Through 2016 the ministry has continued its mission to provide direct services, advocacy, education and sacramental care to nearly 3,500 farmworkers in the NC counties of Johnston, Harnett and Sampson.
As our mission describes:
Episcopal Farmworker Ministry responds to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of farmworkers and their families, and actively supports opportunities for them to become self-directive. We seek to minister to farmworkers in three principal ways:
- through direct services
- through development and support of programs that work towards the empowerment of farmworkers and increases the level of interaction between farmworkers and the public
- through farmworker leadership development, advocacy, and education aimed toward a systematic change of agricultural policy at local and state levels.
As every year we were able to deliver thousands of tailored bags containing several changes of working clothes, pillows, linens, towels, toiletries and other indispensable necessities to our brothers and sisters farmworkers. A major development this year was the acquisition of a new (used) store building to store and organize donations. Thanks to a generous grant from the NC Episcopal Church Foundation, we were able to purchase a 24 x 36 foot mobile unit that provides plenty of space, electricity and air conditioning so volunteers can work in proper conditions.
More importantly, this allowed us to recover free space in the ministry offices to house new events in them.
Generous donations coming from Churches and individuals throughout the two dioceses have been incredible in quantity and timing this year allowing us to keep a steady delivery of working clothes throughout the year as farmworkers come for the seasonal work on the fields.
We recognize the work of Mrs. Norma Panuco and the group of volunteers under her leadership that sorted and prepared all these donations for distribution.
Thanks to the Interfaith Food Shuttle’s donation of food and to donations from other churches, we were also able to feed close to 4,000 individuals when work is low.
For a second consecutive year we conducted Two Affordable Care Act enrollment sessions at the ministry exclusively for farmworkers in collaboration with Enroll America, NC Farmworkers Project, CommWell and Goshen Medical Centers. As much as 70 farmworkers enrolled in these sessions securing affordable health insurance for the season.
We are collaborating with many organizations in the areas of legal aid, taxes, health and education, as well as with churches from other denominations, to extend the scope of the ministry. This allowed us to offer valuable services to the farmworkers like free hair styling on Sundays, help filling taxes, workshops and referrals. Also we offered through the year several health fairs and free checkups on the ministry grounds thanks to our collaboration with NC Farmworker Project, NC Farmworker Health and Campbell University.
Following our principle of empowering farmworkers, English as a Second Language classes are offered weekly to help the farmworker adjust to life in North Carolina. The more a farmworker can fit into our society, the more adjusted emotionally the farmworker will be. This year, with the collaboration of the Triangle Literacy Center of Dunn, we were able to offer a new class on Tuesdays nights with the attendance of 9 people thank you to the generous donation of their time of two teachers. We are in desperate need of more ESL teachers for next year !!
Starting in 2015, the Ministry initiated organized meetings between board members and farmworker leaders to learn first-hand in which other ways we could empower farmworkers and serve them better. With funding from Hispanic in Philanthropy (HIP), EFwM was able to establish in 2016 a Farmworker Advisory Committee to include the voice of the farmworkers in EFwM’s decision-making. As a result of these conversations we were able to discover new specific ways to help the farmworkers.
One of the initiatives led to the “water on the fields” project that allowed us to distribute near to 500 water bottle holders enabling farmworkers to have access to extra water in the tobacco fields during the hottest working months of the year.
Another led to a wide distribution among farmworkers of close to 1,000 high quality durable work gloves to wear while working with tobacco and sweet potato. Farmworkers are out in the middle of nowhere where retail options are scarce; their transportation options are quite limited. Any gloves available for purchase locally are poor quality and ill-suited for hard farm work. This project was possible again to a wonderful collaborative effort among different churches: St. Peter’s and Holly Comforter in Charlotte, several individual donors and a grant from ABC sales, Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill.
We are very excited about these conversations as the farmworkers are having more voice into shaping the future programs that the Farmworker Ministry will be offering.
Farmworker families have benefitted this year of a new program that offered a combination of active play days for the children and workshops for the adults aiming to educate and empower farmworker children and their families to make choices that increase positive health behaviors. For this program we counted with the amazing collaboration of Trinity Episcopal Church from Fuquay-Varina and the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education in Raleigh. Included with this program we had a visit to the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh and a wonderful Geology-themed hiking at the neighbor Raven Rock State Park.
This was the year of our 26th annual farmworker festival that was a big success thank you to the cooperation of approximately 150 volunteers that donated their time, work and smiles. An estimated 2,000 people danced and enjoyed Latino cuisine (Mexican barbeque, beans and rice) and hotdogs. An all-day soccer tournament allowed workers from 17 different camps to kick their way to victory, and the many children present were entertained by church volunteers in a variety of games, face painting, and bouncing houses. This important event is a one single day of Appreciative Thanksgiving for the farmworkers’ hard work during the year.
