Jaslina Paintal

Basic Interview Metadata

Interview Text and Audio


An undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jaslina Paintal completed a summer internship and a spring break internship with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF). Through the Farmworker Health Program she worked extensively with migrant farmworkers from forty different camps across North Carolina. Due to her work with both health education and health services access to the farmworker community, Paintal offers a unique insight into the daily lives of migrant farmworkers, how their harsh lifestyles contribute to the onset of disease, and the barriers they face in accessing health care.



Radha Patel: Okay well, good evening. My name is Radha Patel, I’m the interviewer for today, and my interviewee is Jaslina Paintal. We are in a Davis Library study room on April 7, 2014. Okay well, could you maybe give me a brief background about yourself, maybe like what you’re studying, and also talk about your internship with Student Action with Farmworkers? And maybe touch on your interests in health and the Latino population?
Jaslina Paintal: Yea, absolutely. So I was born in North Carolina. I’m an in-state student, studying Public Health—or trying to—I applied to the school of public health here. I’m also interested in medicine and I interned last summer and also this past spring break with Student Action with Farmworkers. And I basically worked with the farmworker population, the migrant farmworker population in rural parts of North Carolina. So, we were based at Fuquay Varina—the human, the health and human services center there. It’s a clinic, as well. And from there I went to—I think we reached about forty-some-odd camps around rural North Carolina. We did health education sessions, HIV prevention, STD education, nutrition. We did health assessments—so basically accounting for each of the farm workers to come back every summer to work, and then accounting for any changes in their health and their blood pressure, body weight, whatever, any significant changes in their health that they, they feel concerned about, make referrals. All of this is to bridge the very prevalent barriers to health care that these migrant farmworkers experience, as a result of, partially, of the, you know, their sheer being isolated from major sort of urban areas, and also language barriers that they—that’s a big issue. They also don’t have transportation so in an effort to provide these rights, these basic rights of health care, Student Action with Farmworkers has sort of helped students to get to know the, you know, the issues facing farmworkers and sort of become advocates on their behalf. And, and you know, really work on developing and fostering a passion for this work that is so crucial.
RP: Yea, definitely. Cool, thank you. So could you tell me a little bit about how, how you heard about SAF and, and what made you want to apply, and things like that.
JP: Sure, actually, my aunt—interesting, kind of an interesting story—my aunt developed some of the pesticide education, sort of curriculum that SAF uses now. And she’s worked a little bit with SAF, and, in the past, and she told me about the program and she was like “keep”—and I was in middle school at the time when she told me about her work with them. I said “Oh yea, okay great! When, when do I work with them?” and she was like “Oh, when you’re in college!” and I said “Oh! That’s like way too—you know, way far away from now.” So my middle school mind sort of stored that information in, you know, in the back, in the vacancies that were there at the time. And then, the opportunity kind of reappeared in high school. Raul actually came to—he’s involved with the theatre group—so SAF has a theatre group that goes out and does health education and stuff like that thorough interactive theatre—and he came to our high school and told us about the internship through SAF. And I said “Wait! I remember this! My aunt told me about this!” So I pinned the little flier—I was a sophomore at the time in high school—I pinned the little flier to my bulletin board and said, “I’m going to remember to apply to this.” So, my freshmen year, I applied and I, you know, through a stroke of fate, I got the internship and had a wonderful experience.
RP: Yea, that’s really great. Okay well, I guess, during your internship, over the summer first, I guess, who—what type of population did you usually work with? Like was there, was it mostly males, mostly females, was it families? Ages? Things like that?
JP: Yea, by far, overwhelmingly mostly male. So I guess the youngest farmworker I interacted with was I think eighteen and the oldest was probably around sixty—sixties.
RP: Oh wow!
JP: Yea, so quite a range. And actually that made for an interesting dynamic within some of the camps, where the older, sort of, I guess, more experienced farmworkers would help out the younger farmworkers and kind of put them in their place. (laughter). I remember one of the farmworkers in one of the camps didn’t want to come over, he was you know, kind of relaxing after work, having a beer, didn’t want to come over and have his blood pressure taken. Granted, it probably wouldn’t have been very accurate (laughter), but nonetheless, the older farmworker kind of urged him, “No, come on! Come on! The clinic people are here. You better come over!” So, they kind of have an interesting dynamic there in the camps.
