Words: Georgia Horton | Editor: Mohsin Mohi Ud Din
In the United States, there is a population of over three million individuals that have limited rights. This population works in the third most dangerously ranked job, is exposed to and suffers from countless diseases, and makes only $16,000 annually to support themselves and their families. Who are they? These individuals are migrant farm workers, an underserved and forgotten population in the United States. They face challenges that most cannot imagine, and lack access to basic medical assistance necessary for survival.
Five students at the University of Connecticut saw this injustice and jumped at the opportunity to make a difference. Pursuing majors in political science to biology and chemistry, Chibuike Ukwuoma, Colton Kopcik, Craig Carlson, Kyle Vanderschoot, and Laura Lopez united as a team to address this issue. Their initiative, the Farmworker Health Initiative, hopes to fill the gaps in already existing migrant worker health care networks by providing resources to these individuals.
Colton Kopcik isone of the students who founded the initiative, earlier this month. Colton expressed that for such a large population, “people don’t seem to know about the issue or understand the health concerns involved.” This lack of attention drove the five UConn students to rethink the system. They are presently designing boxes that contain health care items migrant farmers lack but truly need. The box costs roughly $12 to compile and contains items such as long sleeve shirts, bandaids, sunglasses, water bottles, and ointment.
The idea originated from Ashoka Youth Venture and Boehringer Ingelheim’s partnership: The Making More Health Initiative, a year long engagement that took place at UConn’s campus. Mentor Dida, the workshop facilitator, engaged with the students and galvanized a conversation around social activism and the public health field. Students went through experiential exercises to discover themselves as Changemakers, and sync a passion with a problem. In the process, participants explored their capacities for Empathy, Leadership, Collaboration, and Creative Problem-solving. Colton said the summit not only inspired him, but opened his eyes to the power of changemaking:
“At the summit they kept saying everyone could be a changemaker. That it doesn’t take a certain type of person to be a changemaker, and that you don’t have to be a doctor to save the world. I questioned it initially… what does being a changemaker even mean and how could I do it? But after this program, every single individual in the public health learning community came up with really great ideas that showed me everyone can be a changemaker! And that message should be out there more.”
If you want to support the Farmworker Health Initiative expand their outreach, consider donating on their Go FundMe Page.