Start Association. This steppingstone allowed me to have a well-grounded understanding of the legislative process in our government. I learned about the work achieved by Congressional members and Senators from my first-hand experience in Capitol Hill meetings. I took the opportunity to bring issues to our legislative leaders that I am passionate about such as safety for migrant or seasonal farmworkers and their fair representation in our nation.
One of the most unforgettable events during the internship was a trip sponsored by the Association of Farm Workers Opportunities-Children in the Fields Campaign (AFOP).
During our visit with farm working communities in Greensville, North Carolina I witnessed the living conditions in which farm workers live. I saw the fear in their eyes of be being deported, being abused, and working in harsh conditions with no one to turn to for help because of their immigration status. This helped me realize that I was very fortunate to be working on my college degree. I don’t have to live in fear of being deported, being abused, living or working in harsh conditions with no one to turn to. I grew up working potatoes in a seasonal farmworker family and community in Central Washington. I am grateful for my background and am looking forward to using those experiences as I move forward with the opportunities I have been given.
Working conditions are of concern both to farm workers and their advocates. Adequate wages, housing, food, working conditions, access to health care, and the quality of life for their families are just a few. Many farmworkers have no options or hope when it comes to their livelihood. AFOP not only gives hope, but actually provides options. They provide the opportunity and support for farmworkers to learn new job skills and increase their incomes. I chose the college path to reach the American Dream, AFOP provides a different path for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to attain the Dream.
Two years after the internship in Washington D.C. I take what I learned and am helping people on the state level. This year I worked for the Washington State House of Representatives helping my representative conduct legislative research, write legislation, attend committee hearings and legislative meetings, and correspond with constituents. We worked hard to meet with constituents and listen to undocumented students and understand the needed investment in education for undocumented students. It is both rewarding and humbling to serve my community, and witness history being made when the governor signed the Washington Hope Act/Dream Act. It is with great pride that I was part of the bill signing. Between the opportunities these two internships afforded me, I have decided to pursue a political career.
I take great pride in my background and where I come from. Being a farmworker helped me appreciate and be thankful for the opportunities that have come my way. It doesn’t matter where you come from, but rather where you finish.
Evangelina Alvarez, student