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Monthly Report: September & October 2022

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Programmatic Update

September and October marks the 2 year anniversary of Project Protect Promotora Network, as well as the annual departure of thousands of agricultural workers from Colorado as H-2A visas end and the last of the harvests are pulled from the fields. This year, as the world stepped further out of COVID pandemic the network of 65 regional directors, promotores, and community organizers found COVID response funding drying up. With much consideration, and difficult conversations over the summer, the Network restructured to remove the Neighborhood Organizer position to stabilize the funding of the network. Neighborhood Organizers were team members with limited work hours - while Promotores were paid for 20-25 hours per week, Neighborhood Organizers were employed at 10 hours per week. These outreach workers played strong roles for our network as they showed up in the most dire and needed situations, helping throw large events, accompanying promotores on distant or challenging outreach, and bringing important energy and heart to the regional teams. The Network felt the loss of this funding and their comrades, however many of these Neighborhood Organizers are still in community and finding ways to collaborate.

Nevertheless, the work continued as agricultural workers prepared for travel, their kids returned to school, and new challenges were faced by climate change, the economy, and public health crises. With a reduced team size, outreach numbers dropped across the Network even as the average number of conversations increased from 8 to 11, as it did last year around this same time. Of the 13,275 total conversations this month, 8,548 (63%) were with agricultural workers including almost 1,000 conversations with new connections.

COVID reduction and prevention and the continued wellbeing of the community was accomplished through distribution of resources, including 2,382 face masks, 1,284 at-home COVID tests, and 2,260 bottles of hand sanitizer in various sizes. Assistance with vaccine and booster appointments slowed, but did not stop, with 600 vaccine appointments assisted during these two months. Additionally, as winter approached, the Network mobilized to distribute 1,697 articles of cold weather clothing and 1,025 other clothing items to ensure workers and their families could protect themselves and their health through the harsh Colorado winters. Throughout the state and across regions, 45 agencies began donating to Project Protect Promotora Network’s winter coat drive for agricultural workers.

Neighborhood Organizers - mobilizing a labor of love

As the Neighborhood Organizer positions were cut from the network, this report is dedicated to them, their work, their knowledge, and their dedication. The contributions of the Neighborhood Organizers are immeasurable, as they accomplished so much through teamwork and collaboration with just 10 hours a week of outreach. In the past reports we have called all team members promotores, not differentiating between those who work 20 hours a week and those who work 10. The testimonies and narratives below demonstrate strong relationships that Neighborhood Organizers were able to cultivate within their communities in times of celebration, of hardship, and of kindness.

Western Slope Neighborhood Organizer Miriam Aleman has been part of our team since January 2021. In September 2022, she continued to work to protect agricultural workers against COVID,

There was a small COVID outbreak at Rogers Mesa Fruit Co. – I had stopped by and dropped off some COVID exams previously as they continued to work. I just stopped by to check in on the workers to make sure they were doing good. The workers who felt sick were immediately sent home so it was contained. This week already most of them returned. I made sure that everyone was able to communicate with their employers if they were feeling sick. [21537]

Western Slope Neighborhood Organizer Maria Refugio has been part of the team since April 2021. She worked hard to find services for agricultural workers in a region where very few resources exist,

Many times there is not enough money for more food and electricity or other payments, or if we don't have funds available to help. There are not many places that help, but I referred them to different places for help. [ 12735]

Western Slope Neighborhood Organizer Francisca Aleman, among others, has helped innumerous workers with accessing dental and other health services, since the Network started in 2020.

They had told us they were in need of dental care. They were going to get into contact with River Valley for the discount agricultural worker card as they don't have insurance. I went to check up on how they were doing and if they were able to get the process started. They needed some help so I got in contact with River Valley. [September 2022, West, 21593]

Southeast Neighborhood Organizer Linda Timmins, who has been part of the team since the Network began in 2020, has heard more stories than we can count. Her work is praised by the workers and families.

