$50,000 Grant to Huron

Celebrating Diocese of Huron’s Farmworkers Ministry

Story and photos by Davor Milicevik—reprinted with permission from the November issue of the Huron Church News with files from the Anglican Foundation of Canada.

On September 28, the Huron Farmworkers Ministry (HFM) in the Haldimand-Norfolk area of the Diocese of Huron received a $50,000 cheque from the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC), representing the first Category C grant given by AFC. This is the largest grant for a single project in AFC history.

The Ven. Tanya Phibbs, representing the Bishop of Huron, Michelle Hauser, Development & Communications Officer for AFC, Diane Dance, Huron’s Diocesan Representative for AFC, and HFM Director, the Rev. Enrique Martinez (blue shirt, centre) are surrounded by volunteers at Wellington and Anderson Parks in Simcoe, Ontario, during the presentation of a $50,000 cheque.

“Category C grants of up to $50,000 were created by the AFC Board in late 2022 to enable AFC to be a more flexible funding partner in cases where a diocese might want to rally around a single transformational project,” says Dr. Scott Brubacher, Executive Director. “This infusion of funding will facilitate the expansion of HFM’s outreach to neighbouring Anglican churches. It is highly symbolic for AFC that a community ministry that builds bridges of love and support for migrant workers—ensuring their well-being, dignity, and inclusion within Canadian society—should receive our first-ever Category C grant.”

HFM grew out of a modest drop-in centre in Delhi, Ontario, a hamlet in Norfolk County. In just over two years, it has gained support from the surrounding Anglican churches that make up the five-point parish of Long Point Bay, which includes: Christ Church, Vittoria; St. John’s, Port Rowan; St. John’s, Woodhouse; Memorial Church, Port Ryerse; and St. Andrew’s By-The-Lake, Turkey Point.

With the assistance of another neighbouring church—Trinity Anglican Church in Simcoe—HFM was able to provide spiritual gatherings and meals each Thursday and Friday. Dinners at St. John’s in Tillsonburg and St. John the Evangelist in Leamington have recently been added to the growing regional outreach. “It was our natural response to a pastoral challenge,” says the Rev. Enrique Martinez, Director, HFM and priest-in-charge at the Anglican Parish of Long Point Bay, “providing additional support for thousands of foreign workers who otherwise live in isolation across rural Ontario.”

In 2023, HFM received 160 bicycles from St. Aidan’s, London, which were given to workers at the 2023 Father’s Day celebration. At the Worker Appreciation Day on September 28 in Simcoe there were an additional 56 bikes waiting for their new owners.

With so many Anglican parishes now working together to create a care climate that offers both practical and spiritual support, many of these workers have safe places where they can feel at home. “Mental health is a great challenge among the migrant farmworkers, so these weekly gatherings are much more than a chance to share a meal,” says Martinez.

Despite being a vital part of Ontario’s agricultural industry, migrant farmworkers often struggle to get basic services. Martinez explains, “We help provide essential supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment, clothing, and food, but also education with respect to workers’ rights and benefits.” Teaming up with the Toronto-based The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) gave HFM necessary access to legal support these workers sometimes require.

Father Enrique is ever mindful of his essential pastoral duty. “These workers feel great and genuine spiritual need. This is why I always say that our outreach is more than social justice but is truly an act of Christian justice.” The fact that weekly services in Spanish in Port Rowan are always full proves his point.

“The need is so great for so many—an estimated 20,000 in our diocese alone!” says Father Enrique. “This grant from AFC will certainly help in making the next steps possible.” For more information on the Huron Farmworkers Ministry visit Huron Farm Workers Ministry (hfwm.org).