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Daniel Quesada, Migrant Worker Coordinator

A couple months ago I reached out to Chris Ramsaroop, one of the lead organizers at Justice For Migrant Workers (J4MW) about collaborating on the 2016 Migrant Worker Outreach Program. He mentioned to me that J4MW was planning a Caravan across Ontario between September and October, travelling West to East, starting in Leamington, ON and ending in Ottawa, ON. On Tuesday, September 27th, 2016, J4MW and the Harvesting Freedom Caravan made its way to Cobourg, ON. 



Local activists gathered at Kim Rudd's office for a Demonstration and March for Justice

On September 27th, at approximately 3:00PM, a March and Demonstration for Migrant Worker Justice formed at Kim Rudd's office on Elgin Street in Cobourg, ON. Organized by local activists from the Cobourg and Peterborough area, this event kicked off with Peter Vance and Gabriel Allahdua speaking about Migrant Worker Justice and the importance of the Harvesting Freedom Caravan. Allahdua spoke about the importance of Migrant Workers being granted Permanent Immigrant Status. As a Migrant Worker through the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program (SAWP), Alladua emphasized that status means respect, equality, fairness, and inclusion, principles that he believes Canada is based on. He continue saying that giving Migrant Worker status would give them rights and freedoms, including the right to find a new employer, the ability to stand up for their rights in the workplace, and the ability to stay in Canada.


Local activists marching down Division Street in Cobourg

Shortly after the talk, the group of approximately 25 people hit the streets, taking up one lane of traffic on Division Street all the way to King Street. The March and Demonstration ended at Victory Hall, where Peter Vance again thanked everyone for cooperation and involvement in the March for Justice. I asked some of the locals that attended this March if they had seen or heard of a demonstration like this ever happen Cobourg. No one could re-call such an event like this happening in the area. It appears that a demonstration of this nature is the first of its kind in Cobourg!

Following the demonstration, Horizons of Friendship (Horizons) held an Open Forum & Roundtable Discussion on Migrant Workers issues at our office on Covert Street. There were approximately 25 guests in attendance, hailing from Trenton, Brighton, Cobourg, Peterborough, Toronto, and as far away as Mexico City. Friends of Migrant Workers (FOMW), a volunteer-led organization based in the community of Brighton came out to the Open Forum & Roundtable Discussion to learn more about the Harvesting Freedom Caravan. 

The event quickly started with Chris Ramsaroop noting that organizations and initiatives like FOMW and the 2016 Migrant Worker Outreach Program have been popping up all over Canada, working to fill the gap in services and accommodations that Migrant Workers experience during their stay. Ramsaroop futher noted that the names "Temporary Foreign Worker" and "Seasonal Agriculture Worker" are flawed. These programs aren't temporary or seasonal, rather, they're now a staple of the Canadian economy and have been here 50 years.


Open Forum & Roundtable Discussion at Horizons of Friendship

Allahdua and Ramsaroop took their time fielding questions from community members for nearly 90 minutes regarding Permanent Immigration Status for Migrant Workers and the role of farmers and unions in the Harvesting Freedom Caravan. Ramsaroop was quick to point out the historical precedence of Migrant Workers being granted Permanent Residence Status. Dutch, Polish, and British farmworkers in the 1930s and 1940s were granted Permanent Immigration Status upon arrival to Canada, and also received free land when they settled here. These laws changed in the 1950s when agricultural labour began to arrive from Jamaica, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Ramsaroop noted a number of books, historians, and academic literature that demonstrates the change in policy between European settlers to Jamaican, Mexican, and Caribbean was based on racism. Policy makers in the 1950s didn't want dark-skinned workers to settle in Canada, so they changed the laws to make their stay in Canada 'temporary'. 

After the Open Forum and Roundtable Discussion ended, Migrant Workers from the Northumberland County region arrived for a private dinner with Harvesting Freedom Caravan organizers. Shortly after, I gave Ramsaroop and Allahdua a night-tour of all the farms in the region, including visits with Migrant Workers at their residences. We were able to connect with around a dozen workers on this tour, talking to workers about their concerns and desire for change. 

Many thanks again to our friends at J4MW for providing us with an opportunity to learn more about the Harvesting Freedom Caravan. I'd also like to thank our friends at the Northumberland Community Legal Centre for their solidarity and support in organizing the day's events. I know that us here at Horizons and Migrant Workers across Canada appreciate your efforts towards making Canada a more just and inclusive society. 

Raul Scorza blog

Raúl Scorza
Community Outreach and Communications Coordinator

Thank you for visiting Horizons' maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) project blog. We've posted a bit earlier than our usual bi-weekly schedule to share exciting news: the application form for the first of five knowledge-exchange visits between Canada and Guatemala is now available online!

