Serving the Underserved
In the beginning of the pandemic, when the world began to shut down, four strangers banded together to help serve an overlooked people group who didn’t have the option to social distance...
“In the midst of the pandemic, we began having to deal with wildfires also,” said Dorina Moraida. “Everyone was stuck at home except for the field workers.” Dorina turned to neighborhood pages to check and see if anyone was visiting those in the fields to ensure their safety; it was there that she met Marivel Mendoza-Matheu, Maria Valles Guillen, and Amelia Villarreal who were seeking the same information. “We decided to organize and bring them a thank you for working in terrible conditions and close quarters when everyone else was social distancing. So, we brought them waters and snack packs.”
The four working moms saw a much larger need than they had realized and decided to continue their efforts, calling themselves Hijas del Campo, which translates to “Daughters of the Field.” “All of our parents, when they first came to this country, worked the fields themselves,” said Dorina. “We are able to relate to that, and we understand their struggle. The name is very dear to our hearts.” Many of the workers did not have access to water stations and masks; some of their children were not able to obtain the appropriate tools to do school work from home. Hijas del Campo knew they had to do more, so the women began asking for donations of masks, hand sanitizer, school supplies, and whatever else they could to help. “We went back and brought backpacks full of supplies and then developed a survey asking what the workers’ top needs were, and without fail, almost everyone asked for food, which was incredibly shocking to know that there are hungry people in our own backyard. Those who are working hard to put food on our tables were struggling to feed their own families.”
Hijas del Campo began organizing weekly food distributions, feeding 40-50 families in East Contra Costa County and San Joaquin County where many of our local workers commute from. Dorina and the other women deliver food directly to their doors since some families can’t pay for the gas to meet them. The women also partnered with Lenovo to donate 26 computers to families with school age children in order to complete their work. They offer free college counseling through their volunteer Jessica Linares, a counselor at Los Medanos College who, during her free time, supports students who need direction on where to go next, help with rental and bill assistance, and most notedly have helped organize around 15 mobile vaccination clinics. “Many people were having trouble accessing the vaccine,” said Dorina. “Many barriers stood in the way, such as technology, language, and transportation. So, we started to advocate with the county and were able to work in partnership with Contra Costa Health Services to bring mobile clinics out to the fields.”
A lot of what Hijas del Campo is able to accomplish is through community donations. The ladies do not operate out of a brick-and-mortar location, so they have no storage and are unable to partner with any local food banks. “We use money from donations to purchase the necessary grocery and personal hygiene items,” said Dorina. “It’s been such a blessing to see the community come together to help. We also have other organizations who see what we’re doing and believe in our mission.” Hijas del Campo has received grants from Kaiser Permanente and Together Towards Health which have helped tremendously to carry out their work. “We have been incredibly blessed to be recognized as a trusted CBO and have been invited to apply for grants to help us continue the work. However, we are not grant writers and this is the first time we’ve stepped into the world of nonprofit/CBOs. We’re just moms who saw a need that we’re trying to make sure to address and fill the best we can.”
The sky is the limit for the women of Hijas del Campo. Back in June 2021, Hijas del Campo filed to become a nonprofit, which has been one of their goals in order to continue to grow. They would also love to eventually get their own space so that they could store food and be able to partner with local food banks to receive food more regularly. The ladies would also love to expand their education program. “Education is where the real change is going to happen,” said Dorina. “A big part of our mission is to empower the youth so they don’t have to continue this work and can go to college and become successful.” Hijas del Campo hope to continue to be something sustainable into the foreseeable future. “As long as there are field workers, they will need the support. It’s been a huge blessing to serve them.” Anyone who is interested in donating or volunteering can visit Hijas del Campos’ Linktree through their Instagram page.
Facebook, Instagram & Twitter: @HijasdelCampo
Photos by: Douglas Oakley & Courtney Finn