By Shanxi Omoniyi, CFCA web editor and writer
I recently had the privilege of traveling to Chile on a CFCA mission awareness trip, and while there I met a woman who put my idea of “a hard day’s work” to shame.
Her name is Luisa, and she’s the mother of Javier, a child sponsored through CFCA.
She’s a seasonal vineyard worker, needed only in times of pruning and harvesting.
She started work Oct. 10 and will finish in mid-April, leaving home at 7 a.m. and returning around 6 p.m.
It can take her 20-30 minutes to walk from one side of the vineyard to the other.
Payment for her pains depends on how many boxes she can pick during harvest time or the hours she works when pruning.
If she picks about 100 boxes (each box weighing about 25 pounds), she can make approximately 17,000 pesos ($30 US) a day.
Many of the workers have back problems from picking such heavy loads, she told me.
This is not counting the constant exposure to sun (the workers must wear sunscreen and protective clothing provided by the vineyard) and agrochemicals such as pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.
Wine harvesting also requires fine motor skills, flexing the fingers to pick the grapes, and the harvesters often suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
She’s one of them. The pain travels from her fingers up to her armpits, she said.
“Can you get medical help?” I asked through a CFCA translator, Marcela.
She explained that like many others living in poverty, she’s in the public health care system. This means she won’t have to pay for surgery that could alleviate the pain, but if she applies for it, she’ll be added to a lengthy waiting list.
She doesn’t want surgery, though. A friend of hers had surgery, but it went horribly wrong and permanently disfigured her hands.
“Can you rest from work to give your hands time to heal?” I asked, again through Marcela.
She could, but that would mean no wages. She needs money, so she must keep working.
I asked her about her dreams and goals for the future, and she started to cry … just a little. I wondered whether anyone else had ever asked her that question.
“I want my kids to have an education,” she said, and Marcela translated this. “I am working so hard because I don’t want my children to work in the vineyards.”
CFCA sponsorship helps her buy clothes and school supplies for her children. She said sponsorship is a blessing because a person who doesn’t even know her is willing to help her.
She was also able to buy a government-subsidized house with support from the CFCA office in Valparaiso.
The house and her family are her greatest triumphs, she said.
“I don’t just have a house, but I have a home,” she tells me in Spanish. “Because my family is here.”
Our CFCA community abounds with other people just like Luisa. This blog is one way we can tell their stories – highlighting not only the hardship of living in poverty, but also the beauty of the families struggling to overcome it.
Thanks for helping us stand in solidarity with them, every step of the way.