The community-led nonprofit Mano en Mano is providing educational services and other resources to migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MFSWs) in the coastal town of Milbridge, ME. Through this work, they hope to address organizational and  systemic oppression that impacts the livelihoods of MFSWs in the state.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2017 census, 13 percent of all paid agricultural workers hired in Maine are migrant workers. Since the late 1990s, the blueberry industry has drawn migrant workers representing nationalities from Mexico, Haiti, Honduras, and Puerto Rico, and the Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy nations.

Because of their highly mobile and sometimes undocumented status, MSFWs face numerous and consistent challenges, including “language barriers, education and job skills training, housing, reliable transportation, food and nutrition, childcare, and school alternatives for the children during the harvest,” Jorge Acero, Monitor Advocate for Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers at Maine Department of Labor tells Food Tank.

Many of these challenges “revolve around institutional racism, language injustice, and bias against migrant students and families,” Leslie Monroy, Migrant Education Program Director at Mano en Mano tells Food Tank.

To address these challenges and meet the needs of Maine’s MSFW community, Mano en Mano provides access to, and helps advocate for resources and support throughout the state. They also work with the Maine Migrant Education Program (MEP) to develop opportunities for migrant workers and their families, including the Blueberry Harvest School. The school is run through the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and helps to ensure that youth have access to education during the summer months when their families are migrating for work.

“Across all of Mano en Mano’s programs we work to celebrate identity and culture so that we can more effectively and holistically serve our communities,” Monroy tells Food Tank.

“We do this by preparing learning kits filled with culturally relevant literature (books written by Latinx, Haitian, Indigenous writers), providing language interpretation services at community events and meetings, and hiring staff from the community to run programming,” she says. As much as possible, Mano en Mano also prioritizes hiring teachers from diverse backgrounds who represent the communities they work with.

Read the full article about migrant youth education program by Amelia Keleher at Food Tank.