Connecting temporary foreign workers to their communities

By Geoff Agombar – Local Journalism Initiative
Connecting temporary foreign workers to their communities
(Photo : Jasmin Chabot)

“What will come out in the media is the extremes,” says Jasmin Chabot. “It is a very complex situation. It’s very hard to generalize.”

Chabot’s wife Valéria Condés Roveglia is an anthropologist who has studied agricultural cycles in communities around Mexico City. When she met a group of temporary foreign workers at the grocery store in Waterville and invited them for a meal of tamales over an open fire at their home, they discovered a whole world of issues and needs.

Soon, they found themselves pioneering a pilot project with Actions interculturelles to connect migrant workers and their communities.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen Blue Velvet by David Lynch?” Chabot laughing at the comparison, as he reaches for a way to evoke the discoveries over the last few years. “But you see something and you scratch the surface and there’s a whole other reality that comes up.”

Those first ten workers by the fire talked of feeling invisible. Condés Roveglia and Chabot went back to interview them more deeply about their experiences, “We wanted to do portrait of workers to make them uninvisible, but we never got to that because the project took over.”

Through Actions interculturelles, they were able to secure ten-week pilot funding and the Ensemble, on sème (Together, we sow) project was born in April 2021.

That ten-week pilot never stopped. The project keeps rolling forward.

The initial focus was to create social and sports activities, “Just to get them out of the farms, to get to know them better, and gain their confidence.”

The needs are great but, on the other hand basic, so some of the responses were obvious. “Some workers in St-Herménégilde were 10 minutes away from the public beach but they didn’t know it was there. Some have been here 4-5 years and never left the farm other than grocery shopping and stuff like that,” says Chabot.

During the pandemic, exterior activities were a great focus due to public health guidelines. This included a walk in Parc de la Gorge, collective meals, fishing in Parc Découverte Nature, kayaking and fishing in Waterville, a Father’s Day event, or a hike up Mont Pinacle.

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