By Emily Smith van Beek
On Friday November 30th, students in the International Support Worker programme organized a film-screening fundraiser. Proceeds of the event went towards FRAYBA, a human rights organization in Chiapas, Mexico, and Students Against Migrant Exploitation. Non-perishable food items were also collected for Belleville Gleaners.
ISW Students will be spending 5 weeks interning in Mexico, directly shadowing and working with FRAYBA. What better way than to give back directly to the organization by fundraising and advocating on behalf of them. FRAYBA’S mission is to work for the poor, the marginalized, and to overcome social, political and economic struggles within their lives. They advocate that every person is entitled to enjoy their rights to the fullest.
The ISW students wanted to ensure a local perspective to the issue of human rights, and so focused on food security, labour rights and migrant workers in our own agricultural backdoor. The event brought together Paul Burnham, a fifth generation farmer in Hamilton Township, and Helmut Enns, member of a grassroots organization in Brighton called Friends with Migrant Workers. Burnham employs Mexican migrant workers on his farm each growing season, while Enns works to build inclusive communities with migrant workers and citizens of Brighton.
Farmers feed cities, but in order to do so, they must employ a large base of season agricultural workers. Without migrant workers in our own community, we would not be so fortunate to see food on our plates. People often question why migrant workers are brought to Canada, and are unaware of the conditions they face. The ISW program aimed to address any stigmas or myths that migrant workers take jobs from Canadians.
With so much food insecurity in Canada, many families are relying more and more on food banks since our climate does not allow for a full year growing season. Making the links with food insecurity at home, the social security and well-being of migrant workers, and their basic human rights, the ISW students thought it was important to include Belleville Gleaners Food Bank in their fundraising endeavours.
It is a never-ending cycle. Migrant workers come to Canada because there is a lack of employment in their own country. They seek fair wages in order to provide for their families abroad. They strive for equality, health and safety. Migrant workers deal with the inhalation of harmful pesticides. They seek the same healthcare treatments we as Canadians are privileged to have. These needs are not often met. This story of struggle could be retold exactly from the perspective of a Canadian individual or family that relies on food banks for social, economic health and well-being. The cycle keeps turning.
Working together, from local to global, we strive for a better life.