RP: Okay, that’s nice. Were—where—can I ask where, what countries the, most of the people you were working with were from?
JP: Yea, mostly from Mexico.
RP: Okay, was it mostly central Mexico, just out of curiosity?
JP: A lot of different places actually. There were some from Veracruz, some from Guanajuato, lots of different, kind of, places in Mexico.
RP: Okay, cool. Did a lot of them have families back at home or were they—
JP: Yea. And many, you know, frequently spoke to me about, about their families. They would say, “Oh, you remind me of my hija, you remind me of my daughter!” And you know, one of the farmworkers was particularly memorable. One night at clinic, he—he, you know, we kind of had been talking for a while. While he was waiting in the waiting room, we were just talking and he said, you know, “You remind me so much of my daughter. She wants to study education and she wants to be a teacher.” And he said, “tu tienes que seguir co tus estudios,” he said, “You have to keep going with your studies!” And I was like “Okay, alright! I will!” So yea, that was very sweet.
RP: Yea. So what sorts of projects did you specifically work on there. I know you said that you went to forty different places and, and were doing things like blood pressure, stuff like that. Was there—is that like the majority of what you did?
JP: Yes, and no at the same time. My coworker and I, a fell—so she was a fellow. She was there for six months, a six month period. Her name was Beatriz Cruz— wonderful, wonderful woman. And I got to work with her on a project involving sort of nutrition education and how to reach the farmworkers, that’s interactive. Kind of, sort of, providing a little more education on how to eat healthfully. What sorts of things should you be eating if you’re working, you know, in the farm and, you know, with long hours. And what things are good to bring, maybe, you know, carry a little bag of nueces, some nuts, or whatever, you know in your pocket. Make sure you wash your hands before you eat. Kind of, you know, some basic stuff that many of the farmworkers kind of already knew, but it opened up a conversation of, “Okay, what should I be eating if I have high blood pressure? What should I not be eating? What should I avoid?” You know? So more questions that got a little bit more convoluted and perhaps, that didn't have such simple answers, like “Well, what should you do before you eat?” “Oh, wash you hands, you know. Get the pesticides off.” You know? So it opened up the door to more questions of “how should I align my behavior so that I watch my blood pressure? Should I not eat so much salt?” You know? So we designed kind of a Jeopardy nutrition game—jeopardy that we would play in the car, because often times, we would drive pretty far to camp. Sometimes it would be an hour out of the clinic and we would have to drive and hour back, so in the mean time, we play some games in the car. And we also did a cooking demonstration with one of the—Chef Angela, who runs a restaurant in downtown Raleigh, volunteered her time to sort of show the farmers some healthy ways to prepare food that are kind of quick and easy. So we kind of arranged that. That’s all.
RP: That’s great, that’s a lot. So is there anything in particular that struck you about your experience working with them, particularly related to health? Like, were there certain diseases and illnesses that were more prevalent for certain reasons? I know that you mentioned high blood pressure a couple times.
JP: Yea, definitely high blood pressure. Also diabetes, which not only affects the farmworker population, but just the Latino population in general—overwhelmingly so. And a lot of that has to do with food access—healthy food access. So that's something that I saw as well in the farmworkers. That you know, sometimes the farmers would bring them hamburgers and soda for lunch. And you know, okay while that may be cheap and you know, convenient for the farmer to bring, we need to work on ways to improve food access to these migrant farmworkers…so that they don’t experience this overwhelming kind of pandemic of diabetes and high blood pressure—diseases that are fairly preventable through diet. So, that was something that really struck me, the prevalence of those two issues. Also, sexually transmitted illnesses were, I’d say, pretty prevalent in the community but they’re also not talked about, at all. They’re kind of closeted and you know, hard to open up that kind of conversation, particularly since… you know, to avoid making generalizations, there is a lot of machismo in the Latino community and with the farmworkers as well. And so it’s—it can be, you know, a little touchy a little bit hard to talk about these issues, which face the farmworker community.
RP: How did you—how did you all go about talking about these issues? Were they addressed or…?
JP: Yea, we actually made it kind of light-hearted, kind of funny. We actually—I don’t know how appropriate this is for the interview—but (laughter).
RP: Oh, that’s okay.
