As our cases of COVID-19 decline and hope of the economy opening up, our neighbours to the south still struggle and even further south in Guatemala, cases are increasing along with restrictions. People quickly stopped being able to access or afford food and missionaries and aid organizations are busy trying to help as much as possible. There is a strict curfew with stories of arrests and fines for violators. I am sharing this to share how the Guatemalan migrant workers here are further affected. They see this news and hear from their families back home and it causes a lot of anxiety. Here they are continuing to work, safely, but a lot of their freedoms have been restricted. They are in a vulnerable living situation in that there are many workers in close proximity and work in the food industry. There have been a couple outbreaks in food facilities and amongst foreign workers and it has shut down the companies for a period. So the companies have to be careful. The government has also issue specific industry recommendations for safety, which are quite strict.
The workers are not allowed to leave their property at all and some only to get food and that has been difficult since a lot of items are sold out by the end of the day. They are not allowed to go out for walks or bike rides, depending the company. Some are not allowed any visitors, including us for drop offs. Some have to wear masks at all times, not just during work. Some have had their vacations suspended, some have been in quarantine after returning from vacation and some are waiting the chance to still come to Canada. The farms are like little bubbles and that breads more fear and anxiety. Normally we would be able to help by hosting social events, taking small groups to the local pool, or simply by visiting in person. We can’t do any of this. We try our best to do what we can but it is difficult. Thankfully we have had some great opportunities during these two months with the support of our church members and community members. Here are some highlights:
Bags for women
A group of women from the church prepared very nice bags for Easter season, for the Guatemalan women who work in Abbostford area. Through these bags they felt very blessed. The bags contained sweets, personal items and the special detail of this project was; that the women painted and decorated each of the bags.
Through the pandemic we have been blessed to deliver food for the workers from the Green houses from different locations. This is a very practical need that has risen due to the pandemic and we are grateful we were able to help in this way during this time. Is has been a blessing to have the means to do it but also it represents hope and connection, even if just a simple drop off.
We have been receiving bread donations each week from a friend from church who doesn’t have a safe way to distribute for her program right now and so has shared with us. We deliver bins of bread to different groups each week and it has been well received and has even allowed us to make new connections are greenhouses that we haven’t been able to connect with regularly.
Our Bible group continues every week, but because we can’t meet in person, we are using the Zoom program. We have noticed how the group has grown during this season. In the group everyone has the opportunity to share something personal from their heart or some situation that is happening in their personal or family lives. At the end of each group meeting we take time to pray for requests and for each other.
This has been a true blessing to us because we were able to include people that are not physically close to us. For example, my brother from Guatemala has been attending weekly and even some friends from the Children’s home where Jon’s grew up. This is one thing I hope does not change!
Different church members have been asking us how they can support the ministry and how they can work on a project that is supportive of greenhouse workers for this season. Those questions have allowed us to explore and investigate what challenges and needs have arisen for Latino workers during this time that has affected different areas.
Among one of the needs, the need for masks was presented and it was very special to see how different women, groups and members began to sew masks for the workers. We have already distributed more than 200 masks in 3 different greenhouses, for different groups of migrant workers. When we have delivered these masks, we can see the expression of tremendous joy on their faces. The workers have expressed that these masks will not only be of support for this season of COVID-19 but for their future use in different work areas. The greenhouses have very strict rules as they are at a high risk of an outbreak due to their close living conditions so, although they wear company issued masks during work, they are relieved to have a cloth mask for when they have to be in the community.