1997-07-21 Grand Haven Tribune "Fiesta honors migrant workers"

Fiesta honors migrant workers
Grand Haven Tribune

Area migrant workers were treated to a fiesta Saturday to honor their contributions to agricultural in Ottawa and Allegan counties.

Fiesta 97 hosted about 500 migrant workers at Al Ochoa's farm in Robinson Township.

The workers and their families were treated to food, entertainment, hay rides and games.

"We wanted to take the opportunity to recognize the work of our migrant workers," said Gail Harrison, program coordinator for the Higher Horizons and member of the North Ottawa Ethnic Diversity Alliance.

"People underestimate how important migrant workers are to this area," Harrison added.

The fiesta was hosted by the Migrant Resource Council and assisted by the alliance.

"My hope is that the migrant workers will feel a sense that they are valued," Harrison said.

"They are somewhat removed geographically and isolated from the community."

Harrison said other problems have been the language barriers and cultural differences.

She estimated that 78 percent of the migrant workers don't speak English.

More efforts are being made to establish relationships with the migrant workers through the alliance, area schools and St. Anthony's Church which has helped fund English classes for the workers.

Harrison said there has been a three-prong approach in helping the migrants.

Ben Lawrence, who teachers English as a second language at Grand Haven High School, also has been heavily involve din the effort.

This was the second year for the fiesta. Last year the event was held in Holland.