Instructional Leadership, emphasis: K-12 School Leadership (MEd)
NAU Yuma Social Work students at Dia Del Campesino

NAU–Yuma Social Work Students Celebrate Mexican Farmworkers at 29th Annual Dia Del Campesino Health Fair

During dark winter mornings, farmworkers from Mexico cross the border to get on buses to be taken to work in the cold, muddy fields in Yuma. But each year, NAU–Yuma Social Work students brave the cold weather to give farmworkers a warm welcome and warm items of comfort at an annual event called Dia Del Campesino (Day of the Farmworker).

This year, the health and resource fair was held on November 30 from 2–6 a.m. next to the border crossing in San Luis, Arizona, says Kara Ahearn, Assistant Clinical Professor of the Department of Social Work at NAU–Yuma. Because the farmworkers are not able to take time off work to get their emotional and physical needs met, one day per year, the Social Work students join community agencies to bring the resources to the farmworkers.

With a significant donation from a local agricultural company, the students raised enough funds this year to purchase two thousand pairs of socks to give the farmworkers, who often get cold, wet feet while working. Having an extra pair of socks to change into during the day helps with their comfort, Ahearn says.

The students also handed out warm beanies and bandanas, which were donated by Natalie Cawood, Chair of the Social Work Program on the NAU Main Campus. The farmworkers seemed overwhelmed and grateful for the support and items to help with their comfort, Ahearn says. Despite the chilly weather, she says the event is lively, supportive, and celebratory, with food, music, and informational booths staffed by workers from local health and wellness organizations.

The social work program at NAU–Yuma has an emphasis on the US/Mexico border, so “advocating and supporting our farmworkers is a critical component of our program,” Ahearn says. “Over 90% of lettuce nationwide comes from Yuma in the winter. Our farmworkers make this possible. They are vulnerable to exploitation and often don’t have the equipment to maintain their health, safety, and comfort.”

She stresses the importance of increasing awareness and appreciation for the farmworkers. “Many communities, ours included, often forget about the hard work and sacrifice that goes into making it possible for us to enjoy fresh produce in the winter. The early hours, long workdays, and time the workers must spend away from their families are things that we shouldn’t take for granted.”

Ahearn can be reached at (928) 317-6411.

NAU Yuma Social Work Students taking a selfie while at the 29th dia del campesino in San Luis, AZ