ECMHSP Guest Writes in Honor of NFAW

In honor of National Farmworker Awareness Week, ECMHSP’s John Menditto has written a guest blog post for Farmworker Justice’s blog, Harvesting Justice.  In his post, he shares the challenges ECMHSP has seen our farmworker families overcome to support their children’s education during our forty years of service.  Below is an excerpt:

The consistency we have seen in our own program on the United States’ East Coast is a vision shared by Head Start agencies that serve farmworker families all across the nation. I have the privilege to work with many of these Head Start agencies through my Board service to the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association and I can attest to the fact that the 30,000 farmworker children served through the Head Start program are receiving education and care of the highest quality.

But threats abound for farmworker families.

You can read the full post here.

ECMHSP Prepares for Florida’s Farmworker Families

Workers place the berries directly into the plastic clamshell packages that shoppers will find in stores. Photo credit: Dan Charles, NPR

Workers place the berries directly into the plastic clamshell packages that shoppers will find in stores. Photo credit: Dan Charles, NPR

This week, National Public Radio (NPR) aired the investigative report, “In Florida, Strawberry Fields Are Not Forever.” This report is part of the ongoing series by NPR, in collaboration with ECMHSP, focusing on our farmworker families and the work they do providing America with a safe and secure source of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In this story, reporter Dan Charles spoke to farmworkers who describe the back-breaking labor of the strawberry harvest in and around Plant City, Florida. There, farmworkers work long days under the hot sun in hopes of making enough money to feed their families. Farmworker parents, like Bernarda Chavez, soon will pack their belongings and move their families up the East Coast, following the labor contractor to the next harvest.

Working in strawberry fields require long days in under the hot sun.

ECMHSP parent work long days in under the hot sun during the strawberry harvest.

The farm fields are no place for young children. When young children accompany their parents into the fields, they are exposed to the many hazards of agricultural work, such as pesticides, heavy machinery, and extreme weather conditions. They need a nurturing, safe place where they can play and learn.

In the coming weeks and months our Head Start centers in Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will open their doors to our migrant farmworker families ensuring that young children do not accompany their parents to the fields. Our dedicated employees will open their hearts to these same families as well. As spring arrives, we celebrate the contributions of farmworker families who miraculously feed this great nation.  We also celebrate our dedicated employees who make minor Head Start miracles happen each and every day.

Office of Head Start's Colleen Rathgeb and ECMHSP's Parksley Center Director LaShundra Weeks with children from farmworker families.

Office of Head Start’s Colleen Rathgeb and ECMHSP’s Parksley Center Director LaShundra Weeks with children from farmworker families.

2015 Annual Report, Hot off the Press!

Dear Reader,

ECMHSP is excited to announce the release of the 2015 Annual Report. See the names, faces, and numbers that made 2015 a great success.

Some of the highlights from this year’s report include:

  • An update on our Early Head Start expansion in Florida
  • A review of this year’s media coverage
  • A profile on a former Policy Council parent
  • Total number of children and families served

Each year, ECMHSP releases its annual report, pursuant to requirements in the Head Start Act, Sec. 644.  The report includes information on funding sources, the results of the most recent financial audit, and other information required by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Cover of the 2015 Annual Report

Cover of the 2015 Annual Report

You can view the 2015 Annual Report and past annual reports on our website.

I would like to thank the ECMHSP staff for the wonderful work they do for our farmworker families throughout the year. This annual report is a reflection of the hard work and dedication they put into the program.  We hope they are just as proud as I am of this report – a celebration of their work.

Sincerely,
Dr. Jose S. Villa
Chief Executive Officer at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project

Cameras Rolling at La Familia Center

Daniel Jaime is the Center Director for La Familia Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Center in Florida. This is his experience working with media.

La Familia Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Center in Dundee, Florida.

La Familia Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Center in Dundee, Florida.

On Feb. 18, I received a phone call from John Sarmiento, a news anchor for Telemundo Tampa. Mr. Sarmiento called me because he had heard from a community partner about the wonderful services ECMHSP’s La Familia Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Center provides in Dundee, Florida, and surrounding areas. He wanted to see if he could come to the center and interview a few farmworker parents who have benefited from the services that we provided and how they felt it would benefit other families in the community.

The next day at around noon, Mr. Sarmiento arrived with his camera crew. We had two farmworker parents who were willing to provide a brief testimony of the services that they had and were receiving. During his visit, Mr. Sarmiento toured the center and was able to see all of the staff and children in action. “It’s just remarkable,” he said. He couldn’t believe how nice the classrooms were set up and the attention that was being given to the children. Once he finished touring the center, Mr. Sarmiento began to interview the parents.

The parents were nervous at first because they were going to be on television; but once they got into the interview, you could see the passion in their eyes and the words coming directly from their heart. The parents did a tremendous job representing East Coast Migrant Head Start Project and describing the services that they have received. When asked if they thought that other families would benefit from these types of services, they did not hesitate to say, “It’s a wonderful program. Who wouldn’t want their children in a center like this?”

Ana Maria Cruz, farmworker parent, shares in the interview how La Familia center has helped her children.

Ana Maria Cruz, farmworker parent, shares in the interview how La Familia center has helped her children.

In my interview with Mr. Sarmiento, he wanted me to talk about all of the services that we provide, what our services areas are, as well as if there are other centers like us in the area or elsewhere. I provided information about what services East Coast Migrant Head Start Project provides and how a family could potentially qualify. I also informed Mr. Sarmiento about some of the struggles that our families have and how it has been impacting our enrollment numbers, not only at our center, but at other centers along the East Coast as well. Some of those impacts include: the influx of H2A workers in the community; families settling out and deciding not to travel; and local and national immigration laws that make it harder for families to travel from one state to another comfortably.

Daniel Jaime's interview by Telemundo was aired as part of the story.

Center Director Daniel Jaime’s interview by Telemundo Tampa was aired on February 24.

The story was aired locally on Feb. 24 during the Telemundo Tampa newscast and shared through the news station’s social media. The story can be viewed here. Now that the Tampa community has seen the story, hopefully we can have an influx of families, community stakeholders, and people who are willing to seek employment with East Coast Migrant Head Start Project.