New Jersey’s Migrant Worker Outreach recognized nationally

A Shamong 7th grader reflects on her pride as a daughter of migrant workers

Anny Hernández-Casio, Youth Clubs volunteer and contributor to the Summer 2020 Combined Farm Worker Journals (Dory Dickson/Special to The Sun).

The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) leads the celebration of National Rural Health Day every year on the third Thursday of November. The celebration shines a light on those serving the vital health needs of an estimated 57 million people living in rural communities throughout the United States.

In 2015, NOSORH put out a nationwide call to nominate individuals, organizations and coalitions making a positive impact in rural communities. Soon the stories started coming in and the Community Stars recognition program was born. This year, nominations came in from 48 states, setting a new record.

Migrant Worker Outreach (MWO), representing New Jersey, appears in the 2020 edition of the book of Community Stars, published on the National Rural Health Day website, powerofrural.org.

“MWO was founded in 2010 with the mission of welcoming migrant workers to New Jersey. Usually about six thousand migrant workers arrive for the harvest. We try to reach out to as many of them as we can,” said Dory Dickson, MWO co-founder and director. “As a modest size organization consisting solely of volunteers, we were surprised to be nominated and very pleased to receive this singular honor.”

Roslyn Council, Rural Health Project Officer with the New Jersey Office of Rural Health nominated MWO for the recognition.

“Thanks to Migrant Worker Outreach, those workers who put food on America’s tables are not alone,” noted Council.

Although the blueberry harvest is finished, and most of the migrant workers have departed, MWO volunteers continue organizing outreach to local farm workers and other immigrants. They collaborate with area civic groups, charities, schools and businesses.

During the blueberry harvest this past summer, a few MWO volunteers visited migrant camps to distribute donated food, clothing and other items.

However, English classes, field trips and most other activities were canceled. Instead, local
volunteers signed up to serve as pen pals, telephone reading partners, and telephone English tutors.

Volunteers were matched with children in the new Farm & Community Youth Clubs of South Jersey, which were organized by MWO. Even though they worked remotely, volunteers enjoyed making a connection with their partners from the youth clubs.

Anny Hernández-Casio, is a 7th grader at Indian Mills Memorial School and served as a volunteer pen pal.

“I would like people to know that migrant workers are crucial to this country’s growth. If we stop issuing work visas to foreign workers, it will impact all of us when our everyday foods disappear,” she said. “Migrant workers labor from dawn till dark, and it is hard and sometimes stressful.

“When I tell people my family is Hispanic and my parents work in the fields, I feel proud. When I see a blueberry box at the store that says ‘Grown in Shamong, New Jersey’ I think, My dad helped pick those berries. Now other people can enjoy them.”

MWO also publishes the Combined Farm Worker Journals, which are distributed free at
migrant camps. There are dual language sections for Latinos and Haitians, plus a section for Jamaicans. Copies of the journal are available at Pinelands Library in Medford.

To learn more about MWO, visit their website: www.MigrantWorkerOutreach.Org, email
info@MigrantWorkerOutreach.Org, send a Facebook message to Migrant Worker Outreach of South Jersey, or write to P.O. Box 123, Medford, NJ 08055.