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Welcoming The Workers That Grow Our Food

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Spring and early-summer is an exciting and busy time at the Horizons of Friendship (Horizons) office, especially with the arrival of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers in the Northumberland community. Since 2002, Horizons has been working with the Seasonal Agricultural Workers within Northumberland County. 

In 2008, Horizons teamed up with the New Canadians Centre (NCC) in order to tackle issues facing the workers. Some of the key issues that the workers face are culture shock (transitioning from their home country to Canada), lack of financial and material resources upon arrival to Canada, isolation and lack of social life, and general unawareness of how to access a variety of goods and services available within the community. Together as a team, Horizons and the NCC have implemented a variety of programs and services that address some of the issues the workers face.

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Perhaps the greatest challenge that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers face is that upon arrival to Canada, they have very little money to spend on products and services. I recently had the opportunity to speak to several workers from different farms and they all reiterated this one sentiment: the first couple weeks in Canada is a struggle. Not only is it a financial struggle, but it is a personal struggle as well – they have left their families behind and they need to start sending their remittances as soon as possible. Once the workers arrive in Canada, they won’t receive their first paycheck until at least a week after arrival – this can leave the workers without the ability to purchase essentials like food, clothing, and hygiene products for some time. However, The Salvation Army has generously donated several vouchers for the workers – these vouchers can be exchanged for essentials like food, shampoo, and shaving cream that provide for the workers until they receive their first paycheck. Items like clothing, shoes, and hats are provided through donations from individuals and Horizons’ Thrift Shop.

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Our most recent event, the Annual Welcoming Dinner, organized by Horizons, the NCC, and the Fellowship Baptist Church hosted over 200 people for a night of music, food, and fun. With over 120 Seasonal Agricultural Workers in attendance, community members were able to express their gratitude and support to the workers for their hard work. We had the opportunity to sing, laugh, and dance with workers, and take a moment to discuss the work they do here in Northumberland County. While talking to one of the workers we learned that the migration process from their home country to Canada can be tough, especially when it’s time for them to pack their luggage for the trip. We learned that because the workers are only allowed to bring one piece of checked baggage and one piece of carry-on baggage on their flights, the decision process of what to bring to Canada can be extremely difficult. “Is it more important to bring an extra pair of boots for work or pictures of my family?” asks one of the workers. He explained to us that these are the types of questions he has to ask himself every year before coming to Canada.

For the past few years, Horizons, the NCC, and the Port Hope Community Health Centre have offered free and confidential health clinics. This drop-in clinic is available to workers bi-weekly on Thursday from June to October. If workers require medical attention, they can attend this clinic and receive help from a health care professional.

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Horizons and the NCC have also arranged a variety of cultural events for the workers. These events range from Games Night to watching Soccer matches to a Potluck in The Park to the Annual Welcome and Farewell Dinner. The purpose of these events is to bring together the workers and people of the Northumberland community to socialize and have fun together. Workers can spend days on the farms with little social interaction; these events aim to break that cycle. Horizons recently hosted a couple of World Cup parties here at the office and many of the workers came to watch the games. It was an excellent opportunity for them to cheer on their home countries and to socialize with their friends and colleagues.

We would like to give a big thanks to all the organizations and individuals that have helped us in the past and who continue to help us in the present and the future. A special thanks to the NCC for their hard-work and dedication. Thank you to:

Food4All 

Salvation Army

Fellowship Baptist Church

UFCW

Northumberland United Way

CSU Solidarity Fund

UNIFOR

Port Hope Community Health Centre

Northumberland Community Legal Centre

We wouldn’t be able to put together these events without your support.