JP: So we, we brought Woody. We had a little wooden penis for the demonstrations. And, you know, made it light-hearted and funny. Like okay, everybody has sex, alright. Now, how to do it in a safe way. Right? So we would kind of, you know, through out questions and give prizes like, I don’t know, free condoms, whatever. We tried to make it more of like a light-hearted thing and not so, “we’re gonna drill you on this, this guide of information.” But rather, we just want you to be safe, and we want your families back home to also be safe, and so that’s really coming at it from a public health standpoint. So that’s really all that, you know, we’re concerned about, is the safety of them and their health. And their sexual health is really important. So, so we came at it from kind of, you know, trying to open up a conversation, make it less of a weedy sort of topic that’s full of, you know, judgments and stereotypes and all those things. So we tried to break those down and I think the theatre group really helped with that, in terms of alcohol. So they, this year—every year they address sort of a different issue—and this yea they did a fantastic job of addressing alcohol use in the farmworker community. And the drinking problems that sometimes arise, you know, when they’re here alone, they’re lonely, they’re missing their family, they’re missing their wives. And so, sometimes that, you know, arises a major problem. So the theatre group really helped with that too. They do unique arts and games and getting, getting la gente you know, motivated and not so closed off to these topics.
RP: That’s great, cool. So I know that you mentioned sexually transmitted diseases, and nutrition, things like that, high blood pressure. What—did you notice anything related to mental health? I know that people are, you know, alone without their families and things like that.
JP: Yea. Another thing—this is also kind of going along with the theatre group—I didn’t personally work with the theatre group, but many of my fellow interns did and did a fantastic job. But they—it was this, kind of an effort to address the underlying issues that you know, cause alcohol consumption. A lot of these farmworkers are depressed. We had, actually, a sort of mental illness kind of training in the sort of training process, overall training process for SAF interns, where we talked about PTSD. We talked about what it means for, for people to experience crossing the border and the traumatic experiences that can ensue and that affect on, on the human psyche. So we talked a bit about that, and although we didn’t work with many undocumented workers who were seasonal – we mostly worked with migrant H-2A workers – it's still, I mean, depression and all these things are prevalent. More so, I think, I personally saw a couple of cases of women who were very depressed. And we didn’t see a lot of women in the clinic anyway, but the ones that we did were seasonal. So they were here year-round and they, you know, were really facing a lot and as a result, were quite depressed. Some were suicidal, and you know, that’s—it is a major issue. And I think the men, a lot of times, are much more resultant to sort of talk about that. So that’s—that’s something that I think we need to develop better ways of addressing in the farmworker community because it is overwhelmingly present.
RP: Okay, thanks. Were there—were there a lot of injuries and things like that happened around? And how did people go about accessing treatment if there were? Because I know that they have horrible working conditions a lot of the time.
JP: Yea, it actually really depends on the farm. Some farmers are really, really good at sort of, you know, addressing farmworker injuries. But overwhelmingly, there is barrier for worker’s comp—so worker’s compensation for any sort of injury on the job. And I know one time, one of the farmworkers actually broke his nose on the job and we had to kind of, you know, take him to the clinic. A lot of times, we would just kind of receive calls with like, “Look, we think, there has been this pesticide spraying. We don’t know if it’s really bad. Nobody seems to be reacting to anything.”
RP: These are the farmworkers that are calling or the employers?
JP: Yea, these are farmworkers that are calling. And this one farmworker in particular felt that he wasn’t—he didn’t feel comfortable. He didn’t feel safe asking the farmer for the pesticide label, which the farmworkers have a right to know, you know, what’s been sprayed on the field, how long has it been, why are they working in this condition, and, you know, is it safe? So those are questions that they have a right to ask and they have a right to have safe working condition. But, often times, that safety is compromised and, you know, the farmers do abuse the power that, I guess, they do have in the situation. So that’s a major issue as well. From the health care side, we didn’t really deal a lot with workers comp issues—that was more the SAF interns who were on the legal aspects of things. So they, they tried to get, you know, workers to kind of open up about their experiences and kind of try to push their way through the legal system to try to get more compensation for these, you know, really atrocious incidents. So, from the health care perspective, we were just focused on, “Okay. Are you sick? Are you healthy? And what can we do about this?” So, we would call Toxic Free NC and try to get information on, you know, pesticides.
RP: Okay. So I know that you mentioned that he—that this particular person felt uncomfortable asking the farmer for what was on that. So, I guess, I’m sure there are lot’s of reasons, but since you said that most of the people that you worked with were H-2A workers, so the fear of deportation isn’t really a factor of that. But could they get fired for—do they think that they could get fired for that because the employers…?
