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Ayudando Latinos A Soñar: Creating Support and Resilience Amidst Devastating Floods in California

Ayudando Latinos A Soñar (ALAS) is supporting California farm workers and their families by helping them respond to extreme weather events.

ALAS, a Latino centered nonprofit in Half Moon Bay, California, began in 2011. The organization seeks to help children and families feel proud of their culture and identity, and has become a communal space for support. Volunteers, families, board, and staff are creating programs including culturally-centered mental health services, wrap-around case management, immigration, education, and social justice advocacy initiatives.

2023 has brought record levels of precipitation in California that have triggered destructive floods across communities and agricultural landscapes. When the first wave of floods hit the state earlier in the year, ALAS was among the first organizations to respond.

“The sooner we can mobilize and organize and be there to help, the better the families are to endure this,” Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga, Executive Director for ALAS tells Food Tank. “Sometimes we can’t wait for the bureaucracy of other organizations to organize, we must be ready. ALAS is ready. We know how to mobilize with the community and get the word out.”

ALAS has found that one of the biggest impacts of the flooding is the barriers the destruction imposes on accessing food. The organization’s crisis food pantry, which was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, is serving its highest numbers of people ever, according to Hernandez-Arriaga.

While the food pantries relieve a financial burden on families, Hernandez-Arriaga discusses how money isn’t the only barrier.

“One of the things we have to prepare as organizations is how we are mobilizing to support farm worker communities who might be in more remote areas,” says Hernandez-Arriaga.

She shares how the flooding has caused extensive damage to roads, preventing farm workers from being able to drive away from their homes or work areas. In response, ALAS has developed programs to meet farm workers where they are.

ALAS brings gallons of water to Coastside farms once a week and collaborates with several organizations, such as Coastside Hope and Second Harvest Food Bank, to regularly distribute groceries. ALAS also coordinates Farmworker Friday, an initiative which brings lunch to farmworkers on rotating Fridays. Each lunch is sponsored by different organizations seeking to support their local farm workers.

At the end of 2022, ALAS launched the Farmworker Equity Express Bus, a mobile center that brings resources to farm workers on the Coast.

“We really need to go where farmworkers are,” says Hernandez-Arriaga. “We have seen the isolation and the limitation they have because of their work hours and the type of work they are doing.”

The Bus is equipped with Wifi laptops, teleteaching resources, telehealth, mental health commissions, and education and arts resources.

The organization emphasizes how the effects of flooding are ongoing, economically impacting farm worker families long after the water dissipates. As ALAS continues to provide crisis relief to farm workers from the flooding earlier this year, they are simultaneously preparing these communities for the floods to come.

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Photo Courtesy of Tim Mossholder

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