Creating Support and Resilience Amidst Devastating Floods

Ayudando Latinos A Sonar (ALAS) helps California farmers and the families of their workers by assisting them cope with extreme weather conditions.

ALAS, a Latino focused nonprofit located in Half Moon Bay, California started in the year 2011. The group aims to make sure that families and children feel confident about their heritage and identity. It has evolved into a space to provide support. Families, volunteers, board and staff are developing programs that include culturally-focused mental health services and wrap-around case management education, immigration, as well as social justice advocacy projects.

2023 has produced record levels of rainfall to California which have caused devastating floods that have affected communities as well as agricultural landscapes. The first floods of floods occurred in the state earlier in the year ALAS was one of the first organizations to take action.

“The sooner we can mobilize and organize and be there to help, the better the families are to endure this,” Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga, Executive Director of ALAS informs Food Tank. “Sometimes we don’t have time to simply wait for bureaucracy from other organizations to be organized and we have to be prepared. ALAS is prepared. The ALAS team knows the best way to engage in the community and spread all the information out.”

ALAS has determined among the most significant effects of the flooding are the obstacles that destruction creates on the ability to access food. ALAS’s emergency food pantry that was established during the COVID-19 epidemic, serves the largest number of people since its inception according to Hernandez-Arriaga.

The food pantries ease families of financial burdens Hernandez-Arriaga talks about how money isn’t always the sole obstacle.

“One of the things we have to prepare as organizations is how we are mobilizing to support farm worker communities who might be in more remote areas,” says Hernandez-Arriaga.

She describes how the flood has caused significant road damage, which has prevented farmers from driving away from their work or homes. To address the issue, ALAS has developed programs that meet farmers wherever they are.

ALAS provides gallons drinking water for Coastside farms on a weekly basis and works with various organizations, including Coastside Hope and Second Harvest Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank, to regularly give out food items. ALAS also manages Farmworker Friday An initiative that provides meals to farmworkers on rotational Fridays. Each lunch is provided by various groups that are seeking to help support the local farmers.

In 2022, at the close of the year, ALAS launched the Farmworker Equity Express Bus ALAS launched the Farmworker Equity Express Bus, an mobile center that provides the resources needed by farmers in the Coast.

“We really need to go where farmworkers are,” Hernandez-Arriaga says. “We have seen the isolation and the limitation they have because of their work hours and the type of work they are doing.”

The Bus is equipped with Wi-Fi laptops, teleteaching materials as well as telehealth commissions on mental health and arts and education resources.

The group emphasizes that the consequences of flooding will continue financially affecting families of farmers even after the water has receded. In the meantime, ALAS provides emergency relief to farmers suffering from the earlier flooding this season, the organization is also helping these communities prepare for the flooding to be coming.

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