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The Farmworker Health and Safety Institute.

Farmworkers are treated like second-class citizens living in third world conditions within one of the richest countries in the world. They have fewer rights and legal protections than workers in any other industry. This is clearly seen in the inadequate health and safety protections afforded farmworkers as well as their disproportionate exposure to occupational environmental hazards such as pesticides. To address this reality, the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute (FHSI or Institute), was founded in 1991 by El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA) and the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) to cultivate worker leadership development by providing training around health and safety and environmental justice issues.

The Institute's long-range goal is to improve farmworkers' occupational and environmental health and safety conditions. This is done by building the capacity of its grassroots farmworker member groups and other farmworker organizations. These workers, in turn, can then build the capacity of the farmworker community so that they are better equipped to collectively address the issues that negatively impact their health and safety.

The Institute's training sessions and materials are created specifically to develop critical thinking and self-advocacy skills. They also reflect a desire for inclusion and a respect for the wisdom and experience each community member has to offer. The Institute's programs are based on an interactive platform that engages participants through hands-on, educational exercises. These exercises are ideal for low literacy and/or non-English speaking workers. These programs utilize role-playing activities, theater skits, flip charts, and props that actively involve participants in the critical-thinking process.

The Institute offers a diverse range of high quality pesticide trainings that have been adapted and replicated in various parts of this country, the Caribbean and Mexico as well as other health and safety related training sessions:

a) Pesticide Train-the-Trainer (ToT) Training. This curriculum has been approved by the national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as several state lead agencies throughout the country. This training certifies staff as pesticide safety educators (Promotores) thereby enabling them to conduct the Worker Protection Standards training with farmworkers.

b)Master Training. The Institute prepares experienced Promotores from its member groups as Master Trainers to develop their leadership capacity to conduct the ToT program.

c) Handler Training. This five-day training provides a more in-depth training than the Worker Protection Standards for those farmworkers who handle, mix, apply, or transport pesticides.

d)Health Care Provider Training. This training is unique because a team consisting of a trainer from a farmworker community group and a health care provider train health care professionals about the evaluation of pesticide exposure in farmworkers.

e) Training Farmworkers and the Community in Organic Farming. The Institute takes technical information on sustainable agricultural practices and combines this with farmworkers' traditional knowledge from their home countries to create a truly innovative program.

f) Leadership Development Training. Through discussion and activities, farmworkers begin to analyze and relate their personal experiences/realities to local, national and international events. The focus shifts from the individual to the group in developing a common vision and mission to reinforce the organization's commitment to collective action.

g) Popular Education Training. This training examines the local realities of the different grassroots organizations and their use of the Popular Education Methodology. It provides a forum for the farmworker groups to develop common strategies through organizing and community participation.

h) Diagnostico. The Diagnostico (Diagnostic evaluation) is a tool used by the farmworker grassroots organizations to monitor employer compliance with protective farmworker legislation, particularly as it relates to pesticide practices.

i) Occupational Safety and Health Administration Training for Mushroom Packing HouseWorkers. This training expands the Institute's previous trainings on pesticides to include a more comprehensive look at other health and safety issues common in packing houses.

The Institute produced a video documentary titled, Pesticides: From the Fields to Your Table (2004) that takes a look at the reality of farmworkers in this country and their exposure to pesticides as they plant, tend to, and harvest the food that we eat. We see an intimate connection between farmworkers' health and safety and the well being of consumers regarding the use of pesticides in food production.

Through its training programs, the Institute has been able to reach thousands of farmworkers. This is a long-term process and the Institute's training focuses on leadership development by equipping farmworkers with the necessary skills and tools to advocate for better conditions.

For more information about the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute contact:

Teresa Niedda

Farmworker Health and Safety Institute

4 South Delsea Drive

P.O. Box 510

Glassboro, NJ 08028

856-881-2507 (phone)

856-881-2027 (fax)

fhsinj@aol.com

by Teresa Niedda, Director, Farmworker Health and Safety Institute
COPYRIGHT 2008 National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Niedda, Teresa
Publication:Migrant Health Newsline
Geographic Code:1U2NJ
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:773
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