JP: Yea, so they do—that was one thing that this particular farmworker cited that he felt the, you know, there was this constant threat that he wouldn’t be able to come back for work. And he needed this job, he needed to keep supporting his family, and so that was a major push factor. And that is a major push factor for many of the farm workers. Many of them will continue working, despite, you know, an injury or, you know, any—any sort of health factor that's really hindering their work and really, you know, affecting them. But they will work despite their pain and despite health issues to make, you know, money for their family to send back home.
RP: Yea. So I don't really know how— the specifics of how, of how that work visa works. But so, say they are under H-2A and they, if they have an injury and they called you guys, for example, so you all could come in and help treat them and things like that. And so during that time, would this person—this person wouldn’t be getting paid at all. And this person still has the—the, the employer can still fire them?
JP: I’m actually not too sure about the legal aspects of that, but I do know that we did have, you know, a patient come to us and say he had an injury on the job. We took him to the hospital, he got X-rays, it turns out he was injured. There wasn’t much he could do, but he had to, kind of, stay off and not work as much.
RP: And that just hinders how much—
JP: Yea, so. So yes. He won’t get paid. He gets paid for the amount that he works, and if he takes days off and—as far as I know in my experience with the migrant farmworkers, you know, they don’t get paid for days they take off. So that’s a major sort of deterrent from even seeking health care, you know? The fact that they have to, “Okay, I have to take an hour off of work to go to the clinic? Why? You know, I could be using that hour to make money for my family.” So, that's another issue as well.
RP: So, do you know if a lot of these people had insurance? Because I know that you would take them to the hospital, and—so how would that get covered?
JP: Yea, yea, most—I don’t think I met any farmworker who did have health insurance. There is—we did have some funds available to pay for any healthcare expense through the Farmworker Health Program. We did have funds available, but they are very limited, especially with budget cuts. And a lot of times, if the farmworkers were able to, they would pay out of pocket. If not, we would supplement the treatment. So I’m not particularly well versed on, you know, the logistics of the financial side of it, but I do know that the Farmworker Health Program did have some funds available for treatment purposes.
RP: Okay. Just out of curiosity, so did the Farmworker—what was the organization?
JP: The Farmworker Health Program.
RP: Yea, is that—so is that only over summer or is that throughout the year? Because I know that—
JP: It’s throughout the year. It’s called the NCFHP, the North Carolina Farmworker Health Program.
RP: Okay, so that’s good. I have a question that's a little bit of a different topic. But so it seems like a lot of programs are focused on health education rather than actual—like a free clinic. I promise I’m not—I don’t mean to be insulting—but I’ve noticed that a lot and I know that, I mean, obviously health education makes a huge difference, but I guess, to what extent do you think that—that makes up for a lack of actual, lack of access for sort of medicine, I guess.
JP: Yea, well I know that the clinic in Fuquay Varina and also—so the SRC, which is the Southern Regional Center, and the ERC, which is the Eastern Regional Center, that’s the kind of twin center in Zebulon—they both had clinic nights on Tuesday and Thursday nights, where they would stay open until pretty late, sometimes until 10-11. So the farmworkers could either come by their own transportation or we could pick them up in the county van for treatment and to anything from testing for STIs to consultation about, you know, high blood pressure, to you know, any appointment for really any health concern that they had. And from there, if they needed, you know, extra treatment, then they could seek a further appointment with a specialist—a referral could be made. So in that sense, yes, I think that is crucial as far as, you know, health care goes. You need to have, you know, these clinics open. Because otherwise, there’s just simply no access whatsoever, and that’s a great way to sort of—it’s a great link for the farmworkers. If they have a major health issue, to go to the clinic as the first sort of basic—of basic health care. You know, your general practitioner.
RP: Do you think a lot of people do that actually, like if they do have an issue? You said they’re open at night, so that would be like after they’re done working...?
