Des Moines, IA
Educating farm workers in Yakima Valley, Washington about the dangers of agricultural pesticides, especially for adolescents and the unborn, is not just a public service for the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; the effort provides a concrete example of the pursuit of justice for poor and vulnerable populations, and exemplifies the spirit of Jesus’ teaching on neighbor-love. Women and children are especially vulnerable to the risks of pesticides, because they work seasonally and are more likely to miss formal pesticide trainings. Realizing both the harmful impacts of pesticides and the pervasive lack of farm workers’ awareness, the NCRLC launched a long-term educational initiative, “Protegiendo Nuestro Futuro” (Protecting Our Future) Pesticide Safety Education Program in March 2004.
Implementation of the initiative relied upon extensive networking and creativity over a 16-month period, including the development of a 90-minute Spanish Language video on pesticide safety, and training approximately 25 local parishioners as instructors. The effort, led by NCRLC, included an advisory committee representing 15 government agencies, Catholic and secular organizations, and Catholic parishes. Most Reverend Carlos Sevilla, Bishop of the Diocese of Yakima, devoted one of his monthly one-hour radio programs to discussing the project and the topic of pesticide safety to promote awareness of the new resource. NCRLC also received in-kind support from Radio Cadena, a Spanish-language public radio station with 21,000 listeners. The station produced educational mini-dramas and public service announcements on pesticide safety, and broadcast them seven times a day for 30 days during the program’s launch; these continue to be aired today.
The first round of formal classes offered in March and April of 2004 reached over 70 adolescent and adult farm workers about reducing the health impacts of agricultural pesticides on their lives and that of their families. Initially, four parishes in the Diocese of Yakima participated, but interest in the program has continued to grow by word of mouth and through extensive media coverage, including stories by the Associated Press, diocesan newspapers, and Spanish-language newspapers and radio stations in the area. According to Tim Kautza of NCRLC, “Successful implementation of the project helps bring to life… several principles of Catholic social teaching. Parishioners can look beyond their own self-interest and stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable among them.” This project was funded in part by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Environmental Justice Program.
NCRLC 4625 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50310
CD of the presentation (in English)
CD of the Mini-dramas and radio broadcasts