Editor’s note: The following was written by Dr. Karen Hendershot, a Palmyra resident and volunteer with Migrant Worker Outreach (MWO). The nonprofit was recently recognized as a “Community Star” on the 10th Annual National Rural Health Day by The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.
I began volunteering with Migrant Worker Outreach (MWO) in July 2020. Migrant workers are the backbone of the New Jersey produce industry. They work long, hard hours to make it possible for us to enjoy lovely fruits and vegetables on our tables each year. They are underserved and overlooked.
As an educator I work with international students and immigrants, as well as students born in the United States. Some of my students are English language learners. One of my fields of expertise is teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I jumped at the chance to make a difference by helping establish, and now lead, the English-To-Go Program, which offers English lessons via video phone chat to migrant workers and their families.
This past summer, I worked with 19-year–old Stevenson, a young man from the Dominican Republic, who was eager to develop his English skills. It was a wonderful experience for me. Stevenson reported that during our two months working together he learned more English than during a semester of attending university ESL classes. This specific initiative underscores how, during the pandemic, we were able to be creative and innovative in reaching the migrant community, even when most of our volunteers couldn’t visit the camps in person.
Now that the harvest is over, a few of our volunteers are tutoring immigrants who live in New Jersey year round. We are looking forward to expanding the English-To-Go Program! Prospective volunteers do not need to have prior teaching experience. We offer orientation and ongoing support for our volunteer telephone tutors.
To learn more, visit www.MigrantWorkerOutreach.Org or email info@MigrantWorkerOutreach.Org.