JP: Yea, right, that’s part of the reason why we did outreach—to go to camps and see, “Okay, does anyone want to go to clinic this Thursday? Does anyone want to go to clinic this Tuesday? You know, do you guys have anything, any health concerns? Anything you want us to—” That’s part of the reason why we did health assessments. To see, “Can we do a basic, basic screening?” Of course, not all of the farmworkers will voice that, “Oh, this has been paining me, I’ve been having this trouble.” But, you know, by the time you come back to their camp three or four times, usually, if they’re having something that's bothering them, they’ll you know, say “Yea, let me go to the clinic. Make me an appointment.” Or they’ll call and say, “look, I need an appointment for Tuesday. Can you take me?” So that’s—I think that's crucial and definitely helps. Education cannot replace that in any sense. It does, I mean, health education is crucial of course. Without it, you know… it’s you know, it's a very integral part of the process. But it needs to be hand in hand with, you know, direct treatment options available.
RP: Yea, I think your program does a really great job of doing that.
JP: That’s yea, I mean…that as well.
RP: That’s great. Do you feel like a lot of the people felt like they had a right to receive treatment? I know that the last person I interviewed said that—that sometimes, people would be like, “Oh, well I’m undoc—“well I guess you didn't really work with that many undocumented folks—but from what she was saying was that a lot of people that she works with would be like “Oh, I’m undocumented, so this is the price that I have to pay.” And I guess it was just sort of this, a guilt was sort of imposed upon them by our ridiculous society. Yea. Did you experience that at all?
JP: A range, actually, a range. There was one—there were a couple undocumented workers that felt, “No! I need to go to clinic! And if it's, you know, the most minor thing, I need to go and I have the right to go.” And you know, that was good to see, that they felt empowered. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum—“I don’t want to go because I’m gonna have to pay, because I’m gonna be a burden, because I, you know, don’t have the right. I don't, you know, I’m not a citizen.” All these things do cross the minds of many of the farmworkers. And even the H-2A workers, you know, that are not undocumented workers, still have this sort of perception that, “No, I don't have this right to treatment. I don't have this right to go to the clinic.” So yea, that's—I mean there’s a broad spectrum of, kind of, perceptions of right to health case within the farmworker community, across undocumented and H-2A communities as well.
RP: This is kind of a stretch, but did you notice any, any trends between what sorts of populations would feel more empowered to, to claim that they have a right to these things? Like maybe men versus women? or things like that… I don't know, maybe certain ages? I’m just wondering.
JP: I don't know if I can say anything about trends without being sort of making general statements. I do notice that women, you know, a range. A range, again. There were some women who had, you know, children who were like, “Look, I need to make sure my children are healthy. Can you make me a dentist appointment?” You know? And this was for her appointment, you know? She had gone to the clinic for her, for her personal reasons, but you know, began asking about, “Look, my children need this,” you know? So in this case, this woman clearly felt empowered to ask for these things. And really kind of, you know, demand, that “Look, you need to make me an appointment for the dentist. Like my kid, I think he has a cavity.” You know? So, that was really encouraging to see. And then of course, you know, there’s the other end of the spectrum where moms feel, “No, I can’t afford this, I can’t go, I have to work, I have to clean, I have to cook for my husband, you know, when he comes back from work, so I don't have time to go to the clinic.” You know? So kind of help get pushed kind of by the wayside. So, again, a range. I can’t really make a generalization.
RP: Yea, no, that’s completely fine. Thank you. I know that you said earlier that you don’t – that you’re not completely sure about a lot of the financial and legal aspects, but have you heard about the Affordable Health—er, the Affordable Care Act? And like, you know, how you think that will impact the people that you worked with? If not, it’s completely fine
JP: Yea, I’m actually, I’m not well versed in that area.
RP: Yea, that’s completely fine, sorry.
JP: Yea no, no, I’m sorry (Laughter).
RP: Oh no, that’s—no that's okay, you’re great. So what are some things that you, you think that the general population—people like me—can help? What are some ways that we can help improve conditions? Like improve health care access, things like that?
JP: I think something that probably, I think most people who have an interest in health care, should ideally have a way to volunteer and directly, sort of, be in contact with the Latino community. I think that's really one of the few ways that, you know, we can really build sort of an understanding of this community because so many—I find that so many college students are very much distanced, you know, from this community, and don’t really know how to relate, you know? So on the basic level, getting to know the Latino community, getting to know the needs from kind of a first-hand perspective. And of course, even just recognition that, “Look, these farmworkers are dignified human beings. They’re workers. They’re working, and they're the reason we have food on our tables. They’re the reason we have produce.” You know? So even that recognition is a step towards, you know, a greater push for opening more doors, for—it’s really an interconnected web of—okay, here are these systems of oppression and here are ways which undocumented workers and their children and next generations are subjugated to, you know, these condition which really have no place in a society that, you know, believes in democracy and equality and all of these ideals. And so, it’s—these are really interconnected issues, so the farmworker movement is connected with, you know, the human rights movement, you know? So, it’s just basic human rights and being an advocate for that, for all people, I think is something that we can always do in our day-to-day lives.
