Two Decades of Serving North Carolina Farmworker Families
Celia Rodriguez was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. when she was two years of age. Her parents were farmworkers for more than 30 years, so she knows firsthand how much migrant farmworker families struggle. Celia recalls being a migrant farmworker child between the ages of 10 and 14 years. The hardest thing about being a migrant farmworker child was adjusting to a new school and making friends. Celia couldn’t make close friendships because she moved every three months. Another difficulty she faced was that each school had a different curriculum.
During her first day at the ECMHSP Long Creek Center, a child plays with her teacher.
Today, she’s been working at the ECMHSP Long Creek Center in North Carolina for 21 years as a Family Services Coordinator. The Long Creek Center serves primarily three groups of families during the season. First, the families who come to pick strawberries from early April and usually stay until late June or early July. Then, there are the blueberry families who usually arrive in May and leave the first week of July. Lastly, the tomato families arrive around July and stay until the end of the season, which is in late September.
Part of Celia’s profession is to build strong community partnerships, which can sometimes provide life-saving services. Last year, a four-year-old child at Long Creek Center was found to have a brain cyst. A nurse at Pender County Health Department and a social worker tried endlessly to get the child an appointment to see a specialist. Celia served as a point of communications between the medical professionals and the child’s family. During more than two decades of working at ECMHSP, Celia had never felt so much frustration for not being able to help as she watched the child’s mom crying on a regular basis, pleading for an appointment. After six weeks, Chapel Hill Hospital was finally able to perform a CAT scan and informed the parents that the cyst would not hurt their child’s development. The family and the ECMHSP staff were relieved with the news.
Celia Rodriguez, Family Services Coordinator at ECMHSP, has been advocating for farmworker families for 21 years.
The Long Creek Center opened its doors to farmworker families for the season on May 2. Meeting new children and their families is Celia’s favorite part of her job. “The children’s voices and their singing make this a happy place. The children bring life into the centers,” says Celia. It’s because of mission-driven leaders like Celia that our migrant and seasonal farmworker children successfully transition into public school.
By sharing our blog post with your family and friends, you will help us continue advocating for more farmworker families on the East Coast. We will continue to write about the miracles that happen every day at our centers.