Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Environmental Ambassadors from Gainesville
Learn about Farmworkers and Lake Apopka

Six highly motivated high school youth from Gainesville traveled to Apopka on Friday, July 21, 2017 to learn about the environmental problems on Lake Apopka and the injustices faced by farmworkers.  Each summer, the Gainesville Cultural Arts Coalition hosts a group, led by local community activist Nkwanda Jah, of aspiring young people in several weeks of intense learning on environmental and community issues. Known as Environmental Ambassadors, their experiences include visiting a solar energy facility, a water treatment plant, a local worm farm, and, as they have done for several years in a row, a trip to Apopka to meet the Farmworker Association of Florida through a half day immersion into farmworker issues.  

Some heard the term “environmental racism” for the first time, learning what it means, while seeing first-hand an environmental justice community that is and has been exposed to pesticides on the farms along with contamination from landfills, a medical waste incinerator, a sewage treatment plant and more.   

Enviromental Enbassadors Learning hearing Ms. Linda's story
The highlight of the trip was the visit to the home of Ms. Linda Lee, the key quilter of the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts.  Standing in her yard in the shade of her mango tree, with her great-grandsons around her, Ms. Lee shared the realities of her daily life working on the farms on Lake Apopka. 

  Watching the video “Out of the Muck” and even seeing pea-green Lake Apopka itself and the former Lake Apopka farm lands were not as powerful as Ms. Linda’s personal testimony and true life stories.  Everyone was hungry to hear more about her life even as they drove away.  One student commented that what stood out the most for her was when she learned that farmworkers are excluded from labor laws that protect most all other workers in the U.S.  They may look at food in the grocery store with a new appreciation after learning about farmworkers.

We thank Ms. Jah and the Environmental Ambassadors for taking a day to travel the two hours to and from Gainesville to learn about farmworkers and to share with the people in our community.  Through these exchanges, we can help change the world!


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