by Eden Gibson
Cityteam, a nonprofit based in San Jose, has worked since 1957 to provide families in low-income communities with the resources to break free from the cycle of poverty. The organization delivers basic necessities and school supplies to parents and children in Santa Clara County, transforming lives by empowering individuals and exposing youth to educational opportunities.
Cityteam partner Oscar Andrade has expanded the organization’s sphere of influence by distributing its resources to the migrant families living in Salinas, Gonzales, and King City. His work with Cityteam has impacted the lives of countless families by providing them with clothes, food, and backpacks for the back-to-school season.
“When there’s no work, these families have to save money to pay the bills,” Andrade explains. “We help meet their needs by bringing backpacks and clothes during the back-to-school season, and by delivering food every 15 days.”
Andrade not only highlights the financial challenges these families face, but the physical and social obstacles as well. Andrade explains that many migrant families “work Monday to Saturday from 3:30 in the morning to 4 or 5 in the evening.” He also describes the constant fear that torments workers who are undocumented. “Thirty percent of these people have papers, and seventy percent don’t,” Andrade revealed. “When they go to the store or when they go to work, they are afraid of being stopped by immigration officers. They won’t be able to provide for their families if they are caught.”
Although Andrade’s work has impacted countless lives, the families he serves are only represent a tiny population of the innumerable agricultural workers in California. Far more migrant families than a single individual could ever support encounter similar problems every day. One group of families, for example, picks strawberries in the fields of Watsonville from 7am to 5pm every Monday through Saturday. The agricultural labor they perform to produce food for American families is far more grueling than one might expect.
Strawberry picking is not always easy; it often requires painstaking and meticulous work. Because single strawberries do not grow in organized lines, like a row of trees in an orchard, workers must sort through each cluster and carefully inspect every berry on the plant.
Agricultural labor requires backbreaking toil; men and women spend hours bent over in the endless rows of berries with no protection from harsh weather. While the sweatshirts they wear protect them from sunburn, they also make a sweltering day miserable. Andrade admits that he “tried to work in the fields, but [he] only lasted 40 minutes.”
Andrade and the members of Cityteam believe that forging relationships with individuals of different backgrounds is pivotal to community interconnection. They explain that ignorance and isolation hinder unity, perpetuating inequality and social polarity. By highlighting the daily challenges that migrant families encounter, Cityteam encourages members of affluent communities to reach out to their neighbors and display a greater appreciation for the hard-working families that put food on the tables of innumerable Americans.
Categories: Local News