Some families were worried about not being able to work because the kids are out of school. Thanks to the La Escuelita program for migrants, we were able to enroll their children in school so they could go to work in the fields. Other families took the opportunity to leave their babies at the Escuelita so they could go to work for the first time. "Thank you very much Linda, now I will be able to help my husband with the work and earn a little more money." Words from a mother who for the first time was able to find school for younger children. [17420]

Southeast Neighborhood Organizer Ana Chacon, who has been part of the team since the Network began in 2020, is well known among the agricultural community and often provides important knowledge about how to handle medical expenses.

Aside from setting up and making calls to make a dentist appointment for one of Di Santi's workers. We also went for him, helped him through the process and then took him home. This worker had pain in a tooth for some time but did not want to go to the dentist for fear that he would be charged too much. Until the tooth rotted and fell out he told us, and we told him that we had gone to the dentist earlier to fill out the application for the medical discount card. That's how he was motivated to go. The dentist discouraged him for a moment because he said the work would cost $250 for a crown. The guy didn't have more than $100 with him. At one point he wanted to go home but the secretary talked to us and discounted $100 and left it in payments so he could have the work done. [19333]

Southeast Neighborhood Organizer Veronica Castillo, a mother of another Promotora and team member since June 2021, is always helping workers with rides, hair cuts, basic needs, and just a listening ear to validate their humanity and dignity.

Transportation to and from grocery stores or doctors is very hard for people a lot of the time. If they do not have a ride they have to walk to Walmart to pick up their groceries or walk sick to the doctors to get checked and medication transportation is hard to come by. These women are always very thankful. They always tell me that they are very happy and feel safe because I am a woman helping them. It is comforting to them. [17429]

San Luis Valley Neighborhood Organizer Jose de Jesus Flores Moreno, who began working with his team in August 2022, already had deep roots in the agricultural community. When he was delivering food to a recently unemployed Mushroom Farm worker, the worker told him,

“Thank you very much, food is very expensive, they cut our SNAP benefits, and it is harder than usual to buy the same amount of food nowadays. I have been using unemployment benefits and I am almost up - so I will need to find a job.” [22152]

San Luis Valley Neighborhood Organizer Maria Villagomez, a dedicated employee of the SLV school system, started with the team in 2020. Much of her work involved communicating with the parents of students about resources they could access, most of whom work in agriculture.

Two families who are staying in one home together were not sure about exposure of the new [COVID] variant for the child or risk to other family members. Both families living together got ill with the new variant, and were low income families. I was able to communicate with the family [and] was able to connect with Rainbow Thrift store Food bank regarding deliveries of their food boxes. Rainbow is always dependable and delivers for us in an instant. [8987]

San Luis Valley Neighborhood Organizer Pantaleon Villagomez, who started with the Network in 2020, offered such a diversity of assistance to his community. Even the smallest action, such as downloading an app on a phone, made a big impact on public health and wellbeing.

They don’t know where to look for dates and places for the vaccine and they don’t like calling the clinic because it’s too hard to go through all the commands on the phone. They heard from other friends that they can download an app to see where the mobile bus is and where to go. They called me to get the app on their phone. “Gracias ahora sé que puedo llevar a mis familiares por la vacuna y se que solo necesito buscar mi área .” [12782]

North 3 Neighborhood Organizer Rosie Castro, started her work with the network from the beginning in 2020. She’s resourceful and often found a variety of household items and basic needs for migrant families who arrive with only a few belongings.

Parents are in need of baby formula and diapers, more food boxes. Asked for help in finding a baby crib and car seat. In need of a food box with milk products. I was able to find them a crib and car seat that was donated by a family. They were very thankful for finding baby items for them and helping out. [17348]

North 3 Neighborhood Organizer Maria Bencomo, a recent addition to the team in August 2022, moved with community needs, be it food pantry items, a wedding celebration, or a doctor's appointment.

A young couple, the woman just had a baby by C-section and has no insurance, and is having trouble getting the surgery healed and is struggling to find a doctor. I gave them numbers of Clinics that offer discounts for them to call. [22433]

North 3 Neighborhood Organizer Marcela Natividad, who was an original team member back in 2020, has heard innumerous stories and the community trusts her with their important information and documents.

