Each fall season marks the beginning of the apple harvest in Central Virginia, bringing in large numbers of migrant laborers. For the past 25 years, Migrant Aid, a volunteer community service program, has facilitated and coordinated the weekly volunteer efforts of University of Virginia (UVA) students in the migrant farms of Central VA.
Volunteers travel to schools, work camps and migrant homes to give assistance to migrant workers. UVA student volunteers provide recreational and tutoring services for both migrant adults and children through three different component programs: Youth Enrichment, Tutoring, and Family Literacy. In the past year, 150 volunteers served approximately three hours per week through the Migrant Aid program, contributing more than 3,300 total hours of volunteer community service.
Since its inception, the Migrant Aid program has grown steadily, both in the number of weekly volunteers and in the services offered to meet the real needs of many migrant farm workers and their families. The Youth Enrichment component of Migrant Aid began in 1973 and provides organized recreational activities for migrant children during after-school hours. Sensing the need for academic help as well, these activities expanded to include a tutoring program to supplement what the children learn in school. Volunteers work individually or in small groups, dividing their time between recreational activities and each child's particular educational needs.
There exists a great need to enhance the English skills of many of the migrant workers so they may excel outside of the migrant camp setting. To meet this need, an Adult Tutoring component was added in the fall of 1981 to the Migrant Aid program. These volunteers use an English as a Second Language (ESL) manual designed specifically for this program to assist workers in learning how to express themselves more effectively in English.
Part of Migrant Aid's uniqueness is that it seeks to give assistance to the entire family of the migrant worker. In the spring of 1995, a creative and successful Family Literacy component was added for those migrant families that remained in Central Virginia following the fall apple harvest. This program was designed to help migrant parents become more involved in their children's education. During weekly 'Family Nights', volunteers work on activities such as games, arts and crafts, reading, baking, and coloring. While the family practices their English skills together, the parents learn how to teach their children through play time.
Through the dedication and innovative solutions of the student-run program, hundreds of migrant workers and their families receive the assistance that they need each year.