Last Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the ALANA Center, Rural & Migrant Ministry, Daughters of Sarah and Poder Latin@ hosted a fundraiser for rural women. Selling Jamaican, Mexican and Southern food for $10, they raised money to provide scholarships to allow rural women in New York an opportunity to attend the Annual Rural Women’s Conference. Members of the Rural & Migrant Ministry, including Conference founder Ruth Faircloth, her daughter Mona and Board Member Iris Coria ran the fundraiser.
Arisa Gereda ’16, who served as their intern and the organizer of this fundraiser as well as high school students from the Ministry’s Youth Arts Group (YAG) also helped out.
Scheduled for the first weekend of December at the Holiday Inn in Binghamton, the 10th Annual Rural Women’s Conference will give an opportunity for rural women who might be isolated by location, language, culture or resources to have an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations and attend workshops and presentations that offer support and lessons of empowerment. There will also be a Resource Fair at the convention to provide future opportunities. Women will be able to share their stories in a safe environment that allows them the comfort and aide they might need. The workshops will cover such important topics as domestic violence and immigration.
Conference Founder and Director, Ruth Fairchild, explained the importance of the fundraiser and the conference, saying, “We originally started this to help migrant families, specifically rural women, because no one cared. But they ought to be listened to. At least half of our women are coming right off from where they are, from their homes, from their streets, and we pick them up. This fundraiser and others are being used to provide free scholarships to help make more able to go. At the conference, we’ll be able to educate them and empower them so that they can be independent and learn to start their own businesses.”
Fairchild also founded the Daughters of Sarah, an ecumenical women’s leadership and support group, and has helped rural communities in empowerment for years.
“The annual conference is a way for rural and migrant women across New York to gather and meet each other and work towards issues they feel most strongly about, whether education, workers’ rights, health issues, domestic issues, youth empowerment, justice system issues and more,” Gereda said. “The women in charge are the ones doing the amazing work for this program.”
To raise money to allow for more women to attend the conference, the Rural & Migrant Ministry, a not-for-profit organization, will hold additional fundraisers in the weeks leading up to the conference and will hold a silent auction with gifts donated by several organizations.
Besides the conference, the Rural & Migrant Ministry provides several youth programs. In addition to summer camps and internship opportunities, there is also YAG, which is for high school-aged students who educate and empower their communities through creative actions in a strive towards improving the world politically, economically and socially.
Coordinator of YAG, Andrés Chamarro, has helped organize events. He explained, “Last year, for instance, we did a presentation on youth empowerment and about the DREAM Act. They were mostly geared to youth but anybody was welcome. This year we’d like to do something similar. We are excited to support the Rural and Migrant Ministry again and Ruth Faircloth.”
Regarding the opportunity that many of these women face, Managing & Development Director, Laura Lecour, said that rural women face many barriers including economic, language, time and distance. She said, “The nature of the work they do, farmworking, provides no time, resources, childcare nor the transportation to seek out methods of bettering their lives, nor the lives of their children. This conference addresses the issues and hopes of rural women’s lives in a practical and holistic manner. We provide the transportation to the conference from all across New York State. We provide childcare by a professional childcare provider. We also provide translation and interpretation [resources] so that anyone can participate fully.”
The Rural & Migrant Ministry offers education for both men and women of all walks of life, language and culture to further develop healthy business and living skills, domestically and spiritually
To reinforce the Conference’s intentions, Lecour, who has been involved with the Conference’s growth since inception, replied, “Our goals : 1. We would love to be able to increase the number of participants by being able to afford to provide scholarships, transportation and childcare to every woman who desired to be a participant. 2. Spread the word far and wide that there is a network of rural women and their allies so that we can attract more speakers and educators on a wider variety of topics. 3. Continue to be a catalyst for grass-roots organizations, universities, congregations and other allies to build upon the network we have created of individuals who are seeking women’s empowerment, leadership development and justice.”
Coria explained the importance of the empowerment this conference can provide best, responding, “It’s a good way to come together. We all have issues. I believe that women are seen as the weak role in the picture but we are more than that. We have so much more to offer. It can empower and allow women to be aware of the power they already possess. We take our turns. Nobody knows anybody. You can take your turn to say what is bothering you or at the back of your head that you can’t really say to anybody else. The conference brings a circle of trust and that’s one reason a lot of women go back. They know that it’s their weekend for them to say what they want to say.”