Niagara on the Lake Local, December 11, 2020
2020 will always be remembered as a year of extraordinary challenges. In Niagara on the Lake it will also be remembered as a time when a caring community shone brightly!
The delivery of over 560 welcome kits to farm workers was a success because of the growing support of the people of this town. It has been a joy to meet so many local residents who provided welcome kits for these men and women who braved a pandemic to come up and work, helping our farmers to avert a financial disaster and loss of crops.
View the video from 2020 – Welcome kits
The idea of welcome kits started from a simple observation in 2008 when my friend Jodie Godwin and I travelled to Jamaica. It was my second trip and Jodie’s first. We stayed with farm workers and their families, travelling from Montego Bay to Kingston, visiting churches and schools along the way. Our memorable visits with their families lead to a greater understanding of the many challenges farm workers face while on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.
Every year farm workers arrive after their flights at the Virgil arena, often late at night after an exhausting day or more of travel. They have to wait until the following day to go to the bank, get groceries and finally start cooking their first meal by the afternoon.
When we realized how long friends on neighbouring farms had to wait to get a proper meal, we began to provide soup and sandwiches on their arrival to see them through the first night.
The idea of a simple welcome kit containing essentials evolved, letting our Caribbean and Mexican neighbours know that they are supported by a caring community.
The kits are easy and inexpensive to pack as well as a fun and practical way for individuals, families, and community groups to express appreciation. A thank you note or child’s drawing adds a personal touch that many bring home to share with their families. Some of the welcome posters made by children are still there to brighten their walls years later!
Over 500 bags have been distributed each year for the past three years as the men and women arrived. Over the last two years we partnered with Father Antonio Illas, who organizes the Migrant Workers Outreach Project through the Anglican diocese. As a result, many more Spanish speaking workers have received support.
An abundance of welcome kits were filled by community members as Christmas projects at the end of 2019. It was the beginning of an exponential show of generosity. Financial donations from the Candleight Stroll and Wineries of Niagara on the Lake got the new year off to a great start!
Over 300 welcome kits were delivered before the news of an impending pandemic descended in mid-March. Thank goodness we had stockpiled toilet paper to include in the bags as we would never have anticipated shortages for this crucial item!
When remaining deliveries resumed later in April, safety protocols were strictly maintained with no-contact drop offs.
Many of the workers arrived weeks late. The high stakes of leaving their families for eight months and putting their lives at risk was first and foremost on everyone’s mind. The bright green bags welcoming them on their arrival provided much appreciated essentials and the reassurance that they were not alone.
The welcome kits have proven to be a practical way to connect with migrant farm workers in our community, helping to create a sense of connection and belonging.
The events of this past year have demonstrated how vital these connections are;
together we are a caring community!
A list of contents for kits can be found on the Niagara Workers Welcome website.
Bags can be picked up at the NOTL Public Library, Sweets and Swirls Café and Applewood Hollow Bed and Breakfast.
Completed welcome kits can be dropped off at all three locations starting January 18.
For those who would like to support this successful local endeavour, a donation of $25 will provide the contents of a Welcome kit for one farm worker.
Please visit our website for updated information regarding collection times and drop off locations.
Fo more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.workerswelcomeniagara.com
Caption for photo :
Socks for Change, a charitable organization from Niagara provides heavy duty, made in Canada work socks for $2 a pair. Sam Baio, the organizer, also provides Niagara Workers Welcome with several hundred balaclavas, neck buffs and ear warmers at no charge which are greatly appreciated by all of the men working in -10 degree temperatures!