Mari Juarez, 2021 SAF intern
NC Farmworkers' Project
Each time I go out to do outreach, I see injustice. Isn’t that the reason why we are here? Why this organization and others like it have been assembled. This summer I am interning with the North Carolina Farmworkers' Project and although I am well aware of the hardships that agricultural workers have, it is an extremely different feeling when you are face to face with it.
Coming from the outside in, part of my duty is to go out to the camps to do health assessments with farmworkers in the area to share resources and make sure that they have their health concerns addressed and questions answered. When asking these questions, I noticed that even for small concerns– such as maybe a toothache– they are hesitant to ask for help. What upsets me the most is asking about their income to prove that they qualify for a reduced health bill, payment plan, or anything of the sort when they have a family of 6+ people waiting for their next meal. Having that conversation with them makes my heart ache when they say “a veces no es mucho porque a veces no trabajamos mucho”. Leaving your family, coming to a foreign land to work for a better wage, AND still being unsure if the check is going to be enough for you and your family makes me sad.
There is one particular conversation that has stuck with me and just sent me into tears because I knew wasn’t going to be able to do enough for this patient. One of our questions on the health assessment is “Do you worry about conditions at work?” and the patient responded, “I am worried about if I’ll even receive a check… it is never consistent, and what if I don’t get the next check or the one after that? I am not sure if I can afford to get care or wait so I can get food.” The concern in their voice and the story behind it – not just with this individual but every farmworker that came before and following – should be enough to stop putting them on a scale to prove their poverty or low-income status. It should be enough to reassure them that no matter how big or small their health concerns, they will always be taken care of. They shouldn’t choose between a meal or their health because they have the right to have both taken care of.
There is injustice everywhere and in everything but that is why we are here. That is why I am here. I have witnessed courage in myself. I am just one person and my abilities are limited but even then, the sky is the limit. When there is a will, there is a way and I will search endlessly for the way.