Inspired by Shine Global’s Film The Harvest (La Cosecha), New App AgHelp Aims to Help Migrant Farm Workers
Though released in 2011, Shine Global’s second film The Harvest (La Cosecha) is still having an impact today. A new app, AgHelp, launched this year to help farmworkers connect with jobs and social services, was inspired in part by the documentary.
Directed by U. Roberto Romano with Executive Producer Eva Longoria, the film looked at the plight of migrant farmworker children in the United States. There are an estimated 400,000 children who work in the fields in the United States, picking the food we all eat. The documentary followed three of them — Zulema, Perla and Victor — as they journeyed from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida’s tomato fields to follow the harvest.
Since its release, the film has been used by advocates across the country and around the world to illustrate the need for stronger child labor laws and for farmworker rights more generally.
Shine Global screened the film for members of congress and the department of labor in support of child labor laws. Rep. Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA), especially used the film in support of introducing legislation to raise the minimum age for children working in the fields:
“I applaud Eva Longoria, Robin Romano and Shine Global for using the power of film to shine a light on the plight of child farmworkers in The Harvest/La Cosecha. As this film documents, children in agriculture too often work in dangerous and exploitive conditions, which are illegal in every other industry. That is why I authored HR 3564, the CARE Act, which would raise labor standards and protections for farmworker children to the same level set for children in all other occupations”
–Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard
The founder of AgHelp, Feliciano Paredes, himself knows the hardship of growing up in a migrant farmworker family. He and his seven siblings traveled with their parents across the country – picking in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana in the spring then heading up north eventually to Michigan to harvest peaches, cherries and apples. His family eventually settled in Michigan permanently and he went to college and then on to a career in human resources. He knew there was a need for a business to help migrant farmworkers and off and on for years he worked on trying to make that happen.
While working as an analyst for the state’s Workforce Development Agency, Paredes would make field checks of Michigan farmers to make sure they were in compliance with laws regarding the treatment of migrant workers. There he encountered many families who needed housing or services and didn’t know where to get them – even one family who waited months for healthcare not knowing there was subsidized healthcare available only 10 minutes away.
Feliciano Paredes said his “aha” moment came in 2011 when he was watching The Harvest/La Cosecha.
I was watching a scene where one of the families arrives at a rundown motel, only to find out that the work that was promised to them is no longer there. When I saw their expressions of desperation, concern, anger and sadness, a light went off in my head…
I thought to myself, ‘It’s 2011 and I can download an app that helps me find the coolest coffee shop or the trendiest place to eat dinner. But If I’m a farm worker, traveling around trying to earn enough money to make it through the winter, and trying to find resources to meet my basic needs, word of mouth is the only thing available.’ That’s when I made a promise to myself that I would do what I could to change that.
Last year, his “Yelp for ag jobs” dream became a reality. Two of his brothers and his wife have joined him in the business. Over the past year, AgHelp won a total of $203,000 in funding and services at a series of business-plan competitions across the country, giving it the money it needed to finish building a robust website, aghelpusa.com, which went live in December, and to launch a smartphone app in early March.
So far, Feliciano says he has signed up 140 growers across the U.S. and more than 40 service agencies that provide help to migrants, including info on who was hiring, what they paid, and connect them to resources and information in the community, like where they could find a health clinic or http://premier-pharmacy.com how to get their kids enrolled in schools. Last year, AgHelp got about 1,100 migrant workers to sign up to be included when things went live. The service is free for service providers and workers.
Read more about the journey in this Crains Detroit article
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