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Monthly Report: May & June 2021

Programmatic Update

Agricultural workers in the onion field in Southeast Colorado.
Agricultural workers in the onion field in Southeast CO.

The Promotora Network had some turbulence with changes to the regional teams, but the network remains at 75 outreach leaders. Of the 14,500 conversations during these months, 10,500 were with agricultural workers and 16% were new relationships. New relationships are most frequently created during in-person outreach to local establishments, residences, and worksites (63%) as opposed to calling, texting, and social media.

In May and June, promotores increased their contact with: H-2A; migrant; and seasonal workers, some of whom move with the crops and travel light. This increased presence has been reflected in our outreach, the network has provided 477 duffel bags and 690 self-care and hygiene kits to agricultural workers. Equally important, data indicate an increased need for legal service among ag workers, as these referrals increased by 164%: from 554 requests in March and April to 1,464 requests in May and June. The most requested services beyond these were adult education assistance (eg. GED classes, computer classes, English classes) and DMV navigation.

COVID safety still remains a concern for many in these rural regions. Farms, ranches, and food production facilities are still experiencing COVID outbreaks, with 5 outbreaks affecting 33 staff in May and June, 10 of whom worked in an agricultural management company and another 10 at a potato processing plant, both in Yuma County. As such, the Network continues to work toward vaccine equity and access, assisting with 3,189 vaccination appointments during this report period. About 50% of all vaccination appointment assistance includes translation and interpretation. Additionally, promotores have maintained focus on addressing vaccine hesitancy.

The Network encountered a challenge with food security assistance in June when the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) ended. This program offered funding to farmers to provide US grown produce, meat, and dairy products for food boxes that are distributed to people in need. Originally, the Network had been utilizing these pre-made boxes to assist agricultural communities battling food apartheid. However, the end of the CFAP program drastically altered the logistics of getting food to our families and neighbors. Faced with this challenge the network approached this creatively and activated various partnerships, such as with the East Denver Food Hub and Valley Roots Food Hub, to still bring 100,000+ pounds of food to agricultural workers, their families, and neighbors during May and June. Additionally, the Network collectively made over 3,000 referrals to pantries and SNAP, 75% of which were for agricultural workers.

Regional Highlights: May & June

Summertime is the height of farming season, which also means the on-the-ground work is both nuanced by region and richly detailed. To give each region and their work the attention it deserves, this report highlights three regions (North subregions 1 and 3, and Southeast region) while the next report (July and August) will highlight the remaining ones.

North 1 Highlight

The North 1 region organized events involving dozens of individuals throughout May and June. These events often focused on ensuring that those agricultural workers who had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine were given a second. These efforts were decidedly multi-stepped: promotores needed to electronically contact numerous people, answering questions through text-messages or phone calls and helping to arrange and publicize the events. The promotores team would then help to manage the event during the time, seeing numerous community members while handling unexpected barriers in order to provide this support. The barriers faced by North 1’s promotores during these events is summed well by an excerpt from Maria Perez:

“Algunas personas no recibieron su primera dosis porque tenian el covid algunos no asistiran poque tuvieron que salir de emergencia del pais,otros piden que se les ofresca agua mientras esperan por su vacuna,otros dicen que si les van a poner un chip en la vacuna por todo lo que se dice en las redesign sociales.”
[Some people did not receive their first dose because they had the covid, some will not attend because they had to leave the country in an emergency, others ask that they be offered water while they wait for their vaccine, others say that if they are going to put a chip in the vaccine for everything that is said on social networks.]

(North 1, May 2021 [7404])

This quote highlights the “outreach-within-outreach” that the Network is often engaged in; while calling to remind her community about their second COVID vaccination, Maria gave support on numerous issues, including rearranging vaccination support for those who had since contracted the virus. Additionally, it shows the level of knowledge and trust from the community the promotores must wield in order to combat resistance to vaccination.

