Did you know that, in 2018, North Carolina produced more sweet potatoes than any other state in the country? We ranked seventh for tomatoes and cantaloupes, fifth for cucumbers and fourth for strawberries. Add corn, soybeans and other agricultural products integral to our lives and that’s a lot of fruit and vegetables grown in our own backyard that end up on our tables.
And 85% of that is picked by hand, meaning North Carolina has one of the largest farmworker populations in the nation. Yet despite the absolutely vital role farmworkers play in our society, agricultural work remains one of the most dangerous jobs with the fewest benefits. That’s where Vecinos comes in.
Vecinos Farmworker Health Program is a registered non-profit that works to improve the wellness of farmworkers and their families through health care, education, community partnerships, and advocacy. Their flagship service is a mobile clinic that brings crucial primary and mental health care directly to the farmworkers at camps or their homes after the work day.
Fifteen years ago, the Rotary Clubs of Cashiers and Highlands came together to help Vecinos purchase their current mobile unit. Since 2005, they have used the mobile clinic to serve migrant farmworkers and their families in even the hardest-to-reach areas of Western North Carolina, including Little Canada, Scaly Mountain, and Rosman.
Fifteen years is a long time to own one vehicle. Age combined with the speed of both advancing technology and changing requirements mean the current mobile unit is not only out of date but significantly expensive to maintain at optimal safety standards.
That’s why the Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley has committed to helping Vecinos raise the money for a new, modern mobile unit that would vastly improve both the scope and quality of services for an entire population on which so many of us depend. The new unit will feature multiple, private rooms that will enable more patients to be seen at one time with the added benefit of privacy. It would also have an on-board restroom and laboratory for conducting tests and providing results on the spot, as well as televisions and other audio-visual tools to help aid in health education and presentations.
Cashiers Rotary is working to raise $75,000 to help Vecinos cover approximately half the cost of the new mobile unit through fundraising, grant-making assistance and partnering with other Rotary clubs in our district. A private donor has issued a challenge grant to match the first $25,000 raised as part of this project.
Visit Vecinos.org to learn more about the organization and to see before and after photos of the old and new mobile clinics. Members of the community who would like to make a donation may do so at CashiersRotary.org. Simply click the DONATE button on the home page. 100% of every donation will go directly to Operation: Fieldwork and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed under the law.