Storytelling is an important component to the human experience — to entertain us, to teach us, to keep the spirit of those who came before us alive. To quote Ursula K. Le Guin: “There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”
When it comes to social change, storytelling can be one of the most powerful tools we have. Stories allow us to engage the reader and make a personal connection with them, inspiring them to take action.
The Children in the Fields Campaign has long been an advocate for farmworker children, taking on the important work of uplifting their stories from the fields and bringing them to our Nation’s Capital.
Each year, we host an essay and art contest for farmworker children (link: http://afop.org/children-in-the-fields/connect-with-cif/). Children from farmworker families share their incredible stories from across the country and allow us to showcase the talent that is often hidden within the farmworker community. Children share the stories of their parents’ struggle to grasp on to the American Dream; the hardships faced while working under the hot summer sun with no water in sight; of their dream to one day break the cycle of poverty their family has been trapped in. This year’s contest theme is “From Our Hands to Your Table,” which reminds us of the small hands that sacrifice so much to provide us with the meals we enjoy with our families each day. Our contest winners will receive cash prizes to help them with the expenses of school supplies — something farmworker families struggle with every year and so many families take for granted. Our first prize winners will also enjoy a trip to San Diego to join us for AFOP’s National Conference in September.
In addition to collecting stories nationwide, we have worked directly with youth over the years, empowering them into becoming young leaders in their communities. Some of our most inspiring young activists are in North Carolina with the farmworker group Poder Juvenil Campesino (Link: http://www.ncfield.org/pjc.html). They use photography, Spoken Word poems and interviews with the media as ways to share the realities children in North Carolina’s fields face every day, and work to create a seat at the table of decision makers in their community.
This year, we worked in collaboration with Migrants in Action, Inc. (link: http://www.migrantsinaction.org) to create a Cesar E. Chavez Scholarship, which will be awarded to two outstanding youth from the Texas farmworker community. Both of the youth selected serve as role models to other farmworker youth for their outstanding academic achievement, but most importantly, for working towards improving the lives of their community through volunteer work and sharing their story. More details on the young scholarship recipients will be shared in the coming weeks.
These are just a few examples of how AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign has provided our farmworker youth with the opportunity to speak for themselves. As a former farmworker child myself, it was through the opportunities offered to me by the AFOP community that inspired me to become an advocate for my community. There is something transformative about realizing the power in your words to inspire others to care and to create a movement. I want to create that sense of empowerment for other farmworker children too.
All of our work was inspired and made possible by one of the greatest storytellers of our farmworker community: Cesar E. Chavez. He was able to elevate the struggles of farmworkers to the national stage and bring together families in supporting the efforts of the UFW. For the first time, his story is being told in theaters across the country today (link: http://www.cesarchavezmovie.com). I invite you to close out National Farmworker Awareness Week by taking your family and friends to watch the movie this weekend, so that together we can learn about his legacy and continue the important work he started. ¡Si Se Puede!
Norma Flores, Director of Children in the Fields Campaign