U.S. Representative Mike Kelly Visits ECMHSP Center in Pennsylvania

Sister Diane Rabe is the Director of Child Development Programs at the Saint Benedict Center. This is her story about the visit of U.S. Representative Mike Kelly.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John Maxwell

On Wednesday, October 19, U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) visited the Saint Benedict Center, the ECMHSP delegate agency in Erie, Pennsylvania. Leonor Saldaña, the center’s Policy Committee President and member of the ECMHSP Policy Council, visited Representative Kelly’s Capitol Hill office during the National and Seasonal Migrant Head Start Association’s Public Policy Conference last June and invited him to visit the center in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Representative Mike Kelly sits down with children in ECMHSP's Head Start program to read a book.

Representative Mike Kelly sits down with children in ECMHSP’s Head Start program to read a book.

Representative Kelly was greeted at the door and, while touring the center, was given a detailed picture of the ECMHSP’s Head Start program. During his tour, Representative Kelly stopped to read a story to some of the preschoolers,Ten Bright Oranges/Diez Naranjas Brillantes: A Migrant Counting Book,” from the Our Children, Our Families Curriculum, developed by the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project training staff. But, “Mike”, as he directed the children to call him, did much more than read a story. He entered into the life of a migrant worker and made the story real for the children, talking about the fruits and vegetables in the story — “how they were grown, how they were harvested and how they were prepared and served for us to eat?” It was so much more than a counting experience for the children.   He engaged them at their knowledge level and brought in their family experiences, asking who had ever smelled, touched and helped to prepare the fruit/vegetable in the book. He talked about colors, had them counting, and engaged them in thinking by recalling information, making predictions about what produce and number was next. He asked for their opinions: “how many liked apples?” and “what kind?” as he named a variety of kinds. “How many have ever eaten potatoes and how were they prepared: french fries, mashed, boiled?” “Which way do you like them?” “Mike” even told them that he grew up in farm country and talked about his ancestors being potato farmers. It was a magical experience for the children, as 27 of them sat perfectly still for the entire story, counting, exchanging ideas and opinions — and learning along the way!

Representative Kelly addresses farmworker parents about their pressing issues, such as the center's transportation, program funding, and immigration.

Representative Kelly addresses farmworker parents about their pressing issues: the center’s transportation, program funding, and immigration.

Meanwhile, in our meeting area, the parents had prepared a fiesta to share with Representative Kelly as they discussed the life and needs of the migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the Erie area. Leonor, the elected President of our parent committee, presented him with a basket of area produce and wine. Representative Kelly was so very personable to each parent, greeting them and inquiring about their families and the specific work they are doing at this time in the harvest. He asked the group about the availability of services and programs focusing on gaining skilled jobs for the “off season” and adult education. He was interested in understanding how the language barrier affected the families in our area.

He chose not to sit at the head table; instead he went to eat with the Aranda, Garnica and Gordillo families at their table. He entered into a deeper conversation with them about their children, plans for when the season ends, their work in the grape crop and, that, for some, it is a year round crop. In the discussion, he asked their opinion about the greatest need for the program. They immediately answered: a new bus! The center’s bus had just broken down that morning. In response, Representative Kelly stood up and asked across the room, “How can we get a bus for you?” He proposed several ideas and said that we would continue to work on the problem in the near future. The parents were amazed that he shared their concern and had some immediate action proposed.

They had two other main areas of concern that surfaced: Head Start program funding and their citizenship. He left his business card for us to contact him with immigration paperwork issues, promising to handle them personally.

Representative Kelly (center) poses next to Leonor Saldaña (left of the Rep. Kelly), president of the Policy Committee, and the center's farmworker parents during his visit.

Representative Kelly (center) poses next to Leonor Saldaña (left of the Rep. Kelly), president of the Policy Committee, and the center’s farmworker parents during his visit.

ECMHSP is appreciative of the time and attention Congressman Kelly demonstrated our farmworker families during his visit to our center. He is definitely,a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

ECMHSP Steps on to the Red Carpet

ef4f9c2dd15779f8e4e0f59bcbc280f6On Friday evening, East Coast Migrant Head Start Project was honored to participate in the Immigration Film Festival of Greater Washington, a three-day festival featuring more than twenty films highlighting both the plight and the contributions of recent immigrants to the United States. The festival aims to put faces on immigrants and tell the stories of global immigration through film, the most popular of media.

