Community rallies to support Mexican farmworkers displaced by fire

Clothing and other essentials needed for 78 workers after fire at Abbotsford farm

British Columbian unions and Abbotsford Community Services are collecting donations to help dozens of Mexican farmworkers who watched a fire consume the building containing most of their possessions Thursday morning in Abbotsford.

The fire displaced 78 farmworkers employed at Lakeland Flowers on No. 4 Road. The workers were relocated to other farms, and the Mexican consulate posted a message yesterday saying the workers have a “roof, food, clothing and will soon be able to recover their identity documents.”

But the workers are still in need of many essentials, so the BC Federation of Labour put out a call this morning on Facebook calling for donations for a range of items, including toiletries like toothbrushes, work essentials like work boots, bedding, hats, suitcases and old cellphones and chargers.

Abbotsford Community Services has also gotten involved, and the organization’s food bank is helping supply food and toilettries. ACS is accepting donations of gift cards, toiletries food or good quality clothing at its building at 2420 Montrose Avenue and at the food bank, at 33914 Essendene Avenue. Those locations are open Monday to Friday, and ACS is looking to secure a weekend collection site as well.

ACS has also set up a fund to support the farmworkers. It can be found at abbotsfordcommunityservices.com/donate/farmworkers.

Local faith groups are also chipping in, with the Sikh temple bringing in lunch on Friday and St. Anne’s Church helping out with clothing.

Alexis Warmerdam, whose family operates the farm, said the fire could have been much worse and gave thanks to the response from first responders and local farms that are housing the workers. While all the clothing inside the building was a loss, Warmerdam said some possessions survived the blaze, including more passports than had been expected.

Many of the workers began their contracts just a couple months ago; while some are slated to go home in the coming months, others are expected to continue working in Canada through the fall.

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