We are very proud of our Visitor’s Program. Every year provides an opportunity of a life-time for youth (and also adults) to stay on-site at the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry and visit the camps to see first-hand the living conditions of the farmworker. The youth visits to camps are an emotionally uplifting experience for the farmworkers every time as it overrides isolation and break the daily routine. But this is a double inspiring program as the visiting youths are often transformed by this direct contact with the very people that harvest the food that feed us all, discovering another brother or sister embodied in a different life circumstances and culture. During 2016, we had around 20 visits during the year with members from eight churches, two schools, students from five different colleges (including St. Augustine, UNC-CH, Duke and Georgetown University (Washington D.C.)) and the presence of youth groups from two ECM, adding to a total of close to 200 participants.
The ministry has two Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited staff members that provide invaluable immigration assistance to the public. In the past year, more than 1,200 clients have been assisted with immigration issues. We also conduct monthly citizenship workshops.
The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry also provides spiritual support to many. At “La Sagrada Familia”, Father Tony, conducts its church service in Spanish at the ministry each Sunday at noon; several dozen are in attendance during the winter months, but approximately 400 to 500 people participate each Sunday from April through September. There are also church services held at San Jose, Smithfield and St. Francis, Goldsboro as part of the ministry’s outreach.
This year the hurricane Matthew passed over NC affecting the lives of farmworkers and no farmworkers equally. For many farmworkers, however, Matthew was especially hard. The sweet potato crop was ready to be harvested when the flooding from Hurricane Matthew occurred. Because of the flooding, half of the sweet potatoes rotted in the field making the farmworkers unable to work and support themselves and their families. For many, flooding from Hurricane Matthew not only destroyed the mobile homes in which they live, but also all of their possessions.
Farmworkers do not have safety net; they support themselves through daily work. Thanks to the quick response and generous donations of food, clothing and money from Churches from both Episcopal Dioceses (NC and East NC), the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry was able to provide first needs items to more than 130 affected families as well as many H2A farmworkers in the area of Harnett, Sampson and Johnston Counties. Monetary donations have and still are allowing many families to recover from this disaster.
We at the ministry are extremely Thankful for your generous response and Christian Solidarity in the face of brothers’ and sisters’ adversity.
The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry offers immigration assistance to low income families who cannot afford to pay an attorney for immigration services. Immigration assistance provided by EFwM includes obtaining and renewing permanent residence, employment authorization documents, citizenship and other immigration services. Obtaining and maintaining current their legal immigration status allows immigrants to live and work in the United States without fear of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to comply with the law.
For more information please contact our BIA Accredited Immigration Specialist, Maria Acosta at: 910-567-6917
Farmworkers and local residents gather every Sunday at noon to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in La Sagrada Familia.
Sunday is not only a day of worship but also a day of community. Many farmworkers from camps in which they are usually isolated have the opportunity to interact with other farmworkers in a relaxed environment with access to food and to several services provided.
ESL classes are offered from 10:30AM to 11:30AM, and transportation is provided. In collaboration with volunteers from Johnston Community College’s School of Cosmetology, we are able to offer free haircuts to farmworkers. In addition, throughout the year, we carry out on Sundays several events and workshops of interest for the farmworker community: “medical insurance enrollment events”, Free Health Fairs- checkups, educational workshops (financial education, Pesticides and Heat illness prevention). We started this year a trial service that allows farmworkers to cash checks and send money on site on Sundays.
These services wouldn’t be possible without the assistance and collaboration of many valuable partner organizations like NC Farmworkers Project, NC Farmworker Health, Campbell University, Enroll America, NC Latino Community Credit Union.
Many seasonal and migrant Latino farmworkers do not have adequate or basic English language skills. This language barrier prevents farmworkers from effectively communicating with their employer and/or the general English speaking population. Furthermore, irregular work schedules (often 10-12 hour days), lack of transportation, and isolation make it difficult for farmworkers to take advantage of ESL classes offered at local community colleges.
Because of this, we offer ESL classes twice a week on Thursdays (6:30PM to 8:00PM) and Sundays (10:30AM-11:30AM). Classes are open also to non-English speaking members of the wider community, not just farmworkers.
Benefits of ESL classes include:
- Improved ability to speak with medical providers, increasing a patient’s chance of proper care and understanding treatment protocol.
- Enabling parents to be more involved in their children’s education and promoting better communication between parents and teachers.
