How Can I Reach Out to Farmworkers to Let Them Know I Am Here to Help?

The best resource for reaching out to farmworkers is an organization that provides services to farmworkers, such as a farmworker unit of a legal service organization, a migrant education program, a migrant health center or agency, a farmworker union or other non-profit organizations dedicated to serving farmworkers. Even if there is no farmworker organization in your immediate area, there may be one in your state that is knowledgeable about your area and that might be helpful to you. National farmworker organizations can also provide you with basic information about the farmworker community.

Partnering with a farmworker organization can help you:

  1. Learn about the agricultural industry and the farmworkers who support it;
  2. Improve communication with farmworker victims;
  3. Make contacts and gather information that will likely assist your ability to connect, work and build trust within farmworker communities;
  4. Educate organizations, individuals and the farmworker community at large about your willingness to help victims of sexual violence.

Learn where to find farmworkers. Farmworker organizations can help you learn about the life and work of farmworkers as well as the agricultural industry, all of which will be helpful in planning and conducting your outreach. In particular, you may want to focus on the following areas:

  • Housing: Farmworkers may live in apartment complexes, trailer parks, labor camps, motels or private homes. Migrant workers and guestworkers generally live in farm labor camps. Some farmworkers are homeless and sometimes live out in the fields where they work. Familiarize yourself with where farmworkers are living in your area, then visit the communities and introduce yourself and your services.

    Once you make contact with the local farmworker organizations and the community, you can create a list of contacts, including farmworker leaders. Call them and ask if they would be willing to host a house meeting. Bring food, beverages and information. Make the meeting entertaining by having a relevant skit or short story to share that illustrates how you can help. Involve your audience by inviting them to participate in the skit, asking questions, listening and letting them tell their personal stories about life as a farmworker. Remind all participants not to share their personal experience with sexual harassment or sexual assault with the group in order to protect confidentiality and privilege. Encourage anyone who may need individual help to speak with you privately. Bring materials that are easy to read and understand such as one page flyers, fotonovelas, brochures, videos and audio recordings.
  • Work: Know whether there are migrant farmworkers, seasonal farmworkers and/ or guestworkers in your jurisdiction and to where they migrate. You can then plan your outreach to migrant workers and guestworkers during the time they are in your area, while outreach to seasonal workers can be conducted throughout the year. It may generally be helpful to know what agricultural work is performed in your jurisdiction, when the season begins and ends, and when farmworkers’ days begin and end. Additionally, be sure to learn about the local farm labor contractors and growers. Find out how many contractors are licensed, how they recruit workers, whether they provide housing to the workers, how many crews they employ, and where most of their work is performed.
  • Schools: Schools and daycares specifically for farmworker children also exist in many agricultural communities along with specialized migrant education programs. Consider making presentations for parents at school health fairs and early morning or after-school programs.
  • Clinics/educational workshop. Develop materials specific to sexual violence including a simple PowerPoint® presentation. Make your slides bilingual or monolingual in the language that the workers speak and read. Include photographs and interactive games to make it more appealing and to accommodate anyone who may be illiterate. Memorize your materials and keep your eyes on the audience.
  • Health fairs. Health fairs are great opportunities to set up a table with your organization’s information and speak to farmworker attendees. It can also be helpful to have a video or slideshow of photographs with music playing at your table to help attract community members to your table. Introduce yourself and begin by asking questions such as: Do you live here or nearby? Are you currently working? What are you picking/ harvesting now? Where do you work? These questions can open the door for you to make connections with the farmworker community.
  • Religious institutions. Places of worship also frequently host events that provide yet another opportunity to disseminate information to the community. Learn which places farmworkers in your area frequent.

Inform the community that you are available to help. Working with a farmworker organization, you can learn where farmworkers congregate, shop, worship, attend school and work, which may provide you the opportunity to inform the community that you are available to help. As you strategize ways in which to reach farmworkers, consider the following:

  • Provide written materials in farmworkers’ languages. Many farmworkers do not speak or read English or Spanish well or at all. Learn what languages the farmworkers in your area read and make your written materials available in those languages. Additionally, use a professional translator who can accurately convey phrasing, idioms and culturally relevant language rather than simply providing a verbatim translation.
  • Provide your information in oral and culturally appropriate formats. Farmworkers may or may not be literate in their native language. Some languages may only be oral and not written languages, such as Triqui from Oaxaca, Mexico. To accommodate all farmworkers, provide information in oral formats. For example, record CDs with the information contained in your brochures or other written materials you typically provide to victims. Also consider producing short videos that detail information about farmworker rights, your services and the legal process. The videos can be shown in your waiting room or given to individuals to take home.
  • Use the fotonovela format. Fotonovelas use photographs of real people acting out skits, which share a message and can be used as an outreach tool. As a resource to you, there is a fotonovela in Spanish developed by and for farmworker women available at www.crla.org/svi. It tells the story of a young farmworker woman experiencing sexual violence at work and what she does to be safe, end the violence and get help. You can distribute the fotonovela in your own farmworker community and include your contact information on the back cover.
  • Radio/Television. Local farmworker organizations can help you make contact with local radio and television networks that farmworkers use. Air public service announcements on radio and television with information about how to seek your assistance. Given the diversity in languages spoken by farmworkers, it is important to look for media in a wide range of languages in order to reach non-English speaking farmworkers. Have your phone number available if you are doing a television segment and ask for it to be displayed on the screen. Ensure that your intake specialists and receptionists know when these segments will be aired so that they are prepared to take the calls that will be generated.

Learn how to best communicate with farmworkers. Farmworkers may distrust someone outside of the farmworker community due to the exploitation that they have experienced. The knowledge you obtain about the community will be apparent when you interact with farmworkers and ask appropriate questions about their lives and work. Another way to better communicate with farmworkers is to learn the work terminology—for the crops grown, tools used, seasons and jobs—which can vary depending on the crops grown in your area. Try to avoid terms that farmworker community members will not understand and, instead, use colloquial and slang terms. For instance, the Spanish translation of fields is campo but farmworkers tend to use the “Spanglish” word fil.

Exercise

  • What farmworker organizations are in my area?
  • With which farmworker organizations could I partner in order to provide improved services to farmworker victims of sexual assault?
  • What national farmworker organizations exist that can provide me with helpful information about farmworkers and outreach to the farmworker community?
  • What local community events do farmworkers attend?
  • Who could help me develop culturally appropriate and relevant skit, brochures and other outreach materials?