Christmas in Canada was not the original plan as farm workers arrived for work last spring but it has become a reality as COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.
Since discovering that 200 Trinidadian farm workers are not able to return home, Norfolk County residents have pulled together to ensure the workers are warm and feel welcome over the holiday season.
“Right away, as soon as I found out that that was going to be the case, with winter coming up I wanted to make sure the first priority was to be able to get warm boots and coats,” Leanne Arnal, a local farm worker advocate, said in a phone interview. “I immediately went to the community through social media looking for donations and the support was great.”
Since the original post asking for donations, nearly 200 winter boots and coats, new or lightly used, have been donated. Clothes and blankets also came in, too.
“We’ve got into Christmas season, and we want to make sure people have some Christmas spirit because that’s important, as well,” she said.
Donations of Christmas decorations, Christmas meal items and gift cards began coming in, too.
At Schuyler Farms, 15 Christmas trees and boxes of decorations were donated. A decorating contest was held among the bunkhouses.
Arnal is a founder of the Norfolk Community Alliance Against Racism. The group was formed as fear was spreading regarding the possible transmission of COVID-19.
“For Norfolk County, the important thing to recognize is that when these men and women came here at the beginning of this already hard time, there was a lot of finger pointing and unwelcome,” she said. “People in the stores were pointing a finger and telling them, ‘You’re not welcome here, go back to your bunkhouse.’
“I think the important thing to recognize is that since then the community has turned around, and the attitude has changed in such a positive, and now they’re being embraced, and celebrated, and recognized as being essential.”
David Macleod, a music event organizer and founder of Flourish Norfolk, saw the need to help and reached out to Arnal, She identified a need to raise money to create a full Christmas dinner for the farm workers.
So, Macleod created a Go Fund Me with a goal of $1,500. As of Monday, $2,500 was raised.
Gift cards purchased for workers can be dropped off to Arnal. She can be contacted on Facebook through the profile Leanne Jackson Arnal or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will distribute the cards among local farms. Gift cards to grocery stores and pharmacies are appreciated
The Go Fund Me created by Macleod can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/gift-christmas-to-stranded-trini-farm-workers?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all, or by searching Gift Christmas to stranded Trini farm workers.