Having come to Quebec to work for several months away from their families, temporary foreign workers need moments of respite and entertainment to get together and break the isolation. The organization Actions interculturelles de développement et d’éducation (AIDE) was able to bring them together in a festive atmosphere, a few days before Christmas.
Text et photos Marie-Anne Dayé
On this Sunday, December 18, 2022, it felt like winter had set in and summer soccer games were still a long way off. Certainly, other pretexts must be found to bring farm workers together and offer them the opportunity to bond. Thanks to its Ensemble on sème project, the AIDE organization, based in Estrie, fulfills this mandate with flying colors.
Just before the year-end celebrations, the organizers invited the region’s TFW to attend the broadcast of the FIFA World Cup final, which pitted France against Argentina. This was a significant moment for fans of the sport and coincided with International Migrants Day. In the basement of the Waterville City Hall, one could hear the shouts, the sighs of discouragement and the laughter of each team’s supporters. The calm of the first few minutes turned into a bubbling excitement by the end of the game.
Once Argentina’s victory was declared, spirits were high, although the disappointment of the Blue team’s fans was palpable. Everyone sat down to eat pork tostadas and their mixture of spicy onions and salsa verde, a typical Mexican dish. This was followed by games of musical chairs, soccer jersey filling (the team that can create the biggest belly of one of their teammates with pieces of clothing wins) and karaoke.
These kinds of activities are a balm for these workers. This is the first year that Jasmin Guevera Esquivel is taking part in it, as he is in his third season of work on the same dairy farm. It is also the first year that he feels truly informed about his rights and the services available near his workplace. “Over time, I’ve been able to connect with more people, I’ve felt more connected,” he says. Although he still finds it difficult to leave his wife and two children for an extended period of time, he enjoys his job here, which allows him to financially support his family back home, he says.
Bridging cultural differences
Eduardo Mejia, originally from Guatemala like Jasmin, has been able to make friends (some of whom he plays soccer with in the summer) at events organized by AIDE. However, the contrast between the Guatemalan culture and that of Quebec is great, as is the temperature, which takes some getting used to. “In December, the Christmas season is very different in Guatemala. There are fireworks and firecrackers. Here in Canada, all you see are lights in the houses,” he says.
Hence the importance of offering these services to TFW who, according to Diana Quintanilla, Project Officer at AIDE, need to “get out of their comfort zone” and their home-to-work routine. “In their country, they go to the street and there’s music, it’s fun. Being in a place that’s often far from the city is even worse. Sometimes there are just one or two of them on their farm,” she says. With the Ensemble on sème project, agents like her go out into the field, meet with workers, provide them with information and help them break the isolation.
The organization would like to expand its services to reach more workers, who are becoming more numerous in the territory year after year.
For more information about the AIDE project: aide.org.