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U.S. Hurricane Aftermath: Migrant Farm Workers



Agency Assessing Damage to Vulnerable Populations, Churches, Food


MIAMI/NEW YORK CITY ­ Thurs 8/19­ - Florida's migrant farm workers are among the state's most vulnerable populations facing major immediate and long term problems due to Hurricane Charley, a team of Church World Service aid workers reported today.

"The situation for Florida farm workers is particularly perilous now," said Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Heriberto Martinez, working today in Hardee and Manatee counties. Hardee and Manatee are two areas where citrus crops were hard-hit by the storm, causing farm workers ­ many of them Mexican and Haitian ­ to lose their jobs.

"If they were poor before the hurricane, they're even poorer now, and it's going to get worse," said Martinez. CWS' Martinez and other responders will meet tomorrow to collectively address the plight of migrant workers in the aftermath of one of the worst hurricanes to hit Florida since 1992.

With more than 140,000 people either permanently or temporarily displaced due to Hurricane Charley, Church World Service aid workers are covering all 25 of Florida's damaged counties to assess the needs of the state's most vulnerable residents and to determine damage to churches, mosques, synagogues and community food pantries.

Miami resident and Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Lesli Remaly says, "This recovery is going to take years, and we will need to champion the cause of communities where other groups are not going.

Working today in Orange County, Remaly says, ""We are seeking out communities that have not yet received a lot of attention." CWS' Tom Davis is in Charlotte and Lee counties today.

"There is particular concern for those who were vulnerable even before Charley," Remaly said. "So we're assessing the immediate and long term recovery needs of the uninsured and the under-insured, the elderly and disabled, those who live alone, the homeless, and such groups as migrant farm workers, immigrants, people whose first language isn't English, the Seminole, Miccousukee and other native groups in impacted areas."

Global agency Church World Service is one of the first aid agencies called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) along with the Red Cross in a national disaster.



The New-York based agency responds to natural and human-caused disasters internationally and domestically and in the U.S. specializes in working with local faith communities, social service agencies and emergency management partners, assisting vulnerable populations.

Miami resident and CWS Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Lesli Remaly says the agency "is looking to the long-term needs of people who may be un-insured or under-insured.

"We will focus on those who are particularly vulnerable," she said, "such as the elderly, disabled, those who live alone, migrant farm workers, immigrants, the homeless, people whose first language isn't English, the Seminole, Miccousukee and other native groups living in the impacted areas."

Remaly adds, "At this point, no one knows the damage done to churches, mosques and synagogues in the affected areas­ or to food pantries and other community helping agencies. CWS will be assessing that damage."

Emergency teams from across the country are already in Florida to provide mental health counseling, according to Augsburger. "But," he says, " there's still a spiritual need to be assessed and addressed."

Augsburger adds that because Charley wreaked such widespread havoc, "those in Florida who traditionally are called on to offer help and comfort for disaster victims­­ that is, community church leaders­ may be experiencing the same losses themselves."

"CWS will be working with the Florida spiritual community and the state's voluntary agencies," explains Remaly, "to determine if there are sufficient people locally who are trained and available to handle the spiritual counseling that's going to be needed ­ including serving those caregivers themselves who are also disaster victims."

Augsburger urges, "For those who want to help it's best to send cash contributions. - "By that, we mean checks, credit card or online contributions to one of the agencies such as Church World Service that are providing help, or through your church, synagogue or mosque."

FEMA and Florida Governor Jeb Bush are also asking people who want to help to "help wisely," and donate money through an established agency.

Church World Service provides sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, advocacy and refugee assistance worldwide and is supported in part by 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations.

EDITORS NOTE: Please add the following source to your listings of agencies accepting contributions for relief assistance to victims of Hurricane Charley:

To support relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Charley through Church World Service: phone (800) 297-1516; make a secure credit card contribution online at; or send your check by mail to: Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515.


CONTACTS: Jan Dragin/New York/Boston Phone: (781) 925-1526 ­ 24/7 e-mail:

Chris Herlinger/CWS/New York Phone: (212) 870-2068 e-mail:

© Scoop Media

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