Throughout the previous months, North 1 has built and maintained relationships with community organizations that have helped secure the Network’s continued mission within the region and despite the prevalence of event focused outreach, individual work continues. One event in May focused on supporting a sick individual who’s only work was sewing clothes. This person could not find work or walk, and the promotores worked to obtain a wheelchair for them. This is more than a “feel-good story”, it exemplifies the sort of varied work the Network is capable of achieving. Through May and June, North 1 continued to prove that this team of dedicated individuals is capable of support on both large and small scales.

North 3 Highlight

North 3 has strong roots in the community that help bring out issues that may otherwise go unnoticed or unaddressed. Open avenues of communication and accountability have earned this region continued trust from their community, shown when Dolores del Campo and her team became aware of a domestic violence issue in the region. The story, excerpted following, details the sources of the region’s power: strength in numbers, connections to ally organizations and faith from individuals that trust the Network to help. Were it not for these sources and the cultivated trust the community has, it is unclear whether such a devastating issue would have been raised.

"At [an] event, a man came for a family [in attendance] and took them away from the event. We talked with the wife and she told us that he did not hit them, he only yelled at them and controlled them. That night, about 9:00 pm, one of the young people who attended the event spoke to me by phone to [report disturbances in the home]. I told him to hang up and talk to the police. He was scared but it also showed us that our people are trusting us more."

(North 3, June 2021, [RO_id 164])

The trust that North 3’s team has cultivated in the community is commendable and warranted. Reporting domestic violence is a difficult task, and that a member of the community chose to trust Dolores and her team to help is notable. Since the event in question, the support this team of promotores provided has resulted in safer communities where those threatened by domestic violence are supported. Too often survivors without support flee, leaving their homes in order to stay safe. With the Network’s continued efforts, this paradigm is shifted, the survivor receives the help needed to stay and the support needed to thrive.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, North 3 has worked to provide numerous and multifaceted support to their communities. The region continues to do so; working to vaccinate larger and larger numbers, provide food access, and help to organize community festivals. This participation in the region has earned the Network a place of trust that, if fostered by the sort of continued assistance shown above, will only continue to grow.

Southeast Highlight

This region continues to win the fight against a pervasive lack of knowledge concerning vaccination and COVID-19. The patience, training, and experience that the promotores of Southeast region has proved critically important in this effort to provide education to their community. Throughout May and June, this region assisted mobile vaccination events through promotion, registration, and interpretation. At one event in particular, Koralia de Lara and Ana Chacon witnessed how fear is often abated when people have the opportunity to learn from first hand demonstrations.

“A veces necesitan y necesitamos un poco más de entendimiento a lo que se está dando. Dos chicas casi salen corriendo porque pensaban que la aguja de la jeringa se quedaba dentro del brazo. Hasta que la líder del grupo de vacunación les dio una demostración.”
[Sometimes they need and need a little more understanding of what is being given. Two girls almost ran out because they thought the syringe needle was staying inside the arm, until the leader of the vaccination group gave them a demonstration]

(Southeast, May 2021, [8028])

As the team continues to become more educated on both vaccinations and effective logistics, they are reaching important milestones for support. Through working closely with partners and local growers, agricultural workers are being connected to vaccinations at their places of employment. As a result of this effort, an important agricultural employer in the region now has 100% of their workers vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, as recently as late June, this region reported that there are still unvaccinated H-2A workers - and not due to a lack of knowledge, but instead due to being unavailable during vaccination events, because of their long work hours.

Vaccination support continues to be critically important as the communities assisted by the Southeast region still demonstrate their desire for this varied support. In particular, the tireless work to address food access inequity continues with weekly food distribution. While important, this distribution is often coupled with other assistance - often Identification Cards from the local DMV or legal services. Importantly, food distribution over May and June saw an increased range of ages receiving support. A far larger number of people below 18 years of age received food boxes than compared to the previous two months. Clearly, as community trust, resources, and knowledge grows, the Southeast region will continue to provide requested support in diverse ways.

