Saint Anne Efforts: Focus on Children
The Diocese of Yakima, WA runs a Literacy Wagon program, which fights summer learning loss among the children of migrant farmworkers. Most of the children of these workers don’t have access to transportation to the public library to take advantage of their summer programs. In response, the Literacy Wagon, a mobile summer education team, brings books and education to these children, helping literacy, fluency, and vocabulary while their parents work in the field. Seminarians from the Diocese of Yakima lead and organize the Literacy Wagon as part of their outreach to migrant workers. “This program touches a lot of lives,” said Michael Kelly, a priest in the diocese who ran the program as a seminarian.
The program supports as many as 150 children a summer. A team made up of seminarians and local volunteers, librarians and teachers visit the migrant camps three days a week. “Many kids are enthralled with the opportunity to read more and run out to greet us in the parking lot of the camp every day when we arrive,” Kelly said. “Their parents, too, stop by the central pavilion and pick up a few books ‘para los chiquillos’ (for the young ones).” “Being there with them was a blessing for us: they are truly faith-filled people. I only hope and pray that they learned as much from us as we did from them.”
The Literacy Wagon is part of a broad effort to reach out to Catholic migrant workers where they live, and to bring the Church to them. Bishop Joseph Tyson assigns seminarians to run the program. “We want our men to know that when people can’t come to church, we bring the church to them,” Tyson said. “We go to the margins.” Bishop Joseph Tyson visits the program often; he likes to s talk to the children about their day. He states that the program is important because it gives children a sense of literacy just by sharing stories, reading, and learning vocabulary. “On the deepest level God is revealed as word, and word is basic in our faith tradition,” Bishop Tyson said. “One of the building blocks of our faith is knowing language, words, and being able to read.”
Ten-year-old Angie Hernandez is a big fan of science, “but sometimes it’s hard because there’s lots of big words, but I know I can do it… Maybe I’ll be a scientist and I’ll invent something for the world—to make the world better.” Seminarian John Washington works with Angie and wants her to realize her dreams. “She just needs more one on one time and for someone to continuously read with her.” Although she doesn’t particularly like reading, she tries her best because she’s been inspired to go to college just like her cousin did. Her cousin is the first person in her family to attend college in the United States. “My parents have always told me that I’m not supposed to be out in the fields, I need to go to school,” Angie said. “My cousin is doing it, and she’s like me—her parent’s work in the fields. So, I’m going to college, too.” The Literacy Wagon Ministry “is fun, and I make friends, but I also learn a lot, and it does help me with reading,” Angie said. “I can’t wait!"
Next weekend Saint Anne welcomes Sr. Maryud, a Columbian sister from the Missionary Servants of the Divine Spirit, and Veronica Rodriguez, Assoc. Director for Parish Life, Lay Leadership and Hispanic Ministry, for the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They will speak about the needs of migrants, especially the young people.