Horizons has embarked on a four-year project alongside its Guatemalan partner, the Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education (Pies de Occidente), to contribute to the reduction of maternal and child deaths and improve MNCH in Totonicapán, Guatemala. As part of the project, which is largely funded by Global Affairs Canada, Horizons has organized a series of international knowledge-sharing visits between Canadians and Guatemalans, with the following end-goals:

  • Deepening Canadians' understanding of the importance of MNCH in Guatemala, Canada and globally 
  • Sharing knowledge between equals, helping enable cooperation between Canada and Guatemala to improve MNCH
  • Raising awareness of how the project aims to improve MNCH in Totonicapán

Each exchange visit will last 10 days, with the first Canada to Guatemala trip taking place from February 19-28, 2017 and the first Guatemala to Canada trip occurring from March 19-28, 2017.The cohort of 10 Canadians that will learn about the challenging MNCH realities Totonicapán, as well as share experiences and knowledge with their Guatemalan counterparts, will have an opportunity to participate in some of the tentative activities outlined below.

Canada to Guatemala
Proposed Activities
Overview of Guatemala, Canada relation; Guatemalan Public Health expert explains health care system crisis
PIES introduces Project; Mayan Priest presents Mayan worldview; Participants accompany Traditional Indigenous Maya midwives; Explore Quetzaltenango market
Workshop on Culturally Pertinent MNCH care at Guatemalan university; Participants accompany personnel in health centres; Visit glassblowing co-op 
Participants attend community health session for pregnant women and families; Participants accompany Traditional Indigenous Maya midwives; Visit Museum of Mayan Garb
Participants deliver basic workshop on neonatal resuscitation/ALARM programs to medicine, nursing students; Participants attend session in support of MNCH with Indigenous leaders; Participants interviewed by media involved in pro-MNCH campaign
Participants learn how gender discrimination and violence impact MNCH; Participants present workshop on basic, pertinent MNCH practices or Aboriginal Health practices and issues to traditional midwives; Participants attend health home visits or present basic NRP/ALARM workshop to health personnel 
Traditional Mayan ceremony; Feedback on exchanges; Visit to Chichicastenango market; Participants explore Quetzaltenango
Depart for and explore Antigua; Return to Guatemala City; Feedback on exchanges and dinner at Hotel Conquistador

Horizons will ask participants to meet the following expectations prior, during and after the exchanges.

  • Before departure, read preparatory literature distributed by Horizons and attend mandatory briefing sessions.
  • During the visit, provide feedback on the exchanges in order to assist Horizons in creating a document detailing best practices in engaging the public in MNCH. The document will be published in English, Spanish and Maya K'iche.
  • Upon return, raise awareness in Canada of the importance of MNCH and how the project aims to improve the same in Totonicapán. 
Participants are strongly encouraged to welcome the visiting cohort of 5 Guatemalans (including traditional Indigenous Maya midwives and other health providers) for public events to help meet the awareness expectation, but this is only one of many ways through which participants can profile MNCH and the project in their communities.   

There is only one necessary criterion to participate: being professionally involved in an MNCH-related field or being a prominent community advocate in support of MNCH.

This includes, but is not limited to: 

Potential Participants
Midwives Public health personnel
Nurses Early childhood development specialists
Physicians Community leaders
Community health or social workers Gender violence experts

However, when reviewing applications, Horizons will consider the below experience and qualities as assets.

  • Experience providing care to, or working with, underserved populations or Aboriginal Peoples
  • Eager to learn about MNCH from a social justice perspective
  • Open to learn about, and share, Indigenous approaches to health
  • Knowledgeable in ALARM International, Neonatal Resuscitation or Emergency Skills Workshop Programs
  • Committed to raising awareness for the entire duration of the project
  • Able to demonstrate record of supporting gender equality
  • Moderately fluent in Spanish

The application form, which you can find here, will be available until midnight, October 13th

Horizons' Info Session on Knowledge-Exchanges

Keep track of Horizons' events to attend a session on the exchanges!

After the deadline, Horizons' Selection Committee (consisting of the Executive Director, Program Manager, and Community Outreach Coordinator) will work to select a diverse, multi-disciplinary cohort of participants. All applications are welcome, including those from underrepresented or Aboriginal peoples, and all applicants will be notified of results on October 19th.

A fee of $1500 CAD is required for the exchange. This fee will cover the match for participants' own expenses - which include accommodation (hotel), transportation (ground transport), meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and workshops - and help partially cover the same expenses for Guatemalan visitors. Horizons will clarify which expenses are not covered by the fee.

Remember: You may learn more about the knowledge-sharing visits at our upcoming information session at Peterborough Public Health on Tuesday, Sept. 20th. Click here to get more details and RSVP.

If you have any questions about the project, the knowledge-sharing visits, or your application, please contact Raúl Scorza at rscorza@horizons.ca.

