– Jenifer Caceres-Garcia, 2022 SAF intern
My day typically starts at 8:30am with a fresh clean pairs of scrubs on, my backpack all packed from the night before, and my lunchbox in my hands. I'm ready to head out with AppHealthCare in Sparta, Alleghany county. First, I go inside to the health education room to see what my coworkers need from me. My supervisor and coworkers are very passionate about their work and I can see that the minute they sit next to me, they start working. I am usually in charge of making and organizing health education materials: from heat illness and hydration to diabetes and hypertension. I'm passionate about making resources for farmworkers in a language they can understand with ease. I also accompany my coworkers to patient appointments to provide transportation and interpretation for specialty clinics. We spend time filling out new patient information and financial assistance applications. It's reassuring to know these appointments we take them to will be taken care of financially. Farmworkers often appreciate us for being able to help them navigate the confusing systems of healthcare and I'm glad I am able to learn a lot from them as well.
I recently went to a camp and saw a hydration station. Since farmworkers work in the heat and sometimes in extreme weather conditions, it is recommended they drink at least 1 liter of water every hour! At first I thought that was a lot of water, but after doing a week's worth of research on heat illness, and considering how hot it can get in these fields, it made sense. Seeing these hydration stations makes me happy as we continue to work on preventing heat illness in these extreme conditions. It might not be much and we can definitely do better, but I'm glad that this is a start.
When I conduct health assessments I ask farmworkers how much water they are drinking and if they rest in a cool shady area away from the sun. They often tell me they don't meet the recommendations and I got to asking why that is. One farmworker told me it is all about the hustle for him. All he can think about is the now and not about preventative measures for later. My coworkers and I have found this mentality to be admirable, but also concerning as there should be more to life than just work. I understand H-2A workers come here specifically to work, but protecting one's health is just as important.
I am grateful I can learn from these farmworkers every day I come into work. Each day brings something different, and every day I go home feeling like I made an impact in some way. I can't wait to see what else my summer brings me.