Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Immokalee: Spring Break 11
A group of eleven Eckerd College students packed their bags and climbed into cars seeming rather reluctant to be spending their Spring Break only a few hours away from campus doing service work, while their friends headed to exotic places. We spent a week in Immokalee, Florida, with demographics largely consisting of low-income Hispanic families. Our housing was at the Immokalee Sports Complex, part of Collier County Parks and Recreation. The Complex held fitness classes, pick-up sports games, and had a swimming pool that we were allowed to use during our free time.
The primary organization we worked with was the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an organization fighting for basic human rights and better wages in Florida's fields. Sunday, our first day in Immokalee, we spent at the CIW, where an individual that actually works in Florida's tomato fields gave us a presentation, walking tour and discussed the present issues the CIW is dealing with, including their current protest against Publix supermarkets. We also assisted in watching the children of some of the CIW's members while their parents were in a meeting. Later in the week, we actually were a part of a protest against a Publix in Naples, where we held up signs and chanted to inform passer-byers of the situation in the farm fields. Pictures of Eckerd College students actually ended up in the local paper and on the local news station.
One of the other major groups we did service with was Habitat for Humanity, where we assisted in nailing the framework of a roof on a house that will eventually be owned by a low-income family. We also assisted at a homeless shelter, called the Friendship House, where some of us cleaned out closets, made sandwiches, worked in a thrift store and/or picked up trash. Our group worked extremely hard during all of our service opportunities, and every individual expressed astonishment in how much they got out of the trip. In particular, a lot of the students mentioned that they had heard there was modern day slavery in the fields, but nobody realized the extent of it, until we visited a house a few blocks from the CIW headquarters, where farm workers had been chained in a truck in the yard; forced to work in the fields and becoming more and more in dept rather then earning money. The week was mostly flled with hard work, however we had a half of a free day where we visited a beach in Naples and went swimming there. We also indulged in authentic Mexican food on the last day and then went canoeing in the Everglades, where we learned even more about Florida History.