Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brethren Service Volunteers Learn About Lake Apopka

Headed off to places like Honduras and Japan, the Brethren Service Volunteers visit Apopka, Florida to learn from former Lake Apopka farmworkers. This unique team of volunteers is dedicated to service and each person commits to yearlong or two year periods of service, domestically and internationally.  As part of their orientation period, they took a Toxic Tour with the Farmworker Association of Florida. The group was remarkable not only in their grasp of food policy and environmental issues, but in their attention to the issues and their heart for the stories of the community. Brethren Service Volunteers were very touched to hear from Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt Maker and former Lake Apopka muck farm worker, Linda Lee, who shared her personal experiences as a farmworker and the working conditions and history of African American farmworkers in the area.

BSV is a group “working towards peace and justice, and meeting the needs of humanity and the environment” and it “calls out for persons dedicated to service.” The Farmworker Association was very happy to exchange ideas and share experiences with these incredible young people. The stories they learned on Lake Apopka will impact their perspectives along their way, and will resonate in their future work with diverse communities in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, some will serve farmworker families in rural communities here in the United States. Others will travel to work with families in urban Ireland. Despite the variety  of their future service experiences, the lessons learned here will complement their own knowledge and enhance their ability to serve their communities.

The former farmworker community in South Apopka struggles for recognition, validation and sorely needed healthcare services, but they are not alone. They, like others facing environmental racism and lack of services based on class and race divides, are not alone in feeling forgotten and unappreciated. Yet, their continued strength and resilience are always an inspiration.
While Brethren Service Volunteers may not serve this community for their year of service, it is a form of service to listen deeply to someone else’s story. It is in the spirit of service to understand and examine an issue, and to take to heart the stories of real people. So we thank BVS for understanding the value of embracing new ideas, for challenging themselves and for opening their minds and hearts to new people, new places, and new ideas.  

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