RP: Yea, I think that we – we forget that—we think about oppression and things happening all over the world but we forget that it happens in our own state, even.
JP: Yea, right here at home. Yea, absolutely.
RP: So after your, after your internship—I mean you seem pretty open minded in general about lots of things—but I guess, after your internship, did you—and your spring break this time—did you talk to people that were like, “Oh no, that doesn’t make any sense.” Did you—have you experienced that opinion when you talk about what you did and the work that you did?
JP: I find – which is kind of scary – I find apathy. Not necessarily a direct, sort of, antagonism towards the work I’ve done or the work my coworkers have been doing, but more so an apathy of, “well, why should I care, you know? I’m not related to these people. I have no way to connect.” And “Oh, that’s sad, you know? They don’t get worker’s comp. Oh that’s sad, they work excessive hours in the day with very little break. That’s, you know, that's unfortunate. How do I relate?” So, you find lot of that. Or at least I felt that in my experience of trying to relate my experience with the farmworkers and with the work, with SAF. That’s often what I encounter. But of course, you know, you have students who are really enthusiastic. Like, “Yea! I’ll totally apply!” Or you know, “Yea, I’m interested in hearing more.” Stuff like that. So, you know—but more than antagonism, I see apathy.
RP: Okay, that’s interesting. Okay, totally jumping back a little bit, but so a student in my class—in my Guanajuato class—mentioned that he went to Texas recently and he was talking to somebody who was working there, who had just migrated a couple years back from Mexico. And this person was like, “Oh, I mean, I don’t—I don’t really notice a lack of health care access.” And then somebody else I was talking to who works at a health clinic said that, you know, people just pay based on their income—at the health clinic she works at. And people just pay based on their income and so she hadn’t really noticed that much of a problem either. Have you… do you have any thoughts about that? Because I mean, from what I’ve heard and what somebody else that I interviewed said, I mean, it seems like a really big issue—access to health care in general. But do you have any thoughts about that?
JP: Yea, actually at our clinic, the SRC and the ERC were good in that they also had sort of a sliding scale system in place.
RP: Wait, what do you mean by that?
JP: Kind of like, what your friend was talking about. You know, whatever the farmworker community and the Latino community can pay, they pay. If they can’t then, you know, they cant. So that is also in place in the clinic that I worked in. But as far as if the Farmworker Health Program weren’t in place, and if you know, the county wasn’t providing services for transportation, we would see a dramatic decrease in people attending clinic. And I would, you know, bet a dramatic increase in the amount of disease and the amount of unhealthy workers, you know, working out there in the fields. So with that in place, yes, the barriers are reduced. But it doesn’t mean they’re, you know, non-existent. They still do exist, but definitely shout out to the Farmworker Health Program for providing the services that are absolutely crucial in bridging the gap.
RP: Okay, and so does the Farmworker Health Program—you said there’s one in the East and one in the South, kind of—I’m sure that's where most of the agriculture is. Do you think that these two programs are accessible to folks from, from the majority of camps in North Carolina, or…?
JP: Yes, we kind of have a system of clinics that are loosely sort of connected through the Farmworker Health Program. We have Pembroke county, and we have some clinics towards, you know, the east, towards Eastern North Carolina and the west, you know the mountains and beach area. So there’s—again, there’s only so much that the Farmworker Health Program can cover, only so many camps that they can provide services to, you know? There’s limited funding. So you know, the Farmworker Health Program does what it can to provide for as many farmworkers—farmworkers and their families as possible. But the reality is, you know, it’s—I mean, the Latino community, these undocumented workers is ever growing. So you know, more is needed to provide for these health needs if we’re going to have a healthy population, and then the healthy population of children and youth who will be born in this country, you know, and who will be working here and living here, you know, who already are. So definitely more is needed. The Farmworker Health Program is pretty, pretty stretched. As far as I saw with the services we were providing at the clinic, oftentimes we had to turn down patients and schedule them for another week because we simply couldn’t—we didn’t have the time, we had one county van, you know, that took several trips trying to pick up everybody, drop everybody off, take them back, you know? So definitely short on resources, doing as much as they can but definitely need more. There’s an ever-growing need, definitely.
