Sweet Hope in these times of COVID-19

Pine Island. Dulce Esperanza provided remote summer enrichment program for the children of farm worker.

| 18 Aug 2020 | 03:17

August 14th marked the end of the seven-week summer enrichment program named Dulce Esperanza (Sweet Hope), a program of the Warwick Area Migrant Committee.

This program provided activities for up to 85 children from farm worker families this summer. Most of the parents work in Black Dirt farms and packing houses.

Four thousand meals and snacks were delivered to the homes of enrolled children living in Florida, Goshen, Warwick, Pine Island, Minisink and Chester. The meals were delivered once a week by a team of volunteers and staff.

A special grant, from Cornell Cooperative Extension, added two bags of vegetables to the meals for each family. This will continue through the 2020 growing season.

Support from the Warwick Valley School District continues to be a vital support of this program.

The challenges

Dulce Esperanza normally operates in the Pine Island School, but COVID-19 forced the change to remote activities. The summer posed an especially big challenge for farm worker families as they must work long hours.

They faced additional challenges because of the lack of child care.

This program was one of the supports that made this challenge a little easier. Staff worked with children outside of their homes, social distancing and wearing masks.

Two times per week, each child had a visit with their teacher and a student teacher. Art supplies, crafts, books and projects were delivered in a kit each week.

Volunteers from Warwick Valley High School and community members helped pack both food bags and boxes with supplies each week.

The curriculum used this year had a combined focus on health, nutrition and a lesson from the Peace Institute. The Peace Institute lesson could not have been more timely. One of the lessons covered how to be an upstanding citizen, standing up for what you think is just and right.

Children also engaged in writing projects on the curriculum topics.

A garden oasis and birthday celebrations

Volunteers added a special treat on Thursdays as children from each family were scheduled to participate in a morning of fun at the Pine Island School. Mary Berrigan has been working with the students for several years, and has created a garden oasis at the Pine Island School. There are now 16 perennial plants with a milkweed garden to attract butterflies. Donations from the Warwick Garden Club helped to cover the cost of supplies.

Pat Quinn, a local artist and art therapist, provided art classes, including collage and painting. Claire Gabelman, a longstanding volunteer of the program, ended the morning with a special cooking lesson the children enjoyed as well. Children were able to make food and eat on site. Her focus was always on healthy food, and the children enjoyed the preparation as much as the actual eating of the foods they made.

Gabelman also continued a tradition of celebrating each child’s birthdays. This year it was done remotely - she prepared a movable birthday celebration for each child which was delivered to the homes of all birthday children. She prepared cupcakes for the whole family, provided a birthday gift and party favors.

The final week of the program included important gifts from several sources:

A private donation provided gift certificates for every child in order to purchase a backpack.

A private company provided some of the school supplies needed for the year.

A Ushborne Publishing company provided a box of books and the Vernon Women’s Club provided a special box of teddy bears.

About the Warwick Area Migrant Committee

Many things have changed due to COVID-19, but the children in the Dulce Esperanza program stayed connected through the work of WAMC and our community supporters. This support was very much appreciated by the parents and children. The Summer Program is entirely dependent upon donations and the help of many volunteers.

The Warwick Area Migrant Committee (WAMC) was established more than 60 ago to serve the needs of farm workers and their families. WAMC will continue to provide services and programs for this community throughout the year. Although there will be changes to meet the conditions of COVID-19, the support will not stop.

All funds raised support Dulce Esperanza and other programs of WAMC. Photos and video stories about the children are on our website and Facebook page.

Follow WAMC on Instagram, online at wafarmworkers.org or Facebook.