In Your Midst

Youth Migrant Project

August 2008

Cathedral Teens experience life with Migrant Workers in Lynden & the Skagit Valley

Youth Migrant Project

This July, seven of our Cathedral teens participated in the Youth Migrant Project, a program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Seattle which gives young people the opportunity to experience the life of migrant workers in Washington state.  Our young people spent five days helping in daycares and reading camps, as well as working in the fields, and praying and reflecting together.

One participant, Frankie Murray, writes:  “The week in Lynden produced a lot of new experiences for me. I was able to experience what it felt like to be a migrant worker. I was able to experience what it felt like to be earning seventeen cents for each pound of picked cotton and to be totally exhausted even after a couple hours in the sun. I saw the humbleness of families as they approached the piles of donated clothing and food. I ask God to bless all those people I met that week and all those with whom I ‘bunked.’  During the week, I often called to mind the inscription at St. James Cathedral. I am in your midst as one who serves.  I wanted to serve and to help as best I could even in little ways.”

Dylan Thomas says:  “The thing I learned the most was that not everyone is as privileged as some of us. The thing that surprised me the most was the conditions some of the families lived in. One family of five might have a home that is a little bigger than your bedroom!”

JJ Rosario writes:  “What I learned from this experience was that the camps were all different.... The bad ones had some houses made out of steel slats that looked like they were being held up by threads.

But despite the living conditions the people there seem happy and were more than willing to play with us, and they did not reject us at all…. It was the most astonishing thing ever, because we were strangers and they took us in like family.”

The following journal by Jennifer Ibach, Pastoral Assistant for Social Outreach at the Cathedral, chronicles an eventful and educational week!
Monday, July 7, 2008

Hello all!  It’s Monday afternoon and we’ve settled nicely into our mission trip.  We arrived yesterday afternoon and were greeted by the other parishes… St. Mary, St. Edward, St. Paul, and St. George.  We set up our sleeping areas, unloaded the donations, and then headed out for some fun in one of the local migrant camps.  We had a chance to meet some of the people staying in the camps and share a meal with them.  One woman gave us some homemade tamales to try that were muy delicioso!  The youth especially enjoyed playing basketball and soccer with the kids.  In the evening, we prayed together and shared a little about ourselves.

This morning, we divided up into two different groups.  One group spent today at the daycare center helping in the classrooms for kids five years and under.  The other group began the hard job of sorting through our mountain of donations.  Later today, we’re headed down to a camp in the Skagit Valley to do crafts, share food, decorate faces, and enjoy a couple of piñatas full of candy!

Tuesday, July 8

We had a great time last night in the Skagit Valley.  We visited our biggest camp yet and had fun playing with all of the kids.  We brought cake, watermelon, games, crafts, and piñatas!  In the evening, we shared some reflection time and talked about someone or something that had touched our hearts that day.

Today, we broke up into two groups in the morning.  One group went to the fields to work with the Small Potatoes Gleaning Project.  This project grows, distributes, and gleans fresh produce for local food banks.  Our group harvested sunflower sprouts and cauliflower, weeded, and spread manure!  In the afternoon, this same group hosted a reading camp and sorted more donations.  The other group spent the day at the daycare center.  When everyone got home, we kicked into action to finish sorting all of our donations, which we’ll hand out tonight!  This was a tough job but, with everyone helping,  the work was fun and went fast.  In the evening, we all took some well-deserved rest time and enjoyed Dairy Queen and swimming at the local YMCA.  Our evening reflection asked us to consider how our perspectives have changed since we arrived.
Wednesday, July 9

This morning, we split into two groups again.  One went to the daycare center and the other spent the morning preparing for our food and clothing distribution tonight.  We now have backpacks full of school supplies and bags of sorted clothes to hand out to people.  Thanks again for all of your donations, which have made tonight possible.
Thursday, July 10

We had a great time handing out food and clothing last night.  At the end we discovered we had enough clothing left over to make a donation to the families at the daycare center.  We also enjoyed a fantastic, home cooked Filipino meal of chicken adobo thanks to Lindsay, Vanessa, and Ray.

Today, we separated into our groups again.  One group spent the day at the daycare, while the other went back to the food bank farm.  We were excited to share our experiences with Helen, Lita, and TerryAnn who came up from St. James for a visit.  In the afternoon, our reading camp group spent their final afternoon with the kids.  In the evening, we all drove down to the Skagit Valley again to celebrate Mass in one of the farm workers’ camps.  We were joined by parents and friends from our different parishes, as well as a group from St. Madeleine Sophie in Bellevue who is spending the week doing the Youth Migrant Project in the Mt. Vernon area.  Before Mass, we carried an icon of the Virgen de Guadalupe around the camp and invited people to join us for the celebration.  Then we all shared in the Eucharist at a Mass presided over by Father Felino from St. Edward’s.  It was a beautiful moment for us all.

Back at St. Joe’s that night, we had some fun performing skits for one another and then we closed with time for reflection.

Friday, July 11

Today was the final day of our Youth Migrant Project.  In the morning, our groups went to the daycare and farm for the last time.  When we got back, we did a thorough clean-up at St. Joe’s and then enjoyed some pizza in the yard.  We closed our week with an affirmation activity where everyone got a chance to affirm another person and then share what they’re taking home from this experience.  We had a beautiful ride back home with a stop for ice cream at a farmers’ market in Mt. Vernon.

Thank you again to everyone who has supported us on this journey.  Your donations, prayers, and help have made this week possible.  We made many new friends within our group and within the larger communities of Lynden and Mt. Vernon.  We had our eyes opened to the poverty that exists right here in our own state and learned about the struggles of migrant families.  Many of us left with a desire to do more and a hope that it is possible to change things for the better.  Please continue to pray for all of those who work in the fields.


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