A mission to help migrant workers

NANAIMO: Missionaries from church head to camps in Washington to spread message of caring.

Mara Bossio reads the Spanish bible to children at one of the migrant worker camps Woodgrove Christian Community Church members visited this summer. The church members ran a Vacation Bible School

Mara Bossio reads the Spanish bible to children at one of the migrant worker camps Woodgrove Christian Community Church members visited this summer. The church members ran a Vacation Bible School

A paper cut-out heart tacked to Colleen Shoqist’s fridge door is a constant reminder of her experiences doing outreach in migrant worker camps this summer.

“It’s very heart wrenching,” said Shoquist about the condition of the camps.

Shoquist and other members of the Woodgrove Christian Community Church, based out of the Heritage Church building in Lantzville, visited the camps from July 30 to Aug. 4, to lead a Vacation Bible School, which includes arts and crafts, singing and games, and they bring toys, clothes and other items for the children.

Five Woodgrove members were joined by five members of a Seattle-based church on the project.

They visited two migrant camps in the Mount Vernon area of Washington, which different church individuals have been visiting since about 2005.

It’s the second year Shoquist has made the journey. A decision she made because of her motivation to help and give the children the message that God loves them.

At the Washington migrant camps the adults work in the fields picking produce during the days. They often lock their doors to keep belongings safe and children end up with no indoor space to stay in, said Steve Wilkinson, pastor of Woodgrove church. The older teens are often in charge of the care of younger children.

“That is so sad to see young children looking after young children,” said Shoquist.

The camps the Woodgrove members visit consist of workers primarily from Mexico’s Oaxaca region. The adults often only speak their native language of Mixteca, but the children are usually multilingual and speak Mixteca, Spanish and English, said Wilkinson.

He said migrants often follow the cycle of crop growing and continually move from Arizona to California to Washington. During the school year some children are able to attend classes.

Wilkinson said sometimes people question why the church works in the Washington camps and not with B.C. camps. He said the church has an established relationship of trust with the people in the Washington camps because they have done outreach work in them since about 2005.

If the opportunity arose the group would consider doing work in B.C. camps. The migrant worker’s well-being is also an issue Canadians should consider, he added, because of the amount of fruit and vegetables imported from the U.S. that Canadians consume.

“The fruits and vegetables imported from the states, it’s being picked by these people. It’s being built on the backs of these people,” he said.

Suzanne Wilkinson, who also went with the church group, said she tries to prepare herself mentally for the poverty she encounters in the camps each time but it’s never successful.

“It affects me every single time – you don’t grow accustomed to it,” she said. “They live in really, really dreary little rooms.”

Some of the camps they visit, Suzanne describes as the rough camps, have a reputation for crime and sometimes people openly carry knives in the housing area.

“The other camp just breaks my heart. I cannot fathom how people live in such conditions,” said Suzanne.

There is one family the Wilkinsons have established a close relationship with over their years.

Marcelina, one of the teens, is going to be the first person in her family to graduate high school and wants to attend college. The family is currently trying to figure out how to apply for Marcelina’s citizenship under the Dream Act.

The church does outreach projects in the United States and Mexico and anyone can join the members during their work. People interested in participating in the projects can contact Woodgrove Church at 250-390-3679.

For more information and to watch a video of the church member’s work in the migrant camps please go to www.woodgrovechurch.ca.

Just Posted

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Laid-off Casino Nanaimo workers launch class-action lawsuit against corporation

Notice of civil claim filed on April 6 at Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo

Beban Pool is expected to re-open Oct. 4 after a vote by councillors at a finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday, June 16. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo will re-open Beban Pool in October

User groups warn COVID-19 pool closures have left a gap in water safety education

Beef to the lady who went onto my property then proceeded to take my large plant from my home. I found out and asked for it returned. You said I was dramatic? You should be ashamed of yourself.
Beefs & Bouquets, June 16

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts’s body was discovered near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Lotto Max player in Nanaimo wins $500,000

Campbell River lotto player wins $1 million in the Tuesday, June 15 draw

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Lotto Max player in Nanaimo wins $500,000

Campbell River lotto player wins $1 million in the Tuesday, June 15 draw

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens between Port Alberni and Tofino

Multi-vehicle accident temporarily closed highway in both directions

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 4 deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-staff as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Most Read