CIFC Essay & Art Contest Spotlight

Raising kids to be responsible, caring, and strong people can be a formidable task.  Since having my first child almost exactly five years ago, I’ve been quickly figuring that out.  Values can’t really be taught; rather, passing the right values on to a child requires modeling the right behavior, i.e. do as I do, not do as I say.   But it wasn’t until my friend had a baby who was diagnosed with a serious heart defect, that I realized there’s more to it than even that.

This special-needs baby – Madeline – has two older brothers, Jimmy and Peter.  Jimmy is my son’s age, with the usual foibles and challenges that most 5-year-olds tend to exhibit.  But when his little sister came on the scene, Jimmy seemed to grow up all at once:  getting himself dressed before school each morning, making breakfast for himself and his little brother, and rolling with the punches whenever another long hospital stay was announced for his mom and Madeline.  It was then that I realized character can’t be taught or even just modeled.  Rather, it is earned by going through challenging life experiences, and by discovering exactly how much inner strength one has to face – and overcome – those circumstances.

This principle certainly applies to farmworker children, who go through many adverse circumstances from a very young age.  Farmworker children often grow up in multi-cultural families and settings, having to serve as a bridge between cultures and languages.  Some migrant kids have to adjust to new schools and communities multiple times a year.  Many also work for pay while still very young – earlier than the law even permits.  But they do it out of love for their family and/or a feeling of obligation to help.  Seeing their parents work from dawn until dusk, 7 days a week, they understand implicitly that they do it for them, which instills in them a sense of responsibility as well as a drive to contribute and succeed, in order to make their parents proud.

CIFC 2015 - Javier Soto
© CIFC – Javier Soto-Gonzales 2015 CIFC art contest submission

Lizbeth Encarnacion, age 10, puts it this way: “Sometimes I wish I could help my mom earn money so we can buy necessary things like shoes.  My mom tells me that by getting good grades I can help her.   I just smile at her and say, “I will, Mami.”

Another farmworker child says, “Hard work pays off, and I hope that my parents’ hard work will pay off with myself and my siblings with time, so that they could take a break and fulfill their own dreams that have also been paused for us.  They give me that faith every day to make of life what they couldn’t.” 

One fourteen-year-old even expressed the desire to go out and work, so he could help his dad pay the rent.  Pay the rent?!  How many parents have remonstrated their teens for taking for granted the roof that’s over their head?  Well, farmworker children don’t – and it’s not because they were told not to.  It’s because they’ve seen that roof with different eyes:  eyes that have seen altogether too much.  But these experiences have contributed positively to the content of their character.

This strength of character is what motivates many farmworker children to respond to CIFC’s call for applications during our annual Migrant & Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art Contests – going on right now for 2018!  The entries we receive are always excellent:  the artwork takes our breath away and the essays move us to tears.  We can’t wait to see what farmworker children have to say/show us this year.

Remember:  the theme for 2018 is “Flourishing in the Fields.”  If you know or work with migrant and seasonal farmworker children, please encourage them to submit something to us by June 15th!  And – to all the applicants –  good luck! 😊

Download Contest Guidelines and Application in English  HERE

Descargue las Reglas del Concurso en Español  AQUI

Deadline:  June 15th, 2018

Send entries to:

Melanie Forti
1120 20th St. NW
Suite 300 South
Washington, DC 20036


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© CIFC – Yesenia Garcia 2015 Art Contest Submission