Last June, we wrote a blog post to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month in which we debut the short documentary, “Para Los Niños” (For the Children). Filmmakers William Johnston-Carter and Danielle Bryant, of Impact America – Alabama, had submitted this short film to the Immigration Film Festival and it was selected as one of the short films to be presented at this year’s festival.  The film, “Para Los Niños” features Brigido and Laura, farmworker parents who migrate each year for the tomato harvest and whose children attend ECMHSP Head Start centers in Chandler Mountain, Alabama, and Fort Meade, Florida. You can view the short film here.

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ECMHSP centers serve the children of farmworkers by providing them with high-quality Head Start services while their parents harvest fruits and vegetables. Photo Credit: William Johnston-Carter

Para Los Niños” was presented along with the full-feature film, “Under the Same Moon.” The film presents a heartwarming family story while also offering subtle commentary on the much-debated issue of illegal immigration. For those who have seen Under the Same Moon, you know there is scene in the movie where farmworkers are harvesting greenhouse tomatoes. It was interesting to reflect at how slow the fictional farmworkers are harvesting tomatoes in the greenhouse in comparison to how fast Brigido and Laura work in the fields of North Alabama.

Following the film presentations, ECMHSP was invited to participate in a panel discussion of the development of “Para Los Niños.” Also participating on the panel was Cecilia Rojas, a Director at Community Ministries of Rockville, a non-profit that serves the most vulnerable residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, and three recent immigrants to the United States from Honduras who had fled the terrible violence in their home country and who have received support from Community Ministries.

ECMHSP is honored to have the opportunity to discuss on the lives of the farmworker families we serve.  Opportunities like this – where we are able raise awareness of the contributions of farmworkers – are important opportunities to take.

Improving Healthcare Service Models for Migrant Families

Mercedes Hernández is the Child and Family Health Manager at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. This is her experience at this year’s East Coast Migrant Stream Forum.

Last week, ECMHSP was invited to participate at the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum. This year’s forum took place on October 13-15, 2016 at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami, Florida.

Mercedes Hernández, the Child and Family Health Manager at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, poses with presenter Ricardo Garay, Health Network Manager for the Migrant Clinicians Network.

Mercedes Hernández, the Child and Family Health Manager at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, poses with presenter Ricardo Garay, Health Network Manager for the Migrant Clinicians Network.

Begun by North Carolina Community Health Center Association in 1988, the Forum is the oldest annual conference dedicated to improving health outcomes and health care delivery to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families on the East Coast. It was created for health care providers, outreach workers and front-line staff that are employed by federally-funded Migrant and Community Health Centers.

As the Child and Family Health Manager at ECMHSP, I was invited to facilitate a session with Ricardo Garay, Health Network Manager for the Migrant Clinicians Network. The title of the presentation was, “Clinical Coordination for Patients On the Move: Lessons and Barriers in Establishing Continuity of Care”.

The presentation focused on the Migrant Clinicians Network’s Health Network. The purpose of the Health Network is to eliminate mobility as an obstacle for continuity of health care. For clinics, Health Network provides patient referrals, outcome reports, outreach staff integration, and updated medical records as patients move from one location to another. For patients, Health Network offers culturally appropriate services that promote engagement and health education. They have staff that speak Spanish and Haitian Creole, and they can assist in identifying transportation alternatives, among other things. This model has been very successful in ensuring mobile patients are able to receive complete culturally competent tuberculosis treatment. Now the model is being adapted to support patients with other conditions to ensure they have continuity of care as they move in search of agricultural work.

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The session, led by Ricardo Garay of the MCN, discussed the barriers faced when serving a mobile population and the solutions provided by the MCN Health Network.

The migrant farmworker families ECMHSP serves are mobile; live in hard-to-reach rural areas; earn extremely low wages; and work long hours every day. Often times, farmworker families depend on our Head Start centers to provide healthcare services and treatments. I would like to explore the possibility of adapting the model presented by the Migrant Clinicians Network to assist in the transfer of our children’s health information as family’s migrate from state to state following the harvests. We could reduce the rates of over-immunizations, facilitate the enrollment process, and ensure appropriate follow-up to health services.

Our work in strengthening our partnerships and improving our health services continued beyond the workshop. During the conference I was able to connect with farmworker health programs, migrant clinics and university professors who are working with farmworkers and have an interest in strengthening their partnerships with migrant and seasonal Head Start centers. I am looking forward to engaging with these partners to support the health services for the migrant and seasonal farmworker families we serve.