RP: Do you know—is the Farmworker Health Program, is it a North Carolina thing or is it a national thing or… what do people from other states do?
JP: Of that, I’m not sure. I know that the program that I’m with is the state, state run program in North Carolina—the Farmworker Health Program. Yea but I—I know from my interns that there are kind of parallel organizations working in South Carolina, for example. I do know that their system isn’t as, sort of, I guess advanced in meeting the needs of the Latino community as perhaps the system here is, but I do know that they are in existence just form the fact that my fellow interns had worked there in health care an were serving a migrant community down there as well.
RP: Okay, interesting. Hopefully there are places in all the states. So I think I, I kind of skipped over this earlier, but could you maybe describe—I know that there’s a lot of variety, but could you maybe describe, I guess, maybe a routine schedule in the life of a farmworker. Like what types of housing and things like that? I don’t know.
JP: Sure, yea. So I guess for an H-2A worker, mostly what we saw was living in trailers. So anywhere from one to two to three trailers, about, you know, five or six men in one trailer. And we also saw, you know, some more, kind of more permanent housing, you know. And some had AC, some didn’t. There was, you know, there was a range. There were two in—so typically, the workers get up, you know, really early in the morning. Sometimes I would get a call, actually I was still in bed asleep, but I would get a call, you know, four in the morning like, “Hey, can I have an appointment today?” You know, we—us interns, we carried the clinic phones at all time, thinking if there was any emergency or anything. That’s for the summer. And, you know, I’d get a call from them, four in the morning, “Hey, pick me up tonight. I want an appointment.” “Oh, uh okay, alright. Sure, I’m half asleep, but let me take you name down” (laughter). So that would happen a lot so, you know, get up at the wee crack of dawn and then often times, most of the men would get a break around eleven and have lunch. Oftentimes, that was—that was a good time that we could come and, you know, pick up a farmworker if he needed a specialist appointment. And, you know, the farmworker could ask, you know, “Hey, can I—I need to take the rest of the day off. Can I, you know—or I need to take an hour off. Can I come back and go back to work?” So there was kind of a break in the day there, typically. And then, until, until dark—I’ve heard of some camps actually putting lights out—I haven’t actually seen this myself, but I’ve heard stories of some farmers actually putting lights out on the field so that the farmworkers could keep working after dark.
RP: Oh my gosh.
JP: So, they do work very, very long hours, and it is absolutely exhausting. And so, that’s kind of the typical day, you know, just working all day.
RP: Could you talk a little bit more about food and if there are grocery stores, or do people—do the farmers provide that or…?
JP: It really depends on the camp. Sometimes the farmers will provide lunch, sometimes they won’t. You know, a lot of times, you know, maybe one farmworker will have a car and then they’ll all kind of make a trip to the grocery store, come back with groceries. Sometimes they have fridges, sometimes they don’t. so, so it depends on the camp, but then again, transportation is always an issue, typically. But, you know, farmworkers make do with, “Let’s call a friend,” let’s, you know, all just pile in and go grocery shopping, make this a one time thing. A lot of times they use weekends to do that. In fact, some farms actually, the farmworkers work on Saturdays as well—Sundays are the only day off. Sometimes they use that for, kind of, grocery shopping, catching up with everything.
RP: So, do a lot of the people that you worked with work year-round in the same farms or in- I know you said seasonality, but I think that was for the undocumented folks?
JP: Yea, yea, so typically, the undocumented folks who we worked with, they were here seasonally. So they would be here for most of the year. And, you know, many of the farmworkers that I talked to, you know, women and men alike had been here for a long time without seeing their family, without seeing their brothers, sisters, even their children. And so that was always hard and that was always kind of a reoccurring theme with a lot of the undocumented workers—that they would talk about, you know, “I’ve been here for ten years, you know. I haven’t been able to see my family back home. I haven’t been able go back. I’ve just been working here, you know.” And then, you know, there were—obviously there were whole families that are here. “I have my brother living with me, and you know, his kids and his wife are all together.” There’s also, you know, that kind of story as well. And then, I’m sorry, I forget what the question was…
RP: Oh so, for—I guess I’m gonna rephrase it a little—but for the seasonal workers, what did they do when they weren’t working here?
