La Asociación Campesina de Florida • Farmworker Association of Florida • Asosiyasyon Travayè Latè
Following natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding, low-income immigrant communities have consistently been slow to receive assistance, and are often the victims of discriminatory and inadequate services. FWAF works to organize communities to know their rights in responding to disasters.
Food storage building hub of new disaster plan in Pierson
PIERSON -- For Marisol Bahena, the recently opened addition to the Farmworker Association of Florida's building is more than just bricks and mortar. It represents a symbol of strength for a corner of Volusia County many felt was overlooked when hurricanes struck seven years ago.
Three years of negotiation, planning, and perseverance finally came to fruition with the dedication of the Community Disaster Center at the Farmworker Association of Florida’s office in Pierson, FL on October 23, 2011. Pierson is a rural town where the majority of the largely Hispanic residents work in the fern growing industry. Pierson and the surrounding areas are considered the Fern Growing Capital of the World. Fernworkers or ferncutters, as they are called, are seasonal agricultural workers who live in the rural communities in Central Florida north of Orlando.
After the storms, freezes, and floods of 2004 and 2005, the members of the Pierson community were asked by National Farm Worker Ministry, ‘what would lessen the impact of disasters on their community.’ Acknowledging that it takes a few weeks for emergency help to get to the rural areas, it was decided that a place to store material goods, equipment for clean up, and to serve as a distribution center would empower the area to prepare and respond quickly to natural disasters.
NFWM wrote a grant for a disaster center and Church World Service Disaster Office, encouraged by the Disaster Ministry of the United Church of Christ, awarded funds and the plans began. Jim Hanis, a local architect, donated his services to design the building.
Many members of the community at large, area churches, the ACLU, and people from Volusia County Emergency Management attended and testified at the Pierson Town Council meetings to acquire the permit for the building.
After three more hurricane seasons had passed, the Town Council at last approved the permit and work began. On October 23, 2011 we dedicated the Community Disaster Center with a ribbon cutting, blessing of dedication, wonderful dancing by the youth, and delicious food provided by the community. Some of those who attended this grand event were the Director of Emergency Management for the county, the President of the ACLU, the Red Cross, a Volusia County Councilmen and many of us who worked on the project.
The Farmworker Association, NFWM, and CWS thank all of those who toiled to make this Center and the Celebration possible.