«Today, you are my Family»

Every year we celebrate National Farmworker Awareness Week.  While we feel it is important to become more knowledgable about farmworkers lives, work and health throughout the year, we also like to take part of a nationwide effort to spread the word about what is happening in our own state of Maine.  We hope that this week can bring awareness and a glimpse of the work that MMHP does, as well as what farmworkers are saying and doing.  Here is our first post!

“Today, you are my Family”

     Each month the MMHP Outreach Staff talk together by phone.  There is a lot of business and updates to discuss, but we also make a point to share a “Mission Moment,” a reflection from our work that grounds us in why we do this.  As we share our experiences, a common theme emerges.  The moments that make an impression on each of us are when we accompany our patients through challenging situations.  One outreach worker sat with a pregnant woman in the emergency room, another drove a client back and forth to the bedside of a dying loved one in the hospital, another received a phone call from a client who had a family crisis back home and needs someone to lean on.  An outreach worker sat by a patient during chemotherapy treatments and another attended a Wake.  Outreach workers sit with patients as they receive biopsy results or prepare for surgery.  In these moments, our clients tell us, “I am far away from my family, but I am not alone because you are with me.  Today, you are my family.”  What strikes each of us is what a privilege it is to accompany an individual during their darkest moments, to be trusted by them to bear witness to some of their most intimate struggles and worries. What humbles me is that the support that we offer our clients does not end with us.  When we share the stories of our work with members of the community, the overwhelming response is, “What can I do to help?”  We have seen an outpouring of hospitality from individuals and community organizations throughout the state.  Aid for Children in Aroostook County donated new t-shirts express their appreciation to broccoli workers and the staff of the Maine Health Access Foundation donated warm socks, hats, and gloves for winter potato packers.  The Maine Community Foundation provided funding for new, warm clothing for farmworker children and the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta held a picnic for Haitian blueberry harvesters to welcome them.  St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ellsworth opened their doors for clinics and a Health Fair during the summer months and the Economic Justice Committee of the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Waterville hosted a film screening to raise awareness about issues that impact migrant farmworkers.  Students as College of the Atlantic spearheaded a food drive for winter blueberry packers. From a statewide scale to a quiet moment in a doctor’s office, I am impressed by the ways that communities and outreach workers wrap themselves around the farmworkers that come to Maine to help with the harvest, acknowledging that they are far from home and far from family.  In turn, we are touched by the privilege to become family for a day. Liz Charles Enabling Services Coordinator