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 Johnson, 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.
Labor Camp Visits
Clothing and Shower Bags Distribution