Farmworker Student Health Alliance Members Making Masks, Videos to Support At-Risk Workers

UNC SOM student members of the Farmworker Student Health Alliance (FSHA) are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by making fabric masks for farmworkers in North Carolina and creating educational videos in Spanish to help these at-risk workers stay healthy.

Vital Signs. June 4, 2020.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Some groups of workers deemed “essential” in this pandemic are experiencing higher rates of infection and death from COVID-19 than other parts of society. Two such groups are migrant farm workers and employees of the meatpacking industry. School of Medicine students in the Farmworker Student Health Alliance (FSHA) are making efforts to help these essential workers protect themselves from the virus.

First-year students Tika Zbornik-Thompson and Anne Leslie Worth are co-presidents of the FSHA, a student-run organization founded for the purpose of improving health outcomes for North Carolina farmworkers through collaboration with UNC medical students, the Comprehensive Advanced Medical Program of Spanish (CAMPOS), the North Carolina Farmworkers Health Program and migrant farmworkers. Zbornik-Thompson and Worth have raised $500 to buy fabric, and with help from other students, are making 500 fabric masks for North Carolina farmworkers.

They didn’t stop there. They recruited second-year students to make educational videos in Spanish to help farmworkers understand how to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 and prevent transmission of the virus. Emma Marie Astrike-Davis is producing the videos, which are also part of the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) online toolkit, and are being shown to incoming farmworkers by the NC Growers Association.

The NC Schweitzer Fellowship Program provided $1,000 in sustainability funding for Astrike-Davis, a 2019-2020 Schweitzer fellow. She 2019-2020 fellow Michael Batres are using the funding for COVID-19 related expenses such as masks, gloves and disinfectants, and are creating COVID-19 related videos, currently being played on buses for migrant farm workers as they arrive in NC and they are posted on the NC DHHS website.

The videos produced by these SOM students are now being expanded to employees of the meatpacking industry and are being reproduced in multiple languages, including Haitian Creole, Burmese, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Karen and Mandarin.