National Contest Illustrates Rhythm of the Harvest

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Winning Entries from Youth across the Country Announced for AFOP’s Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art Contest

Advocate. Educate. Train.

“Burdened with overwhelming school and work responsibilities and health injuries from pesticide exposure, musculoskeletal problems, and accidents involving razor-sharp tools and farm machinery, their future often looks a lot like their present."

The winners for the annual Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs’ (AFOP) Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art contest have been selected. The theme for the 2012 contest was Rhythm of the Harvest. Participants who submitted entries were asked to highlight how the patterns of field work have affected children from farmworker families. Jacqueline Cruz of Fort Pierce, Florida, won first place for her essay entry in the age category 10-13; Jaqueline Vargas of San Luis, Arizona, won first place for her poster entry in the age category 10-13; and Neftali Cuello Villalobos of Pink Hill, North Carolina, won first place for both her essay and art entries in the age category 14-18. They have all been invited to present their winning entries at AFOP’s 2012 National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts on September 20.

“Children across the United States, ranging in ages from 10 to 18, submitted expressive essays and telling posters describing how farmworker families need to adapt to the patterns of the harvest season, which migrant families need to follow from state to state throughout the year,” said Norma Flores López, Director of AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign and a former migrant farmworker child herself.

Entries for the contest were judged by the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), a group of 28 organizations formed in 1989 that represent millions of Americans, including educators, workers, farmworkers, farmworker advocates, and human rights activists concerned about the safety, education, and welfare of children who work in agriculture. AFOP’s Flores López chairs the Domestic Issues Committee for the CLC. The first, second, and third place entries selected in each category will appear in the October issue of AFOP’s Washington Newsline. The essays and artwork will also be compiled along with other selected entries into educational materials that will be presented to key members of Congress.

The educational materials created using these entries will share a piece of the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworker youth in order to raise awareness of the discriminatory agriculture exemption in the current federal child labor law. As the result of the antiquated exemption, children as young as 12 are legally allowed to work for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school in our nation’s fields and orchards. Despite agriculture being consistently ranked the most dangerous occupation in America for children, there are an estimated 300,000-500,000 children working to harvest the fruits and vegetables that end up on our tables.

“Burdened with overwhelming school and work responsibilities and health injuries from pesticide exposure, musculoskeletal problems, and accidents involving razor-sharp tools and farm machinery, their future often looks a lot like their present,” notes Reid Maki, Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition. “AFOP gives these children a chance to be heard through its annual Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art contest.”

To view the winning essay and art entries, visit the AFOP website.

The Children in the Fields Campaign is a project of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide job training and services for America’s farmworkers. The campaign strives to improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farmworker children by advocating for enhanced educational opportunities and the elimination of discriminatory federal child labor laws in agriculture. For additional comment or interview from an AFOP expert, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks(at)AFOP(dot)org.

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