The Migrant Farmworkers Project

A worker looks through clothing from the Migrant Farmworkers Project at St. Alban's hub in Beamsville
 on March 28, 2024

The diocesan Migrant Farmworkers Project is a hospitality missional ministry that provides parishes with the experience of living and practic- ing their Baptismal Covenant and living out Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, as congregants and volunteers are intentional in serving and nourishing their relationships with the persons they serve and accompany, tem- porary migrant farmworkers, during their journey in Canada. Congregations, volunteers, and seasonal migrant farmworker neighbours come together to make community and nurture their faith together.

Community is built as the local volunteers’ welcome and show their gratitude to their migrant worker neighbours that year after year, since the 1960s, come to labor in the agricultural fields, orchards, vineyards, and greenhouses of Niagara. Agricultural work is demand- ing on the body, it is intense and hard back-breaking labor. Migrant Farmworkers Project uses an integrated approach as its staff and volunteers live their Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to include migrant farmwork- ers, strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. The volunteers are inten- tional in making connections with the migrant farmworkers as they carry out their call to serve through the different operational programs of the Project.

In its decade of service to the seasonal migrant workers, specifically from Mexico and Central America, a local parish outreach ministry started at St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Beamsville has developed from a seasonal six-month outreach initiative into a year- round diocesan ministry, today hosted at two parishes—St. Alban’s, Beamsville and St. John’s, Jordan, staffed by two Spanish-speaking mission- ers, The Reverend Antonio and Cela Illas, and dozens of volunteers that on a weekly basis come together to facilitate six different programs for the temporary migrant farmworker neighbours.

Migrant Farmworkers Project (MFWP) run the following programs:

  1.  Spiritual, Sacramental, and Pastoral Care by the missioner(s)
  2. Food Security Program / “Abarrotes”
  3. Clothing “Tianguis” and “Tiendita” / Thrift Shop
  4. Bikes for Farmworkers
  5. Quest Community Health Centre / Medical Clinic at St. Alban’s Hub Beamsville & visits to the agricultural fields in the Clinic Mobil Unit.
  6. St. Alban’s Hub Beamsville :
    •  Café Room
    • “Abarrotes”
    • Tiendita”
    • Bikes for Farmworkers – Bike shop: sales & repairs e. Quest Medical Clinic f. Eucharist & coffee hour (Summer months) St. John’s Jordan: a. Eucharist & Community Meal (Summer months)

The ministry is committed to changing the world of migrant farmworkers in Canada by transforming their life experience and work season in Niagara into one where the migrant farmworkers may feel appreciated for the demanding work they do in the agricultural fields and develop roots, as well as a sense of belonging to the local community. The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is not conducive to or provides for a sense of belonging due to the systemic nature of the federal government program. It is inter- mittent, for up to eight months a year, the seasonal workers can- not bring their families during the work season, and there is no avenue for permanent resident status in Canada.

In 2024, thanks to a gener- ous grant from Ecclesiastical Insurance, the St. Alban’s Hub in Beamsville has been undergoing an infrastructure and facili- ties transformation to better provide hospitality and services to the migrant farmworkers the Hub volunteers serve. The grant funds have facilitated the creation of two new offices for the Quest Community Health Centre medical clinic at the Hub. The medical services provided by the Migrant Farmworkers Project partner organization accommodate migrant farm- workers to an after-work hours schedule and Spanish-language services. Migrant farmworkers deserve good medical care in their language. The “Tiendita” (thrift shop) space will become a multipurpose room that will also be used as waiting space for the medical clinic patients, “Abarrotes” (food pantry), and the much-needed computer lab for the migrant farmworkers. The computer lab will facilitate the migrant workers’ skills, a way to communicate with family members back home, and, yes, for their ESL classes provided by instructors of the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre.

If you are enthusiastic about empowering people and feel that God’s Holy Spirit is calling you to serve, just come and see or learn more at migrantfarm-! You will be blessed as you are a blessing to others

  • Antonio Illas

    The Reverend Antonio Illas is Migrant Farmworkers Project Missioner for the Diocese of Niagara.

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