H-2A workers

As mentioned above, H-2A, migrant, and seasonal workers travel light, thus they benefit greatly from simple, daily-use items. This is continually reinforced in our outreach data, where these items are both frequently asked for and distributed. In the past, promotores have observed that “H-2A workers need a lot of help when they first get here because they don't work much and dont bring much from where they are coming. They are also very distrusting.” (Southeast, April 2021, [6479]). Thankfully, the various regions are well prepared to both build trust, and distribute needed support.

In June, Tere Gomez of North 1 shared her insight and experience with 26 H-2A workers,

“I realized that these workers with H-2A visas are afraid. Some of them have asked me for fans for the heat and told me that they do not have air conditioning. They also asked for work pants and work clothes, toilet paper. We brought them clothes, shoes, toothpaste, bath soap, shampoo, food, facemasks, two gallons of disinfectant gel, and other items in personal care kits. That day we spoke with 26 workers, 13 of whom had arrived 2 days ago. ”

(North 1, June 2021, [8484])

This shows that as promotores connect with H-2A workers they not only provide education and service referrals, they also develop a deeper understanding of their daily realities. Some are described as having big hearts, while others are wary of strangers. Most common across the state is their desire for more knowledge about their community and the local resources offered there. In the Southeast and Northern regions, promotores have become more skilled and practiced in assisting H-2A workers in acquiring IDs through the local DMV. Moreover, migrants and H-2A workers appreciate the local information promotores can provide that help them navigate their local community while they are staying in Colorado. Martha Espinoza and Tomasa Rodriguez of North 2 helped 10 H-2A workers who had arrived from Mexico and, while providing them information about adult education classes, food pantries and the DMV, they also observed,

“Some do not know the city and do not know of places where they can receive support or help. They do not have their own transportation. They are all men living in two houses owned by the employer and they are interested to know more about where they can receive medical attention if necessary, and other needs that may arise.”

(North 1, June 28, 2021 [8735])

Facilitating medical access is a primary activity of outreach, including providing education to H-2A workers and other workers about their wellness. For example, education about healthy eating, cholesterol, and diabetes are common topics of education offered to groups of H-2A workers at events or in their housing. Through these conversations, promotoras found that many H-2A workers are unvaccinated, some of whom share a fear of the vaccine. Sometimes this hesitancy to be vaccinated is a lack of knowledge about their options, other times it relates to religious views. However, there are still more who are willing and interested in being vaccinated and yet have not done so due to work restrictions and being restricted from taking off of work. Koralia De Lara, Ana Chacon, Cecilia Garcia, and Linda Timmins of the Southeast often find that,

“There are H-2A workers without a vaccine [unvaccinated]. We have already offered it to them but they have not been able to go due to work. They are working a lot. "

(Southeast, June 2021, [9023])

H-2A workers hold a precarious position with their employment, not only due to the unpredictability and long hours of summer agricultural work, but also because of the legal regulations of their visa which outlines pay, work hours, housing, and more. This precarity is the reason the Network focuses on reaching these workers during the height of the summer. What our outreach has shown is a varied array of challenges faced by these workers. Many of these challenges stem from a lack of familiarity with their area of work, but others still come from the remoteness of their worksite. The Network is demonstrating its efficacy in reaching out to these communities and providing resources and support.

Agricultural workers during a food box distribution event in North 1.

This report was prepared by Kassandra Neiss and Mark Ludke. Contributions from Ere Juarez, Maria Perez, Dolores del Campo, Koralia de Lara, Ana Chacon, Betty Velasquez, Esperanza Saucedo, Tere Gomez, Martha Espinoza, Tomasa Rodriguez, Cecilia Garcia, and Linda Timmins

July 16, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Kassandra Neiss

Data Activist and Systems Manager | Frontline Farming


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