Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Writing History

Tonight I had the opportunity, along with some of the other girls, to sit in on the final CIW meeting before their five day fast against Publix grocer.  I have not taken Spanish since high school, so I didn’t exactly understand everything that was said, but even just sitting in the meeting was moving.  The leaders started with an activity where they asked one of the men from the meeting to break a single paint stirrer, obviously not a difficult task.  The leaders continued to add stirrers and the man continued to break them easily until there were 20 in his hand which he could not break.  This was to demonstrate that alone, each worker did not stand a chance to make a difference but if the workers, combined with the people of the churches as well as students, united in their fight, they could not be broken.  One of the most eye opening points that the leaders made was that the men and women of Immokalee were “writing history.” It is crazy to me to think that in 20 years, my children will be learning about the people that I am here working with.  Everything that was said in the meeting tonight was so powerful and yet so peaceful.  There was no anger in any of their voices, only pride and strength in what they were fighting for.  The companies that the CIW are lobbying have wronged these workers in so many ways and yet they continue to simply ask for a conversation.  That is all they want, a conversation and the ability to negotiate for fair treatment at their jobs, something that we as humans have rights to.  I am very excited to see how the coming action plays out and if Publix finally responds to the CIW’s wishes.  If not, I know that they will continue fighting for what is fair and just. If Publix finally signs on to the agreement it will be one of the CIW’s biggest victories to date, and something I know will be talked about for years to come, and I am so thankful that I have been given this opportunity to at least attempt to walk in solidarity with these strong, passionate, amazing people.
-Katie Denk, Junior

Habitat for Humanity

Here are some of the students who went to Habitat for Humanity today.  Their task was to tile an entire house!  Check out their quality work!

Variety is the Spice of Life

Kim and Maria packing powdered milk for distribution

Day 5 in Immokalee:
Today our group split into separate factions once more.  Half of the girls worked with Habitat for Humanity, while the remainder returned to Guadalupe Social Services for the morning, and then volunteered at an after-school program for junior high school students in the afternoon.  Like all of our experiences thus far, these encounters proved to be interesting, rewarding, and informative.  During dinner at Lake Trafford, we chatted about our experiences throughout the day.  The group that worked with Habitat for Humanity spent their time laying tiles in a new home that was being built for an Immokalee family.  ** The other group spent their time doing a variety of tasks at Guadalupe Social Services.  Some of the girls bagged food items, while others were able to observe cases.** Guadalupe Social Services is a branch of Catholic Charities, and provides financial assistance, food items, and immigration assistance, among other things.  It was intriguing to hear the stories and perspectives of the individuals working at the center, and to catch a glimpse into the lives of those who sought aid from this organization.  At the tutor program, we were able to help Immokalee juniors fill out applications for summer college programs.   This curious group of adolescents also had general inquiries about college, choosing a major, and getting financial aid.  It was very gratifying to be able to help them, even if it was for a short amount of time. 
Over a dinner of tamales, salsa, and fresh fruit salad, we also discussed some of the broader issues that we have encountered so far throughout the trip.  Last night, we invited a group of students from St. Thomas to dine with us, and also had a guest visitor named Sr. Maureen, who is a Catholic nun and immigration attorney.  She gave an awesome talk about the many obstacles involved in immigration, as well as the intricacies and complexities of U.S. immigration law.  This evening we reflected on the things that we have seen and learned so far, and discussed our perspectives on the situation in Immokalee.  Overall, these past five days have been enlightening and rewarding for our group, and we look forward to the next three days here in Immokalee.
-Maria Petrisko, Senior 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pinhooker Market

Today some of the students went to the pinhooker market and bought some produce from local farmers.

The power of 32 Pounds

 Today we all went back to the CIW headquarters for a more in-depth presentation and discussion on what it is that they actually do. Wilson told us more about some of the conditions that they have gotten changed over the years and gave us a better picture of how things used to be compared with the way things are now. He also added that many of the workers are still afraid that these new benefits will not always be around, they are afraid they are going to lose them. Simple things that we take for granted such as water breaks, shade, and not working when there is lightning did not become a reality here until the coalition started its work. Wilson told us about the turning point among the workers, was when a 17 year old boy was beaten in the fields because he asked for some water. The workers all stood together, boycotting that crew boss’s bus the next day and claiming that in doing that to one of them, they had done it to all of them. The coalition has come a long way since then and there have been many changes. They no longer have to catch buses to the fields as early as they did before, they have shade and are provided with water, and they now have time cards so that the bosses cannot steal their time. Wilson also showed us the proper way to lift a bucket of tomatoes onto your shoulder and we all took turns trying to lift the 32 lb. bucket.
I actually worked on a farm in North Carolina last summer, so I knew a little bit about the lives of farm workers before I came to Immokalee. There is, however, a great difference between what I see on that much smaller scale farm, and what takes place here every day. Wilson drew a pyramid showing the power chain, from the corporations at the top to the workers at the bottom. In between there are companies who buy produce, from the ranchers who own the farms, and the crew bosses who actually work in the fields and hire the workers on a day to day basis. At the farm that I worked on, the crew boss brought workers from Florida and they were there for the whole summer. The family-owned farm sells produce to a buyer and they sell it to supermarkets. They abide by all of the national labor and pesticide use regulations and we are all paid by the hour, starting at minimum wage. After seeing the way that workers live and work here, I now see that the conditions at home are fairly ideal, but most Americans would not want to live in those conditions either.  
-Nicole Rauscher- Sophmore