JP: When they weren’t working here? As far as, you know, what other jobs did they have?
RP: Yea, did they work in textiles?
JP: Construction. Yea, especially the men. Some you know, would pick up restaurant work. You know, whatever, whatever could be found. So that’s kind of the typical sort of cycle, you know.
RP: Was there like an on season and an off season?
JP: Yea, yea yea yea.
RP: So would summer and spring be the on seasons?
JP: Yea, summer and spring, and then winter, you know.
RP: Okay, so there must be a lot of competition for jobs, especially during the winter for the other types of jobs.
JP: Yea, yea, that’s what I’ve heard from some of the families that I’ve spoken to. That, you know, “Ah, mi esposo no puede encontrar trabajo”, you know, “he can’t find a job. He’s looking, but we can’t, you know, we can’t find a job right now.” So that’s—that can be a source of stress for the family as well.
RP: Okay. And then, so, are there also folks who do work throughout the winter in agriculture or…? What would they do?
JP: Sometimes, you know, they have packaging. Farms will do more, not just you know, just planting and harvesting, but actually packaging the produce. And then you’re getting the field ready for the next planting season, so other kind of odd jobs around the, around the farm. Typically, you know, I wasn’t there—I was there right when most of the farmworkers had started to leave. And then after that, after I had left, my co-workers would tell me that, “Oh yea, we went out to this farm and everybody was gone, you know, they had all left.” And, you know, a lot of times, the H-2A camps are like that. Everybody kind of goes home. One of the farmworkers described that, you know, “Well you arrive in Monterrey, and from there we part.” You know, everybody goes their own separate ways, you know, to their own separate pueblos, and then the next year, they all come back. Sometimes it works like that, sometimes you know, the same, kind of, group of men come together and work at the same farm. Sometimes, you know, they move around. So it really depends. I know at one camp in particular, a lot of the men would come back.
RP: Every year?
JP: Yea.
RP: That's nice that they get to see their families, even if it’s just for a little bit.
JP: Yea. So sometimes, there’s a six to eight month period that they’re here, and then they go back to see their families. So they’re kind of moving, you know—
RP: That much be really expensive to go back and fourth, right?
JP: I think, I think, and I’m not sure about this, but I think sometimes the farmers themselves actually pay for the trip, the journey. I am not sure about that, but I think also that obviously the cost out—you know, the wages that they earned here for the six month period definitely outweigh the costs of returning there and back, because they’re here for an extended amount of time, so they can probably pay for that, for that journey back. If not, possibly supplemented by their employers.
RP: What happens if—I’m not sure if you know—but what happens if during the season that they are in the United States, if there’s a death in the family or some sort of emergency where they would want to come back home? Do you know—have you ever experienced that?
JP: I’ve never experienced that. I’ve never really heard about that either. But I could imagine that the contract could be cancelled, you know. And I mean, that would definitely lead to suffering in the family as far as, you know, income goes. Nobody, you know, goes here because they’re wealthy, well off, you know. They come here to work and send money back.
RP: Yea, I’ve heard of folks just staying regardless and I know that we watched a video, a documentary and someone, I think his daughter died and he wasn’t able to go back, so that really stinks.
JP: I mean, yea a lot of times, you know these sacrifices that these farmworkers make are huge. And then, you know to be able to provide for the entire family—a lot of times they’re providing for, you know, nine people back at home, so… so they kind of, you know—they definitely sacrifice a lot to be here.
RP: Yea, definitely. Okay, well that’s all the questions I have. Do you have any other things you’d like to share or anything like that?
JP: I’m curious, so you watched that documentary about the farmworker’s family…
RP: Well, so we watched a documentary—it was actually from the, from the other perspective. I can’t remember the name of it, but I’ll send it to you later. It was from the perspective of people in Mexico, yea, and someone had lost a family member, I think. We watched a couple documentaries so this might not be the right one, but somebody had lost a family member and they were calling their husband—I think that this worker was undocumented. So—and they weren’t able—like they could have come back but then they would, you know. Yea, so that was that. Yea.
JP: Yea, just send it over, I’d be very interested in watching that.
RP: It was something...hermanos…I don’t remember. Yea, but anything else?
JP: Not unless you have any—
RP: I—I think I’m good.
JP: Great!
RP: Okay well thank you so much.
JP: Yea thanks, Radha.