Sifuentes Farms Crew Leader Blanca Rivas talks with MUJER staff members Christina Aldana and Saul Aleman while they wait for farm workers to gather.

Sifuentes Farms Crew Leader Blanca Rivas talks with MUJER staff members Christina Aldana and Saul Aleman while they wait for farm workers to gather.

Many non-profit organizations have added to or shifted their outreach focus to provide different assistance to individuals and families due to health, economic, and social damage brought about COVID-19. MUJER is one such organization and Wednesday, August 12, 2020, members were in an okra field with a team of farm workers. They were there to distribute bags containing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) of masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, and important information.

Blanca Rivas, originally from Guatemala and a crew leader for Sifuentes Farms for twelve years, expressed appreciation for MUJER coming directly to her sixty workers. Despite the impact to farms throughout the area, crops still being harvested and planted require workers seven days a week. Rivas walks and drives the large fields, containers of water in the bed of her truck. She talks with every worker and inquires about their family. Concern about the virus is compounded for those who can’t work as much as they are

accustomed to or have other family members who may be unemployed.

MUJER is among the organizations receiving vital support from the Miami Foundation to pass on to workers. "We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the Miami Foundation, United Way, PepsiCo, Coral Gables Congregational Church, the City of Homestead and others who have contributed to the needs of farmworkers in our community. More than $175,000 in rental and utility assistance and more than 5,000 PPE kits have been distributed by MUJER to families in South Dade because of this continued support. We are also grateful to Sifuentes Farms for allowing us to come onto his fields and provide education on how to keep safe during COVID-19," said Susan J. Rubio Rivera, Executive Director, MUJER.

Rivas gathered the first dozen of her team to hear Christina Aldana talk about safety measures and the type of assistance MUJER offers; a 24-hour Hotline available and details of information contained in pamphlets in the bags. She or Brandy Ramirez, a board member of MUJER, responded to questions. Yes, they could bring applications for financial help to Rivas for the workers. Yes, they could coordinate to see about testing on-site. And yes, if gloves and rain boots were needed as well, they would seek to supply those items.

Saul Aleman, with MUJER to conduct Census Outreach, spoke to them about the reasons to be counted. He’s able to relate to their reluctance based on the personal experience of his own family.

Originally from Mexico, they were distrustful of what the government might do with the information and didn’t respond to the 2010 Census. “We have to change the way we engage,” he had explained earlier. “We are going out into the communities and having success.”

Rivas said they were grateful when people or groups were willing to come to the fields and provide for all sixty workers.

Although COVID-19 is in the fore of attention, MUJER encompasses other critical core needs. They were established in October 1994 after Hurricane Andrew and in July 1997, began providing services directly to communities in South Dade up to Kendall Drive. Their mission is, “At M.U.J.E.R. we provide a trusting environment that promotes emotional wellness and stability by empowering individuals through advocacy, direct response to domestic and sexual abuse, and support services that strengthen families.”

“It's important to know that MUJER continues to provide direct services to families affected by domestic and/or sexual abuse during these critical times,”

Executive Director Rivera added. “Our sexual assault HelpLine number is (305) 763-2459 and services are provided at no charge to the community.”

For more information about MUJER’s efforts and how to help, see http://mujerfla.org

The office phone number (305) 247-1388 is the primary number for low income families in need of emergency assistance.

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