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