This summer one of our allies, Student Action with Farmworkers, will again host college students from around the country to participate in their successful internship program called “Into the Fields.” You can hear directly from the students about their experiences at their new blog.
Last year, we were privileged to host a SAF intern. Daryn Lane worked with us to help produce a 60-second public service announcement about child labor – which you can see here:
Selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants, these interns and fellows will follow in the footsteps of over 600 students from prior years who gave up summer vacations for this important work. Through the Into the Fields summer internship and Sowing Seeds for Change six-month fellowship programs, students will support farmworkers and their families in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to address health and safety concerns, educational barriers, and legal issues such as wage theft and unenforced housing laws.
All but invisible to most Americans, the estimated 3 million farmworkers who hand-pick our nation’s produce live in conditions often not suitable for human habitation, earning an average of $11,000 per year. They are exempt from minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws applicable to other industries. In North Carolina, children as young as 10 can legally work in one of the most dangerous industries in the country, and account for 20% of on-the-job deaths in agriculture.
“One of the things that impacted me the most,” said Fredy Olmos, a 2012 SAF intern, “was seeing the horrible living conditions that some of the people live with [and] how many people don’t know this is happening in their state.”
“It feels like we live in a prison,” is how one farmworker described his conditions to Shaoli Chaudhuri, another 2012 intern. “To think that the workers we’re here to serve,” says Shaoli, ”feel so trapped and invisible to the point that they liken their circumstances to prison—it makes me ache for them.”
Each year SAF students increase the capacity of the organizations they work with by outreaching to over 5,000 farmworkers and their families.