Every year, countless pounds of wild blueberries are harvested in Maine and thousands of people migrate to Washington County to pick them.
“All I can say is it’s hard, it’s hard work,” says Sharon Garciliano.
Garciliano and her family drove more than 30 hours from Mississippi for the month-long harvest. They’re just a few of many who arrive and need help getting settled.
“Workers will come here with really just their cars,” says Chris Huh, Program Manager for Farm Worker Jobs Program out of Eastern Maine Development Corporation.
The Rakers’ Center is where many come for housing assistance, healthcare, food vouchers and summer school.
“We help with tents, we help with some auto repair,” Huh explains.
The Maine Migrant Education Program funded by the US Department of Labor runs the Blueberry Harvest School.
“The needs are anywhere from English as a second language to basic life skills the main goal of the program is to help the migrant children graduate and become productive citizens of the community,” says Jorge Echegaray, he’s worked with the Main Migrant Education Program for six seasons now.
Elizabeth Gould came down from Nova Scotia, her daughters go to the school while she rakes blueberries.
“My kids love the school down here and they don’t even like going to school in Cape Breton,” Gould says.
In just one day, 49 kids signed up for school.
“They go back more ready for school they go back eager to learn share their experiences with their other classmates,” says Echegaray.
The moms say it’s nice to have help you can depend on.
“Especially when we first start cause we don’t have… A lot of people spend a lot of money on their rakes and money on gas,” says Garciliano.
“We get sick down here or something like that, we just come to the medical van and they help a lot,” says Gould.
“To me it’s really good, a lot of help,” says another migrant worker.