What is the goal of your organization?
My organization is called Worker Justice Center of New York and we are a human rights organization that promotes the rights and well being of low wage immigrant workers throughout New York State with the focus on farm workers and other immigrant workers. We work in three basic areas: legal services, advocacy work and community education.
How do you involve the local community in your projects?
The local community is quiet involved in many of our projects. The immigrant workers that we work with speak with journalists, give public presentations and they are involved in our programs. We have run a language exchange two times a month and we also have two groups for farm workers women that meet regularly and so workers are involved directly in our projects. We are in the process of forming an advisory board for the organization that would be made up of low wage workers, that project is still not complete but work is in the process.
What is your method of work?
We have many programs in human trafficking and workplace justice and domestic violence, the methods change depending on the situation but all of our programs are based on an extensive outreach strategy so we visit people in their homes one or two nights per week and we are making sure that we are sustaining contact with the community. I would say that is our primary method of making ourselves very available to the workers that we are trying to reach from the point of contact when we first meet someone from there we take a kind of leadership development approach if someone is very interested in our work or has natural leadership capabilities or is upset because injustice is happening in their life or in their workplace. We work with them to try to help and advocate for themselves and we try to get the resources they need to make their situation better and bring them deeper into our work by giving them opportunities to talk about their experience with journalists and others that may be interested in learning about their lives.
How do you promote the citizens’ empowerment?
I think we promote that empowerment process by kind of forming like respectful relationship based on equality although there may be many differences between my experience and the experience of an immigrant that comes to this country to work on a farm. I think we try to create a feeling of respect, mutual respect, that can hopefully help provide and I guess supportive environment for that persons who can be able to take steps to became more of a leader or more empowered in their lives.
Can you tell us some projects that you have realized?
Depending on the program area we have a number of projects, we bring people who may come from different countries together with the local community and we sometimes have parties where we bring people together just to share food and music or play soccer. We also do these language exchange nights so that takes place two times a month, then we have people that speak Spanish as their first language come and people that speak English as their first language come and they try to learn and practice the other language together. We have women’s groups where they get together as a group of women and decide what kind of things they would like to learn. Aside from that kind of community work, we also have been working on a documentation project, the Border Patrol in New York State, because New York is on the border with Canada, so we have active Border Patrol in New York. For the past year we have had the interviews with people who live in that area, have experienced some kind of discrimination or just fear of leaving their home due to the Border Patrol so people are coming into our work with different abilities to engage and different abilities to be very public but I think we find, we are able to find very amazing people that want to contribute. There’s different ways for people to be involved.
How much is important the external communication in your work?
I think external communication is very important for non-profit organizations because we need to look outside of ourselves for founding so we have to produce the work that we are doing for an external audience. We work extensively with journalists to bring them to the farms so that they can see for themselves what is happening there and we try to do whatever we can do to make those stories more available to others. We also produce a newsletter every month which we send out to all of our supporters so that they can see pictures and hear about all our different work that’s going on.
Have you one particular project in progress at this moment?
The border documentation work is ongoing, I just did an interview six days ago so that will be closing soon but it’s still happening and we are going to be trying to produce an archive of all interviews with transcriptions and translations of all of those interviews so that they are public and available for researches, journalists, the public.
Copyright photo: Worker Justice Center of New York
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