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Miami-area church helps hurricane victims in migrant camp

 


Miami-area church helps hurricane victims in migrant camp

Sept. 28, 2005       

A UMNS Report
By Nancy E. Johnson*

Some of Hurricane Katrina’s poorest victims live in a migrant labor camp in south Miami-Dade. Most are Mexican, and almost all are jobless now.

“We’re trying to survive, whatever we can do,” said Romana Vallejo, the sister of a migrant worker.

South Florida felt the wrath of Katrina the week before she barreled into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Some areas received 20 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Fred Grantham appealed to his fellow members at Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church in Miami to help the farm workers who lost almost everything to Katrina. The 75-year-old retired architect is a volunteer with South Dade Migrant Labor Camp, where some 200 families are living.

“There is no work in flooded fields,” Grantham said. “Until it dries up and farmers make decisions on what kind of crop to replace, the migrant worker has no employment.”

Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church collected 400 pounds of beans and rice for hundreds of these migrant families and brought it to the labor camp. Women and children accepted the food politely, careful not to take more than they needed.

“As long as we have beans and rice, we have a meal,” Vallejo said.

With fields and nurseries under water, the migrant families don’t know when they’ll be able to afford groceries again. They’re relying on the beans and rice to get them through the next few weeks.

“If you’re a cook and you do rice at home, you know you put one cup of dried rice and two cups of water in a pot. You end up with double or triple the dry rice you put in,” Grantham said.

The migrant families have seen worse times. Many will never forget Aug. 24, 1992, when the people of South Miami-Dade felt the fury of Hurricane Andrew. Houses smashed.  Trees toppled.  Lives changed. 

“We survived Andrew,” Vallejo said. “We were not prepared for this.”

But Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church was prepared to help. Church members showed up at the labor camp with bags of clothing too. Children looked through the bags, most choosing only one outfit. 

“The same child wears the same shirt to school every day,” Grantham said. “It has to be washed every day because it’s the only shirt he has.”

The migrant families are grateful for the church’s generosity.

“They always come, thank God. They’re really nice people,” Vallejo said.

Grantham described the migrant families in similar terms.

“They’re a quiet, peaceful people,” he said. “You see it in their faces.  You hear them in their Spanish … giving praise to the Lord.”

*Johnson is a Florida-based television and print reporter/writer.

News media contact: Jan Snider, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5474 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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