What is the Witness for Justice Program?
The Farmworker Unit’s Witness for Justice (WFJ) program introduces students and members of the community to migrant farm workers who live in isolated labor camps around North Carolina and lack contact with the larger population. The Farmworker Unit modeled WFJ after Witness for Peace, a US-Latin American immersion and advocacy program.
Similarly, our volunteers bear witness to unjust and dangerous living and employment conditions that marginalize hard-working men and women. Our staff invites volunteers to accompany legal outreach and visit migrant labor camps during evenings of the growing season. We hope that through this experience, volunteers will affirm the rights of farmworkers and gain a better understanding of socio-economic issues impacting farmworkers and immigrants. WFJ volunteers are encouraged to take follow-up action on behalf of farm workers, as well as educate their personal communities about farm worker injustice in North Carolina.
Details and Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the Farmworker Unit go on outreach?
Migrant farm workers live in isolated labor camps of their employers, and lack access to transportation, telephone, health and legal providers, and other necessities. Workers do not readily encounter information about their employment rights and health hazards, such as exposure to the use of pesticides. Therefore, we discuss and distribute information to workers, as well as provide our contact information for further consultation or legal action.
What will I do as a volunteer?
Volunteers accompany two Farmworker Unit staff members in our agency’s vehicle. At the camps volunteers take notes on labor camp demographics, take pictures, hand out brochures, and interact with workers. Volunteers are encouraged to ask questions and discuss observations with our staff.
Do I have to know Spanish?
Spanish is helpful but not required. Our staff can translate dialogue with workers. Although the majority of workers we visit speak Spanish, we also visit workers whose first language is English. On occasion, we visit workers who do not speak English or Spanish.
When will I go on outreach?
Volunteers schedule visits Monday-Thursday evenings, during the peak growing season in North Carolina, June-October. Volunteers meet at the Legal Aid office in downtown Raleigh at 5:30pm. Outreach lasts a few hours, returning to the Legal Aid office around 9-10pm. Ideally we ask that volunteers commit two evenings a month.
What if something comes up and I cannot go on outreach that evening?
Please notify the volunteer coordinator at least 24 hours in advance.
Where will I go on outreach?
We usually travel 1-2 hours outside of Raleigh. Each evening we generally try to visit 3-4 camps in the surrounding counties.
Can I bring a friend with me?
Yes, but you must schedule friends in advance because we can only take two volunteers per evening.
What should I wear and bring on outreach?
Dress casually and conservatively. Long-pants, closed-toed shoes, and bug spray are appropriate for rural areas. You may bring cameras, only to take pictures with the permission of the workers.
How do I become a volunteer and schedule outreach?
Send an email to Sebastian Villa Bahamon, the Witness for Justice Coordinator, or contact us by phone at: (919) 856-2180.
Orientation sessions are held at the beginning of the season for new and returning volunteers. The sessions will cover the dynamics of outreach as well as an overview of farmworker legal issues. In addition, you will receive an informational packet.
Click here to download a brochure about the Witness for Justice program.