‘It’s about empowerment’: Migrant Farmworkers Project opens its doors in Beamsville to serve the ‘poorest of the poorest’
Reverend Antonio Illas said that although seasonal workers are essential to Niagara’s economy, they’re faced with discrimination
It’s all about giving power to a vulnerable but crucial population.
“It’s about empowerment,” explained Rev. Antonio Illas, who runs the Migrant Farmworkers Project, an initiative that provides services to seasonal workers in Niagara. “We empower a vulnerable neighbour in our midst.”
On April 28, the program kicked off its 2022 season, run by St Alban’s Anglican Church in Beamsville.
They welcomed 56 seasonal workers to access a range of services, including medical clinic, food security pantry, clothing donations, bike shop, open church and hospitality.
At the centre, seasonal workers have access to donated shoes, toiletries, cosmetics, hygiene items, religious paraphernalia and winter coats. Among the shelves of food available there is a section of Mexican goods to give the seasonal workers a taste of home.
There is also a bicycle market and mechanic. For $25, seasonal workers can purchase a refurbished bicycle, and that fee is refunded once the bike is returned. The money raised is used to buy more parts and repair more bikes.
A health clinic, run by Quest, a community health centre based out of St. Catharines, allows seasonal workers to access primary health care they might not otherwise be able to access.
Moises Vasquez, community health worker with Quest, explained the hurdles that prevent seasonal workers from accessing health care and how the clinic eliminates those barriers.
One is the lack of transportation to clinics, so Quest provides clinics in Beamsville, Virgil and Vineland, close to the farms on which the workers are employed.
Another is the lack of OHIP cards, which can take up to six weeks to arrive, so Quest does not require health cards from patients.
Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wednesday, May 11, 2022