At the helm of the Durham Region Migrant Worker Ministry is the endearingly enthusiastic Rev. Augusto Núñez, incumbent at St. Saviour, Orono since 2017. Mr. Núñez’s ministry was inspired by the Durham Region Migrant Worker Network, founded in 2013, which brings together organizations working to respond to the needs of migrant workers in their community and includes St. Paul, Beaverton and St. John, Bowmanville.
Mr. Núñez’s ministry provides culturally appropriate food and clothing to the workers, as well as recreational activities and spiritual direction. Around 5,000-6,000 migrant workers arrive in Durham Region each year in the spring, with 70 per cent coming from Mexico and the rest primarily from the Caribbean. The workers pick and package fruits and vegetables at farms across the region.
Mr. Núñez felt that there was a need for a video to help highlight the work of the ministry and the important role the migrant workers play in the community. “They contribute so much,” says Mr. Núñez. “They feed our communities; they are a blessing. It’s not an easy job, it’s back breaking and pays minimum wage. It’s challenging to be away from family. Some farms are in isolated locations and there are language barriers. The workers are looking for a spiritual connection and sense of community.”
With funding from the Diocese of Toronto, Mr. Núñez has been able to realize his vision of a well-produced video. However, the pandemic did present some obstacles. “It would have been nice to show the dinners, get-togethers and sports events we used to have. We were limited in terms of being able to show all that we do, but it’s still been a good year, we have adapted, and we were able to hold services at the farms.”
Despite the limitations presented by COVID-19, Mr. Núñez is using the video at every opportunity. It was showcased at last year’s Outreach and Advocacy Conference and Mr. Núñez says he’s been hearing good things about the video. “I’m really pleased with the video. Hopefully it will get more partners and volunteers to support us, and it will encourage other Anglican parishes to initiate similar outreach programs. The theme of Synod 2021 was ‘Love Thy Neighbour;’ the workers are our neighbours. The bible says to be good to the stranger. We have to be caring, especially towards migrant workers.” As Mr. Núñez says at the end of the video: “If you see any of the migrant workers in your town, your community, say to them, ‘hola.’ That will make them feel welcome and special.”
The new Durham Region Migrant Workers Ministry video can be viewed on YouTube.