Advocacy & Activism, Health & Safety, Housing, Legal Assistance, Migrant & Seasonal Workers, Rights

Group Educates Farm Workers about Abuse

From Advertiser-Tribune.com, “Group educates farm workers about abuse” by MaryAnn Kromer, mkromer@advertiser-tribune.com, 28 Mar 2011.

[Tiffin, OH]–The planting and growing season are about to begin in Northwest Ohio, and farmers are preparing migrant camps for the annual influx of farm workers and their families. These itinerant workers often need assistance with housing, language skills, health care, education, child care, finances, job skills and social, emergency and legal services.

Manuela Pena and Alma Mendez, who work for PathStone, were invited to speak about the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program their agency has established. They were guest presenters at the annual Beans and Rice Dinner Wednesday at St. Francis Spirituality Center.

Pena, director of PathStone’s special programs, said PathStone, started in 1969 as Rural Opportunities, is part of a network of 70 offices in seven states and Puerto Rico. Pena said the agency’s goal is to help Latinos become self-sufficient.

PathStone devotes itself to the needs of immigrant farm workers and their families who come to Ohio to work during the growing and harvesting seasons.

“We create hope. That’s what we do,” Pena said. “Sometimes we cannot work by ourselves. We collaborate with other agencies, like the sisters and Sister Ellen (Lamberjack). … She helps us with immigration services. …

“In 2010, we provided 225 individuals with services for immigration.”

Lamberjack is director of Project Hope-Proyecto Esperanza in Archbold.

The group provides legal services to immigrants in Fulton, Henry, Williams and Defiance counties.

Mendez, domestic violence advocate for PathStone, said a 24-hour hotline has been set up to report and seek assistance with domestic violence and sexual abuse incidents. Pena said PathStone advises victims of their rights and transports abuse survivors to temporary shelter and other services.

“In the summertime, we go to the camps and try to provide different things the people need so they know what services are available in the community,” Pena said.

Mendez said in 2010, PathStone helped 89 domestic violence victims, include five males. She and other volunteers serve as translators to help victims file reports and testify in court. A few local attorneys have been offering their services pro bono for victims who have no income. Mendez said often victims fear retaliation from the offender if they report assaults and request protection orders.

“They say, ‘What’s going to happen to me if I report this? What’s going to happen to my children?’ We tell them, ‘We’re going to help you through this. We’re going to walk you through this,'” Mendez said.

Because language is a barrier for many farm worker families, PathStone offers English as a second language classes twice a week.

Sometimes conversations reveal abusive behavior in the home. Victims might not consider a push or slap as abuse, but advocates encourage them not to tolerate such actions.

“We give them options,” Pena said. “We inform them of their rights and how we will be able to support them. We don’t make anybody do what they don’t want to do.”

She introduced Maria Teresa, a young mother who was in a violent home. The agency helped her and her three children, ages 5, 7 and 9, find an apartment and obtain unemployment benefits. Maria called PathStone “a blessing.”

“They’re not workers. They’re my family. It’s the only family I have here,” she said.

For more information about PathStone, visit www.pathstone.comor call the northwest Ohio office in Liberty Center office at (419) 875-6654.

Read at: Advertiser-Tribune.com, “Group educates farm workers about abuse” by MaryAnn Kromer, mkromer@advertiser-tribune.com, 28 Mar 2011.

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