Hearing the story of the CIW

Wilson, gives the group a brief histroy of the coalition and updates us on the Campaign for Fair Food.

After Explaining that each day farmworkers must lift a 32 pound bucket of tomatos, and must pick 2.5 tons of tomatoes a day in order to make Florida minimum wage, he invited some of the group to try lifting the bucket for themselves.

Student Kim Daley takes a try!

So does Maria Petrisko
and Nicole Roucher

Monday, February 27, 2012

Everybody Needs a Little SALSA!!!!!

What is the point of coming to Immokalee and not experiencing the vast amount of fresh produce readily available at the local Pinhooker Market?  Furthermore, what better way to enjoy said produce then creating our very own salsa.... daily.

Charlotte, our official photographer of the trip, took this outstanding photo!

More realizations to come

This morning I was able to witness first handed how farm workers search and struggle for daily work. As I watched these men and women pile onto buses I could only sense a feeling of empathy and mixed confusion. Why does our society box individuals into these cast systems of inequality? How are people able to strip away others dignity without remorse or second guess? Lastly, how can we as humans stand by and not know of the cruelties and turmoil these individuals endure daily? All of these questions were flowing through my mind as the buses drifted off and the remnants of thick dust were left behind.
I have come to realize that through this trip not all solutions to the inequalities of the world or of Immokalee will be solved. Yet, I have found a healthy medium to ease my impulsive thoughts. Awareness and education of the daily discriminations and chaos is evidently needed and imperative. It is essential that people know where their food comes from and how it got there.  Furthermore it is vital that individuals realize that the dignity and pure essence of humans are trespassed, taken advantage of, and intruded on.
Later on in the day I was able to spend some time at the Guadalupe Social Services. This organization provides individuals of low income with aid. Specifically it is geared towards allocating money to food, rent, and necessary items in order to survive. The staff was extremely organized and outgoing. I was able to sit in on numerous case worker one on one interactions.
Overall, today was an educational whirlwind, a pool of new knowledge where I was able to expand my thoughts further than I had originally thought possible. This trip has been a breathtaking experience and this is only the second full day. More realizations to come. 
Charlotte- Senior

Our First Step of Solidarity

Today was very interesting for all of us on the trip, as it was our first day devoted solely to immersing ourselves into the culture of Immokalee.  It was an early morning as the girls and I woke up at 5 to go to the “early morning parking lot experience.”  A member of the CIW, Wilson, along with a member of the student/ Farmworker alliance, Marina, took us to the parking lot where men poured in from the small town of Immokalee in hopes to get work for the day.  From the parking lot, we were given a short walking tour of the town so that we could understand a little bit of the culture and history of the many men, women, and families that inhabit this town.  We were shown the small trailers which house sometimes 12 or people; a number much larger than the intended capacity but necessary so the tenants are able to afford their $750 rent each week. We walked passed a camp where farmer workers were enslaved, locked in a truck, and forced to pay for food and water. We were told about the prosecuted slavery case (2007) associated with this specific house. The tour ended at the CIW Headquarters where we were shown a video of the 2003 hunger strike held in-front of Taco Bell’s corporate offices in California.  To say the very least, our time spent with the CIW this morning showed up some of the daily trials and tribulations one must go through simply to make a living.
After leaving the CIW, our group split up to tour two facilities: Friendship House and Guadalupe Social Services.  I was able to go to Guadalupe Social Services and spent my time sitting in on different case worker meetings.  
-Katie Denk, Junior

Early Morning Experience

 Students woke up at 5am this morning to do a walking tour of downtown Immokalee and experience what it is like for farmworkers to look for work in the parking lots each morning.  Pictured are Duquesne and St. Thomas university students being given the tour from CIW staff member Wilson, and SFA staffer Marina.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Day of Different Neighborhoods

Day 2: The Beach!
Our day started at 6.30.  Two early days in a row was kind of hard, but completely worth it.  We attended a Spanish mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee.  At the church we attended, 4 out of the 5 masses offered on the weekends are in Spanish.  As we filed in the pews, lively music was being played with a Hispanic edge.  The church was filled with mostly Hispanic people, with very few people of other races present.  As you looked around the church, you saw the Stations of the Cross.  The Stations were different than the ones I’ve seen at Duquesne, and most of the other Catholic Churches I have visited in the United States.  Above the typical “Station” images of a Caucasian Christ were various images of modern day people working, mainly Hispanic, who were seen...bleh
During the sign of peace, the parishioners of the church welcomed us with smiles and warm handshakes.  It was impossible to feel like an outsider after that, even though we clearly were new and had never been to the church before.