The father of this family asked me to help them fill out some paperwork because they have a new landlord, and they are asking for extra information. And I also translated the letter they sent with the new rules of the new landlords. Everything went very well, we filled out the forms and he told me that at his job he asked to be transferred to another area where he would be paid a little more and they did, so he is very happy about it.  [18329].

North 3 Neighborhood Organizer Maria de Lourdes Guerrero joined the Network in April 2022. Since then she has learned to speak for the community and how to help people feel loved and at home here.

I learned that when you come to this country hoping for a job to help your family, you should know your rights and benefits as a worker. The attention he paid to hear that here he also counts that he is not just another person! He was grateful for letting him know that his work is important and also for the information. [16790]

North 2 Neighborhood Organizer Dorothy Meza, who joined the team in April 2022, was always there when she was needed, offering rides, handling difficult phone calls, and offering help with various health resources.

Dorothy called her and connected with La Señora and told to answer her phone because Rocky Mountain SER was going to call her. The lady is 65 years old and does not know her rights, nor did she want to file a legal complaint because she was not paid any compensation for her accident-fall that occurred while she was chopping onions. She has no income and her daughter works all day and has a grandchild. The lady had a fall at work more than a month ago, she could not walk and did not ask the employer for help for fear of being fired. She does not know how to read or write, she is a legal resident. Although she still hasn't recovered from the fall and can barely walk, she returned to the fields to continue working and get money for her rent. Our community organizer visited her yesterday after she had not answered the phone for several days. The lady was vomiting and had a fever and was taken to the hospital by our community organizer. She stayed overnight because her potassium was very low. The social worker never helped her with her medication application and told her that they could not give her a discount, that she had to pay the bill for hospitalization and oxygen. She left the hospital the next day and was taken home by Mrs. Dorothy. It was a blessing that Mrs. Dorothy came to visit and took her to the hospital and also picked her up and dropped her off at home. [11419]

North 2 Neighborhood Organizer Tommy Rodriguez, who recently moved into a full Promotora role, has been with the Network since 2020. Tommy is a whole phonebook of social network by herself and has trained and shared resources with many new hires over the years. We are lucky to have her as a leader in the Network.

They are two people in charge of the Sugar Hill Dairy, they asked for help with the contract to process marked licenses, they were contacted the same day of the visit, thanks to Soraya and Tommy who had the immediate information. Together with the organizer Tommy, we visited the place of work, talked with them and updated their contact numbers. [14582]

North 1 Neighborhood Organizer Lucia Olivas has been with the Network since November 2020 and a queen of multitasking, research, and following up with information so that people do not fall through the cracks.

I spoke with 3 people who will need different resources. One lady needs information for English classes and on how to receive the EBT meal cards offered by the school. Another lady wanted to know about the COVID vaccine site. And another lady would like to know where she can take her children to get their eye and dentist exams, because her children have no health insurance, nor social security. I told them I would help them research the information to answer their questions. [8874]

North 1 Neighborhood Organizer Martha Velasco, who started with the Network in 2020, remained dedicated to serving the immediate needs of the community, from picking up donations to delivering in-person services.

Also today, our colleague Martha brought us a donation of pillows from the Denver Marriott Hotel, and they were a great help to the workers who arrived a week ago for the first time in the U.S. to work in the field. They don't have a bed, but at least they will have very good pillows, they commented. [18325]

This report was prepared by Kassandra Neiss, with contributions from Miriam Aleman, Maria Refugio, Francisca Aleman, Linda Timmins, Ana Chacon, Veronica Castillo, Jose de Jesus Flores Moreno, Maria Villagomez, Pantaleon Villagomez, Rosie Castro, Maria Bencomo, Marcela Natividad, Maria de Lourdes Guerrero, Dorothy Meza, Tommy Rodriguez, Lucia Olivas, and Martha Velasco.

December 15, 2022

For more information, please contact:

Kassandra Neiss

Data Activist and Systems Manager | Frontline Farming


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