Raul Scorza blog

Raúl Scorza
Community Outreach and Communications Coordinator

We welcome you once again to Horizons’ bi-weekly blog series on its maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) project, which will transform Indigenous lives in Totonicapán, Guatemala thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada. Our previous post highlighted the opportunity to participate in international knowledge-exchange visits between Canadian and Guatemalan MNCH providers and leaders being organized under this initiative. It’s not too late to attend one of our information sessions covering the exchanges on September 13th in Cobourg and September 20th in Peterborough – RSVP here and here, respectively.

Be mindful that you don’t need to be a specialist to support work that will better the lives of Indigenous women, children and families in Guatemala. In fact, you don’t even have to be out of elementary school to advocate for greater social justice like improved MNCH outcomes for Totonicapán’s Indigenous people. As this post will show, Horizons is striving to engage Ontario’s youth in this important project, and is thrilled to announce an exciting partnership to do so.

Youth are the future leaders of our society, and as such, play an essential role in addressing global issues. The possibility for youth to become catalysts for positive social change comes in no small part from their being subject to the world’s most pressing challenges. This is clear in the case of maternal and child health issues in Guatemala. Half of the country’s women are already married by the age of 20 and 44 percent give birth by the same age. These statistics rise to 54 and 68 percent for Indigenous women and women without formal education, respectively. And in a shocking and recent report (in Spanish), the United Nations Population Fund revealed that one in five Guatemalan adolescents has become a mother before they even turn 17 years old.

MNCH - Guatemalan mother with her baby

Ontario youth will be engaged in a project that will transform Indigenous lives in Guatemala

As if these figures were not alarming enough by their own, they become more so when considering Indigenous women are twice as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth as non-Indigenous women in Guatemala. In Totonicapán, where approximately 94 percent of the population is Indigenous, this translates into almost twice the number of average maternal deaths in the country.

Horizons and its Guatemalan partner, the Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education (PIES de Occidente), will take concrete steps to contribute to the reduction of maternal and child deaths and the improvement of MNCH for Indigenous women, children and families.

But Horizons has also had more than 40 years of experience coordinating public engagement activities in Canada related to international development projects, and has learned that youth in Ontario are highly motivated to help address global issues, such as Totonicapán’s critical MNCH situation. However, youth have pointed to multiple barriers preventing them from becoming agents of social change.

Women Deliver, an international institution advocating for women’s health and women’s rights, found that youth from across the world identify the following as factors that prevent youth from being meaningfully involved in global issues, such as maternal and newborn health:

• A lack of accessible information
• Decision-makers placing low trust in the opinions youth express
• Shortage of spaces and opportunities for international engagement

Horizons is proud to announce that it has partnered with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Kawartha Pine Ridge Local (KPR ETFO) to help Ontario youth overcome these barriers and be meaningfully engaged in a global issue as important as MNCH in Totonicapán.


Horizons is thrilled to have partnered with KPR ETFO to engage Ontario youth

Every year of the project’s duration, Horizons and KPR ETFO will invite three Grade 8 classes, each in a different school in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District, to participate during a school term in a roster of five activities that will raise awareness of MNCH issues in Totonicapán. The roster is designed to build upon an accessible introduction to MNCH and culminate in a review of methods for peer-based youth action on global issues like MNCH. Starting in the Spring of 2017, activities will include presentations, workshops, role-play, and critical reflection exercises, as well as visits by Guatemalan delegations of traditional Mayan midwives and health providers that will grant participants a unique opportunity to meet and learn from project beneficiaries.

Participating students will develop qualities facilitated by social justice education, like empathy for different individuals and groups, the ability to recognize bias and discrimination and critical thinking. This in turn will contribute to the creation of strong and diverse communities – inside and outside the classroom.

Teachers that commit to the roster will have the opportunity to attend a preparatory professional development workshop with Horizons on teaching social justice themes to youth. This will provide a chance to impact the design, selection and integration of roster activities into lesson plans. Further, educators will notice direct links to the Ontario Grade 8 Geography Curriculum. Building on Citizenship Education Framework themes, roster activities will help fulfill Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life expectations, like: addressing factors contributing to global inequalities and quality of life, investigating quality of life issues through a geographic perspective and identifying patterns and trends affecting quality of life and economic development.

Finally, to ensure the voice of Ontario youth is heard, participating students will be continuously asked to evaluate Horizons and KPR ETFO’s program. Their input will not just shape and update activities, but will also be featured in a publication detailing best practices in engaging the public in MNCH issues to be distributed to health providers in Canada and Guatemala.

“This project will provide students and teachers rich learning experiences about issues of justice relevant to all citizens across the globe”, says David Berger, First Vice-President of KPR ETFO. “Partnering with Horizons for this program, an organization ETFO has supported for many years through its Provincial Humanity Fund, will help our youth bridge the gap between the international and the local”.

Horizons reminds non-school youth groups interested in raising awareness of MNCH challenges in Totonicapán that they too can support this project. For more information about this possibility, or to learn more about the youth engagement program, contact Raúl Scorza at rscorza@horizons.ca.