After mass, we headed to Ave Maria, which is a Catholic community that contains a university, coffee shops, hair dressers, and a grocery store, among other shops.  The members of the community never really have to leave because they have everything they needed there.  We got coffee and pastries at The Bean of Ave Maria.  In this coffee shop were pictures of various Catholic saints and popes.  The staff of the shop was friendly enough, but the atmosphere left something to be desired.  After talking when we got back in the van, the consensus among the group was that we all felt like outsiders. There were many stares accompanied by our arrival and exit of the coffee shop.  We were amazed at how developed this community was.  The buildings were beautiful and new.  There was no noticeable poverty in this neighborhood, and no noticeable diversity in the population.

-Typical Home in Naples-

Once we finished our coffee, we headed to Naples, which is one of the richest cities in the US.  Naples shares the same county as Immokalee (and Ave Maria- yes , the University is officially a town), which is one the poorest cities in Florida.  Naples is full of beautiful and big houses.  The yards and landscaping surrounding the homes and businesses were in pristine condition.  There were many people exercising outdoors, more so than we had seen in Immokalee and Ave Maria.  The beach was beautiful.  The water was cold and refreshing.  It was nice to relax and people watch.  Some people walked to the pier, and other people just hung out and read books they brought.  After several hours, we went to a restaurant for dinner.  When we told our waiter that we were volunteering in Immokalee, his immediate response was, “Oh, Immokalee, that is the place with really cheap produce!”  I wonder if he ever thought about why the produce was so cheap. 

-Students on Naples Pier watching the sunset-

We finished the day by driving around parts of Immokalee, and saw the parking lots where farm workers wait for work every morning at 4am.  Tomorrow we will be waking up to see the workers congregate and wait for work.  I think it will be a really interesting and eye opening experience for a lot of people on the trip.

Until tomorrow!
- Kim Daley

Food Access

Charquinta McCray brings some interesting insight into what supermarkets and food access mean to a community.  While Char's preconceived notions about what Immokalee might look like might be exaggerated, food access is a vital part of the discussion here.  What does it say that the people living and working in Immokalee are  a crucial part of picking the nation's produce, yet they do not have the ability to purchase this wholesome food for themselves?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making Tortillas!

For dinner tonight, the whole group learned how to make homemade corn tortillas.  check out this action shot!

Pinhooker Market

My first day in Immokalee has been an eye opening experience to say the least. I was able to go to the market today to get supplies for our dinner. While we were there, I was amazed at how I felt like I wasn’t even in the United States anymore. I felt like I did when I went to Belize on my very first mission trip. I could see the similarities of the two communities just in the short time that I was at the market.  The market was very similar to the markets that I saw in Belize and I really had to pinch myself because I truly felt like I was in a different country. The people were similar in the sense that they are Hispanic and the cultures are very similar. Also, the housing structures and designs were similar in the sense of kind of run down buildings and the color of the buildings. The market was just like being dropped into either Mexico or Belize and being completely immersed in. The market was open and the prices for the food were amazingly cheap for the amount of food that we were getting. If we had just gone to the grocery store, it would have easily cost us over 50 dollars for everything that we bought. Also, the people were friendly and wanted to show us the produce that they had to sell. Going to the market was almost like leaving the “civilization” that Americans know and going to into the life of the farm workers and their families. The only way to end this entry is to say there is so much more to learn about Immokalee.

-Nicole Campbell

Monday, February 20, 2012

Migrant Farmworker Experience

Immokalee, FL is an agricultural hub for the United States. While this area produces 90% of the nation’s winter tomatoes, the small town and its community of migrant farmworkers (mainly Mexican, Haitian, and Guatemalan decent) still face harsh working conditions in the fields and a very small amount of wages as compensation.  This experience looks at how we, as people of faith, identify with the struggle of the migrant farmworker and the marginalized immigrant population in the United States. Join students as they walk in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their ally organizations:

Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA), and Interfaith Action. 
Educational Resources:
Coalition of Immokalee Workers:
Student Farmworker Alliance:
Interfaith Action:
Interfaith Action “Faith Moves Mountains” Campaign:

*This blog is sponsored by Spiritan Campus Ministry at Duquesne University. For more information on our mission please visit