Who We Are

We are a group of community minded volunteers interested in creating a safe, healthy and inclusive environment for all migrant workers, especially the agricultural workers who come to the South Okanagan area  of British Columbia for seasonal work.

Our History

Around 2004 a need for foreign migrant workers was recognized in the South Okanagan Valley.  Historically locals and migrant workers from Quebec had filled the fruit and vegetable picking and processing positions but now the need for workers was far greater than the number of workers available.

While SAWP (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) had existed in Ontario and other areas of Eastern Canada for  some 30 years it was new to British Columbia. The SAWP allowed migrant workers from other countries to enter Canada for the purpose of filling jobs in the agricultural industry. These jobs, typically low paying and demanding, were difficult to fill with resident Canadians.

Foreign workers, primarily Spanish speaking, travelled here from Mexico, Central and South America and Jamaica to work on the farms and in the processing plants. The farmers and processors were delighted to have access to a large group of hard-working individuals but… the language and cultural barriers resulted in difficulties for both the workers and the employers.

Several local  individuals recognized that these workers faced many challenges including: the inability to communicate effectively with their employers, difficulties in dealing with government agencies, banks, phone and internet providers, in some cases sub-standard housing and working conditions, and difficulties with transportation from remote farm locations.  Volunteers assisted by providing translation services, offering opportunities to learn English, providing transportation and helping with the various accounts, forms and paperwork needed to work and live in Canada.  These volunteers also became powerful advocates helping the workers with legal issues pertaining to their stay in Canada and issues arising from their working conditions.

Over the years various groups have assisted the workers but as more farmers entered into the SAWP and more workers arrived in the Valley it became apparent that there was a need for a more organized form of assistance that would be recognized by the Government and other organizations. A core group of dedicated volunteers came together and on Nov 5, 2014 the El Faro Service Society for Migrant Workers was incorporated under the Society Act of BC.

Our Directors

Sandy Diaz-Hart
Sandy Diaz-HartDirector
In 2008 I became aware of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and that through it many migrant workers were coming to the area. I saw a need and I wanted to help. Today I am part of this great Society having the privilege of working with wonderful caring people.

Sandi Nolan
Sandi NolanDirector
As I learn more about conditions for some of the workers, I would like to help more. “When you can’t speak the language and have no one to help you how are you supposed to succeed at things here?” she said. Open a bank account, buy groceries, get a phone….

Susan Chapple
Susan ChappleDirector
 When I saw an ad asking for people interested in teaching English to Spanish speaking agricultural workers I could relate to their situation and I wanted to help. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful people and I look forward to being able to help wherever I can.
Jose Armando Muñoz Ramirez
Jose Armando Muñoz RamirezDirector
I have been working on a farm in the Samilkameen Valley for a number of years and have had good opportunities to be included in the small towns of Keremeos, Cawston and Penticton.  I have taken English classes and have learned many things; I have developed friendships with Canadian and fellow Mexican workers.