UF College of Medicine students made the holidays a little merrier for local migrant workers’ families.
The UF College of Medicine’s chapter of the Hispanic American Medical Student Association collected presents and other goods for four families in need, which include about 10 children and six adults.
“We’re collecting clothes, toys, food and money,” said second-year medical students Camila Avila shortly before the Christmas break.
HAMSA last did the Christmas drive for migrant workers in 2009, said Avila, and she and chapter president Nadia Palma wanted to revive the effort. They coordinated the donation through the Alachua Multi-County Migrant Education program, which is a part of Alachua County Public Schools.
The help is appreciated, said Natalie Norris, supervisor of Title 1 migrant education at the Alachua Multi-County Migrant Education Program. Migrant families who didn’t travel to work the southern crops, now have to rely on whatever they have saved or scrounge for whatever work they can find, she said.
“The needs are always great in Northern Florida around this time of year,” said Norris.
Fellow students and faculty generously donated to the drive, including the college’s Diversity and Health Care Equity office, Avila said. HAMSA’s UF chapter has about 20 to 30 active members and a board of six people.
Avila said her family also struggled when they moved to the U.S. from Colombia 10 years ago, and she wanted to give back.
“My family went through hard times when they moved here,” said Avila, who is HAMSA’s treasurer. “And I know a lot of people helped them.”
HAMSA also held a blanket and sweater drive for migrant workers this winter and recently donated several bags of the goods to the migrant education office.
Palma said she spoke to migrant workers at a health fair and knows there is a need locally, especially during the colder season.
“We got to meet the workers and know how hard they work,” she said.
HAMSA is also planning to hold a health fair in the spring for migrant workers, offering health screenings and other resources. They will be collecting nonperishable food, clothing and toiletries for the workers and their families. To donate or volunteer, contact HAMSA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.