- Greater confidence in communicating with English speakers, increasing the chance of integration with the wider community.
This program is possible thanks to the generous donation of time and talents of so many volunteers that help us as teachers, with planning, or with economic and materials donations; and also thanks to the collaboration of Triangle South Literacy Works in Dunn.
Please contact the Program Coordinator for further information or if you want to volunteer.
The Ministry often provides transportation to farmworkers without vehicles of their own. This allows the farmworkers accessibility to the Ministry to and from the camps. Transportation is also provided for medical and immigration appointments, DMV visits, cashing checks, and airport pick-ups and drop-offs when needed during the season for an emergency or at the end of the season when farmworkers return home.
Agricultural work still falls under the 5 worse paid jobs category with an average individual income of $15,000 to $18,000. According to NWAS (National Agricultural Workers Survey 2013-2014)* approx. 1/3rd of the farmworkers have family incomes below poverty. Food distribution through the ministry serves a very important function for the farmworker community of the area.
The first Saturday of every month thanks to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s donation of food (foodshuttle.org) and to donations from other churches, we are able to feed close to 4,000 individuals per year when work is low. In 2016 we distributed more than 105,000 pounds of food this way.
This program could not exist without the inestimable help of volunteers. Jon Showalter and his family, members of Church of the Nativity in Raleigh, North Carolina, have for more than a decade driven the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle some 40 miles to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. In addition, a wonderful group of volunteers from “La Sagrada Familia”, allows a smooth and efficient distribution of the food.
Another source of food is through occasional donations of pantry food (non-perishable, cans, rice, beans…). This food is donated by churches or other groups earmarked to be distributed to seasonal and migrant farmworkers in times of need and to H2A workers. It only amounts for a small fraction of the volume of food distributed through Inter-faith Food, but it’s a big help in times of need or low work hours periods.
Labor Camp Visits
We are very proud of our Visitor’s Program. Every year provides an opportunity of a life-time experience for youth (and also adults) to stay on-site at the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry and visit the camps to see first-hand the living conditions of the farmworkers.
The youth visits to camps are an emotionally uplifting experience for the farmworkers every time as it overrides isolation and break the daily routine. But this is a double inspiring program as the visiting youths are often transformed by this direct contact with the very people that harvest our food, showing the difficult conditions in which many farmworkers live, and encouraging introspective thought. It is all about creating a connection between the food on our plate and the human face that helped harvest it, discovering another brother or sister embodied in a different life circumstances and culture.
During 2016, we had around 20 visits during the year with members from eight churches, two schools, students from five different colleges (including St. Augustine, UNC-CH, Duke and Georgetown University (Washington D.C.)) and the presence of youth groups from two ECM, adding to a total of close to 200 participants.
The visit has been described as a unique experience. Read a first-hand account here Farmworker Immersion Experience Groups of 15 to 75 people have taken part in the program, some choosing to do a weekend stay while others elect a weekday option.
Visiting groups stay at EFwM facilities, where they can sleep, cook, play, etc. They really are welcomed to feel right at home.
A donation from visiting groups is requested in order to help us pay for church facility costs.
Clothing and Toiletry Kits
Farmwork is a hard work. Clothes are quickly damaged in the fields and covered in dirt and pesticides and should be washed every day usually not in the best conditions. Similarly, the importance of personal hygiene after a working day in these conditions is of paramount importance to keep the body healthy and free of skin conditions. Farmworkers come to NC with a minimum baggage to stay for 6 to 9 months. Every year we are able to deliver hundreds of tailored bags containing several changes of working clothes, pillows, linens, towels, toiletries and other indispensable necessities to our brothers and sisters farmworkers.
Generous donations from churches and individuals throughout the two dioceses allow us to keep a steady delivery of working clothes throughout the year as farmworkers come for seasonal work in the fields.
However this year, donations were somehow reduced and we weren’t able to serve many farmworkers that came later in the season. Our store has been empty of pants and shirts for more than a month and a half at the end of the summer, limiting us from delivering this important service.
If you are interested in donating items or start a new “clothing drive” at your organization, please contact the Program Coordinator or visit the “Get Involved” section
A major development in 2016 was the acquisition of a new (used) store building to store and organize donations. Thanks to a generous grant from the NC Episcopal Church Foundation, we were able to purchase a 24 x 36 foot mobile unit that provides plenty of space, electricity and air conditioning so volunteers can work in proper conditions.
More importantly, this allowed us to recover free space in the ministry offices to house new events in them.
We recognize the work of Mrs. Norma Panuco, her family and the group of volunteers under her leadership that sorted and prepared all these donations for distribution year long.