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Thursday, March 30, 2023
Farmworker Hub opening social space for seasonal workers
The new social space for seasonal farmworkers offers couches, a pool table and a place to hang out. Supplied

Seasonal farmworkers will soon be able to visit the Farmworker Hub to mingle in its new upstairs social space.  

As of March 19, the space above the hub at Virgil’s Cornerstone Community Church will be available to workers on Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m. 

It’s so important to have “a place that they can come and just hang out and have a place in town that they call their own,” Farmworker Hub founder Julia Buxton-Cox told The Lake Report. 

The main social space is painted a bright yellow, with flags from different countries hanging on the wall complemented by photos of farmworkers. It has a pool table, two couches and a projection screen. 

A room at the back has a fridge and a table where workers can play games and socialize. 

Buxton-Cox and volunteer co-ordinator Brittney Sliasas are hoping to be able to offer refreshments and snacks to the workers as well. 

“We want a safe space where everyone can come in and just feel at home,” said Sliasas. 

There are four small rooms with brightly painted doors that can be accessed through the main space. 

Buxton-Cox has big plans for the extra rooms, including using one for pastoral care and counselling. 

Mental health is important but it’s often overlooked when it comes to seasonal farmworkers, she said.

“We have four different pastors from all different churches coming in. One who is fluent in Spanish, one who is a man of colour, and then one from Cornerstone Church and one from Gateway Church,” she added. 

The other rooms upstairs will provide workers with educational programming. This could include classes in English as a second language, workplace safety, and how to file Canadian taxes.

A laptop will also be available in one room so workers can access the internet. 

“I think the only thing we’re really lacking for the social space are a variety of games,” said Sliasas.

“We have a lot of dominos, but we could get maybe darts (and) checkers,” she added.

While the hub hasn’t received any grants yet, it has received some generous donations from the community, said Buxton-Cox. 

Lauren and Vaughn Goettler donated a stainless steel fridge for the space. 

As an added bonus, the extra space won’t come with a rent increase.  

“Cornerstone Church believes in our mission so much that they didn’t raise our rent at all,” said Buxton-Cox. 

The hub currently has more than 30 volunteers, though more are always welcome. 

“We’d like to have volunteers that could be involved in a driving team, people that would be willing to maybe bring workers who are not within a short bike ride to the hub on Sundays,” said Buxton-Cox. 

Last summer was busy, so it’ll be nice to have a space this year where everyone can mingle and get to know each other, said Sliasas.

The hub had about 3,000 visits last year from March to October. 

“While everyone’s waiting to get into the hub, groups of men and women who might know each other from different farms would stand outside before or after they visited the hub and would converse,” said Sliasas.

“So now just having a space for them to do that, I think it’s going to be really, really great,” she added.

Sliasas has volunteered with the hub since 2021 and has become a huge part of its day-to-day operations. 

Buxton-Cox said she wouldn’t be able to do any of this without Sliasas, her volunteers and the support from the community and the church. 

The space could open on other days if there’s a demand for it, but Sundays make the most sense, because workers have that day off.

The hub also will be open on Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for drop-offs and donation sorting. 

“That’ll be a good time for any members of the community who want to come in for a tour and see the space when it’s a little bit quieter,” said Buxton-Cox.

For more information, check out thehubnotl.ca.

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