What is the Witness for Justice Program?
The Witness for Justice Program creates a bridge between advocates and members of the migrant farmworker communities in North Carolina who live in housing camps that are usually isolated from the majority of the surrounding population.
The Farmworker Unit of Legal Aid created this program with the foundational model of Witness for Peace. Witness for Peace is an organization that works in the United States and Latin America with a program of immersion and advocacy.
We invite volunteers to accompany us during our community outreach activities, and our outreach visits to migrant camps during the afternoons/nights of the agricultural season.
As in the Witness for Peace program, our volunteers are witnesses to the conditions of injustice that farmworkers face, such as dangerous living and working conditions.
We hope that through this experience our volunteers will build their understanding of the economic and social problems that affect farmworkers and immigrants, and that after the season is over, they will continue acting to benefit farmworkers, and educate their communities about the injustices that farmworkers in North Carolina face.
Why does the Farmworker Unit of Legal Aid visit farmworkers?
Farmworkers live in isolated places that are generally provided by their employers. Workers commonly face a scarcity of transportation, telephones, health services, legal services, and other basic needs. It is not easy for workers to obtain information about their legal rights at work or health risks inherent in their work (e.g., pesticide exposure). Due to this reality, we visit workers to talk with them about these themes, share information, and share our contact information in the case workers have further questions or want to take legal action at some point.
What do volunteers do?
Volunteers travel to the camps together with two of our staff in our vehicles. Upon arriving, volunteers take notes on the demographic statistics, share literature, and interact with the workers. Ideally volunteers will chat with the workers, ask them questions, and discuss their observations with our staff members.
Where will I go?
Usually we travel to locations that are between one or two hours from Raleigh. Each afternoon we try to visit three migrant camps.
Do volunteers have to speak Spanish?
Knowing Spanish, Haitian Creole, or an indigenous language from Mexico or Central America is a requirement of our program. Although the majority of workers that we visit speak Spanish, we also work with people who speak English, Haitian Creole, or an Indigenous language from Mexico or Central America as their native language.
How should I dress when I go out to migrant camps? What should I bring with me?
Dress casually. We recommend wearing long pants, closed toe shoes, and other items of clothing that are discrete. We also recommend wearing insect repellant. You will get more information about the dress code during your orientation.
What do I need to do before visiting the camps?
Before volunteers go out with us, we ask volunteers to attend a mandatory orientation session, even if they have already volunteered with us in the past. In these sessions we will talk about the different dynamics that are present at the camps during our visits, and the problems that workers face (especially violations of their rights). At the end of the sessions, you will receive a folder with more information.
When can I visit the camps?
Visits occur on Monday and Thursday afternoons, during the busiest season of the agricultural industry. Volunteers meet at the office of Legal Aid located in downtown Raleigh. We ask that volunteers commit to doing at least two visits a month, for at least two months. Every outreach visit lasts a few hours and we return usually between 9:00 and 10:30 PM.
What would happen if something comes up at the last minute and I cannot go on my scheduled day?
Please notify the coordinator of the program as soon as possible so that we can invite another volunteer.