Saturday, March 5, 2016

Continued Work at Amigos

As part of our crowdfunding we committed funds to do some renovation work at the Amigos Center where we stay! In addition to the parking lot resurface project, we helped to update a foot bridge and give a make over to their sign!




A Farm Tour

Yesterday we were also able to tour a Lipman Farm in Estero,Fl. This is a massive operation. What was great is our group was able to take the knowledge from the Fair Food Standards Council presentation and see the fair food program in action! 



Sorry we have taken a small blog break! Our projects got away from us!

Here is some of the work that we have been doing..... Mainly with tar. We are resurfacing the lot at the Amigos center where we are staying. So a decent chunk of time has been devoted to finishing this project. But of course, we made the work fun!

Even some late nights to get this project done!

Teamwork was a MUST

A little bit of tar.... All over ... Don't bother us!

Posing at the end of a great project!






Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Lesson Learned in Hanger- Fair Food Standards Council Presentation

On Wednesday, the middle day of our experience, we gathered for yet another speaker. Honestly, we were tired, we were hungry, and we did not want to listen to another perspective. Even though we had been soaking in all the wonderful fair food program information we could, I know I would have preferred skipping this talk, and I doubt I would have been alone in that action. But when Victor and Lindsay began describing their work, I was immediately intrigued. They, with ten others, run the Fair Food Standards Council, an independent auditing organization that assures farmworkers on Fair Food-participating farms are treated according to standards. They interview over half the employees at every farm, which I guestimate to be around 15,000 people, every growing season (once a year). They make sure workers are treated justly and as the human they undoubtedly are. They personally visit every farm and talk to workers, make sure each worker has a booklet describing their rights, and give them a number to the 24 hour, 7 day a week hotline, which will take any complaint, anytime and solve it within two weeks. They work separately from but in conjunction with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Alliance for Fair Food, United States Department of Agriculture. They work together with only 12 of them to audit the entire Fair Food farms. They work with a mission for justice.

Though this may sound a bit cliché, it really opened my eyes. I think I have been skeptical all this time of migrant farmworkers because everything I had heard about them was negative. Later it became apparent that even if they were not technically supposed to be here, they were still human and doing work no other Americans would. This presentation really showed me how expansive the migrant farmworkers community is and how many groups have come together to try and end the injustice. I never realized the work the farmerworkers do touch the lives of everyone in our community. Furthermore, other industries are copying the Fair Foods Standards Council’s procedures, including diary farmers in Vermont and construction workers in Texas. This made me realize the scope of workers that I have never thought about being treating unfairly. Additionally, the work of the Fair Foods Standards Council also showed me how people can truly care about other people, no matter their race, residency status, or anything else. Seeing people care for other people without judgment makes me want to do something more with my life and makes me realize that each person has their own journey, own struggle, own needs, and own feelings.

-Margo DeGenova, Junior

Working in Immokalee Housing and Family Services


  As I prepared for my travels to Immokalee, Florida, I also prepared to learn about the challenges faced by farmworkers. Though I may have guessed it, I truly had no idea how encompassing the problems of poor working conditions and inadequate pay could be not only for farmworkers, but also for their families and the community as a whole.
            Most farmworkers receive the same pay they would have several decades ago without regard for inflation and the continually rising cost of living. In addition, rents in Immokalee are shockingly high (similar to what is seen in a major city such as Pittsburgh), so farmworkers and their families are forced to live in trailers, often in deplorable conditions, with up to a dozen other people in order to afford such costs.
            I was devastated to hear that such conditions were permitted and ignored in a country that prides itself in its non-wavering commitment to care for those who work hard. However, I was pleased to hear that there are some organizations here in Immokalee attempting to combat these problems of inadequate pay, terrible work conditions, and appallingly high rents. Take, for example, the Immokalee Family Housing Services.
            This living community focuses on providing housing for farmworkers and their families as well as other low-income residents here in Immokalee. Here, I was able to tour homes where families are provided with substantial space and resources to raise their families in a sufficient environment for a reasonable cost.
            However, IHFS is much more than a housing community. While there, I had the pleasure of working with Susan. Susan, who I quickly learned has many roles in this organization, focuses many of her efforts on running an after-school tutoring program for the children in the community. Once one realizes that many parents have incredibly long shifts and are likely not available to assist with homework, it sets in how crucial Susan and the IHFS are.
            With a program such as this, the children have a fighting chance of breaking this cycle of poverty. As so many of us know, education is the key to a successful future and though it’s just a start, programs such as these make it so that these children receive the personal and academic support that all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, so desperately need.

            I had the pleasure and honor of working with these students twice so far this week. As a result of their kindness, humor, and intelligence, I was pleasantly reminded of the students I work with at home in Pittsburgh. Through working with them, I came to a clear conclusion that children everywhere are able to succeed when given the tools that they need. 
- Joy Cannon, Senior

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Little Bit of Everything!

We had a VERY busy day! So busy, that were wasn't much time to post!

After our morning at Habitat for Humanity and Guadalupe Social Services, we felt it was time for a bit of a rest. So we headed to Lake Trafford for lunch, reflection and some sun. I think it is safe to say that we truly embraced this time of relaxation and contemplation after such a busy first few days!

After lunch were able to continue work on our footbridge project at Amigos en Cristo. We also had a tour of RCMA, a non-profit headquartered in Immokalee which provides an abundance of child care services. Everything from headstart, to daycare, to charter schools and more, RCMA looks to support families living and working in Immokalee.

We then were able to end our day with a presentation from Sr. Maureen Kellher. She is an immigration attorney who has lived and worked in Immokalee for over 30 years. I think it is safe to say that everyone in the group was moved and energized by her spirit!
Here are some thoughts from Allison Broaddrick, a senior...

"This evening, we had the pleasure of spending about an hour with Sister Maureen Kellher. She is an Immigration attorney at Legal Aid here in Immokalee. Overall, the experience left me quite inspired. She talked about everything from political asylum to her views on the Catholic faith. It was awesome to hear from a woman who was so passionate and knowledgeable about those she helps. Her nonchalant attitude when describing the cases she tried at the Supreme Court level showed her utter dedication to those on the margins. Her religious dedication was described in the same demeanor. Sister was one of 3 nuns invited to the Synod on the Family this year and described her exciting experience in the Vatican and some of statements she was able to make as a part of the Synod. She stands up for her belief in changes and advancements that she believes need to occur in the Catholic Church and was able to state those desires for change at such a prominent venue. These thoughts and others, such as her beliefs on women’s role and contribution in the Catholic Church, really resonated with me."

In the Thick of it

The groups are already hard at work this morning. Half the students went to a Habitat for Humanity site and are hammering away. While the other half is at Guadalupe Social Services working at the soup kitchen! This groups energy is on point and infectious!