By: Mireya Lupercio, Children in the Fields Campaign Project Manager
Every year, the Children in the Fields Campaign coordinates the Migrant & Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art Contests in hopes that children from farmworker families will submit essays or artwork that portrays the reality and dreams of Farmworker Children. During this year’s Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) National Conference, board members had the opportunity to meet and hear from this years contests first place winners. The children presented their winning entries with the audience by reading their essays or by sharing a small description of their art drawings. Inspired by their communities, farmworker leaders, and families, the children shared their personal stories through this years’ theme, Cultivating Roots of Opportunity.
Ten-year-old, Jose Macario from Bakersfield California, showed in his drawing the work that farmworkers undergo to provide our produce. Jose described that some farmworkers “take care of plants, animals, and some work at picking grapes.” While learning more about the children and their families, Jose’s mother shared that she picks grapes back home in California.
While some of the children focused their drawings on their farmworker communities, fifteen-year-old, Norman Gonzalez-Carmona was inspired by the well-known union leader, Cesar Chavez. Norman’s artwork reflects the UFW flag which represents Cesar Chavez and his efforts for farmworker rights. The rest of the drawing symbolizes “the migrant farmworkers from migrant families that work so hard under the scorching sun to bring food to our table and give us a home and education.” Norman expressed that he wants to go to college to become an architect.
The talents of first place winners did not only transpire in artwork, but also in words. Both essays submitted by first place winners, Selina Naranjo and Lizeth Caballero acknowledged the daily sacrifices and efforts of their parents to provide better opportunities for them, while still demonstrating the value of hard work. Twelve-year-old Selina Naranjo shared in her essay that her mother does not want to migrate for work purposes because she values Selina’s education. Moving will have an effect on Selina’s education, nevertheless, Selina realizes her mother’s efforts, “It is hard for me to watch her do the same thing every day just to keep me in school.” Selina hopes that one day, she will become a writer and publish a story that she is currently working on.
Similarly, fifteen-year-old Lizeth Caballero describes in her essay about the difficulties of working in the fields, “They believe it is just the heat that kills, but they don’t know the truth behind those long, tall, and green vines. There is heat, pain, and exhausting human bodies underneath, and one of those bodies is mine.” Lizeth lives by the famous words of Cesar Chavez, “Si Se Puede!” Lizeth’s dream is to graduate from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and become an OB/GYN.
These are the realities and stories of farmworker children who remind us of the importance of advocacy to ensure for better protections for children who work in agriculture work. These are children that desire to cultivate roots of opportunities through their farmworker backgrounds and personal experiences.
To find more information about Children in the Fields or about the Migrant & Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art Contests, please visit: http://afop.org/cif