Freeport communal garden helps feed day laborers

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The trailer also now provides English language instruction. Martha Herrera Wong, a financial consultant and a 27-year Merrick resident who is on the Social Justice Committee at Sacred Heart Church in North Merrick, has volunteered for nearly a year teaching English as a Second Language at the site. Classes meet once a week for an hour and a half, with six to 10 men attending. The rest of the week, they can practice their English on the trailer’s two laptop computers, which are equipped with Rosetta Stone language-learning software.

In May, the Hagedorn Foundation sent Herrera Wong to a seminar in Arizona to help community volunteers understand the hardships that migrant workers face as they make their way to the U.S. Hundreds of workers die each year trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, she said.

The purpose of the trip was “to learn the root causes of migration from Latin America,” Herrera Wong said. “It’s poverty. There’s no food. There are no jobs. People are willing to pay the price of death crossing treacherous trails, confronted by the elements and drug gangs. They take the risk because there is nothing there to feed the family.”

She added, “I’m not saying that crossing illegally is OK. But it is a humanitarian issue, and we absolutely need immigration reform. Whatever shape it takes, I don’t know, but we need reform.”

Meanwhile, on that recent Thursday, Henry Martinez, a young day laborer from El Salvador who speaks only Spanish, was watering tomato and cucumber plants in the Freeport trailer’s garden. Sanchez asked his friend whether he likes to eat vegetables from the garden.

“Oh, sí,” Martinez said with a smile.

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