For many migrant workers in Niagara-on-the-Lake, health care can be a mystery.
People like Niagara Migrant Worker Program project co-ordinator Sara Escarraga are working toward changing that – with gatherings like the Migrant Farmworker Health Fair last Sunday at the NOTL Community Centre.
Escarraga said the purpose of the fair is to connect workers with services across the region, especially health care. It featured booths with information on sexual health as well as how to stay hydrated, prevent ticks and more.
“Our members work really closely with this population so it’s easier to get information out there,” she said.
Veatriz Salgado is one of the workers who have gotten to know Escarraga well while working in Niagara for the last seven years.
“I’ve been learning about my health. Because everybody doesn’t really know what to do if something happens,” Salgado told The Lake Report.
She emphasized the importance of learning about sexual health, which has been addressed with the help of the volunteers and organizations like Positive Living Niagara.
Salgado added that she and her co-workers have sat in on workshops on sexual health and everything related to HIV, sexually transmitted infections and other blood-borne illnesses.
With Escarraga translating, Salgado said, “She feels that when they don’t have enough information and things happen, their world closes and they aren’t able to troubleshoot. They just panic. They don’t know where to go or who to call.”
Salgado has worked in different provinces in the past, including Manitoba, where she recalls less-than-ideal services for migrant workers and little information about how to access benefits.
“She said that in her mind, our worst enemy is not knowing, is ignorance,” Escarraga translated.
Along with information booths from groups like Positive Living Niagara, the health fair also featured lively music and pizza for attendees to enjoy while learning about NOTL resources.
“This is the best way of eliminating barriers because whoever comes, they have accurate information. They have contacts and information. They have everything they need in just one place,” said Escarraga.