On February 8th I traveled to Cornelius, OR to meet Rosa Rivera at the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. Virginia Garcia was a six year old that traveled with her parents from Texas to California for the berry picking season in 1975. Virginia cut her foot on the journey and by the time her family reached Oregon it had become badly infected. The clinic that they visited had no translator for the Garcia family and they could not read the instructions on her medicine. Virginia passed away on Father’s Day. The Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center was founded so that preventable tragedies like this will not happen. The center has expanded to four locations and serves more than 30,000 patients a year in Washington and Yamhill counties. They provide medical care to migrant and seasonal farm workers that including prenatal, vision, and dental care.
Rosa took us on a tour of the camps that included 5 stops. The worst camp had trailers that had collapsed from mold but were still being lived in 2 seasons ago. The workers could live in apartments in Hillsboro for cheaper but they do not have transportation to get them to the fields. Even the nicest camp was a place that I would never want to live in. Most of the trailers had no windows and all had very bad plumbing. At one camp we met a mother who lived in a trailer with her 4 children and another family that had 3 children. Rosa told us that many workers complained to her about their housing, lack of water in the fields, having to pay a lot of money for rides to the grocery store, and being forced to buy meals from a food cart that travels out the fields. They are afraid to complain because their employers have the power to send them back home. We visited a blueberry farm where we met with 15 men who were pruning the trees. They had gotten to work at 6 that morning and were likely to be out there until dusk.
On April 1 YAYA will return to Cornelius with 30 bikes to giveaway to the workers. We are also collecting bandanas, hats, gloves, and water bottles for the center to distribute. Rosa told us that most of the camps only had about 20 people living in them at this time of year but fill up to about 450 during the summer and fall. The center is always looking for volunteers during those seasons and I am looking forward to being there to help.