By: Vashti Kelly, Program Manager

This year National Farmworker Awareness Week was March 27 – 31, a week dedicated to the celebration and acknowledgement of farm workers and all they go through, while providing food for their fellow Americans. During this week-long observation, organizations, universities, businesses, communities, and individuals came together in support of farm workers to educate others on the struggles and lifestyle farm workers endure on a daily basis. The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) joined those efforts as its Health & Safety Programs team hosted its annual National Long-Sleeved Shirt Drive.

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Our third year of the annual National Long-Sleeved Shirt Drive was a phenomenal success. The goal was to collect at least 2,000 long-sleeved shirts. And, thanks to the amazing dedication and hard work of AFOP’s 17 member organizations, 19 businesses, 6 universities, 5 churches, 4 libraries, over 105 drop-off locations, and the over 100 professionals and volunteers in 18 states (in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.); we not only met our goal but we quintupled it. In a weeks’ time, we collected 12,013 long-sleeved shirts and counting.

We collect long-sleeved shirts not only to bring awareness of the plight of farm workers, but as a part of AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs we want to shed light on the long hours farm workers spend toiling in conditions where pesticide exposures might occur and how wearing a long-sleeved shirt plays a role in helping to protect their skin.  Thanks to the generosity of communities nationwide, farm workers who are unable to purchase their own long-sleeve shirts will receive a shirt free of charge during a health and safety education training.

AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all those who participated, donated, and supported this year’s efforts in the long-sleeved shirt drive. The small action of donating a long-sleeved shirt will mean a healthier and safer life for the farm worker who receives it. And, we look forward to growing our involvement in the years to come.