I met Cesar Chavez in Delano, CA, in 1967. As a volunteer for the California Migrant Ministry, Cesar personally introduced us to the plight of the migrant workers and his struggles to help them. We had a retreat at Kings Canyon where Cesar again spoke to us, inspiring us to contribute to his community building efforts among the workers in the labor camps in the Valley.
I went to Tracy, Ca., to work through the Council of Churches. After visiting many of the churches involved and helping the anglo community to organize to provide aid to the largely Mexican-American and Mexican national agricultural workers, I realized Cesar was right. The real answer was to help the people organize themselves to assess and find means to meet their own needs. I moved out into one of the labor camps. Among the projects we undertook was to organize women into a group to provide day care for all the children in the camp (2 women instead of many gave up work for one day a week; children too young to work in the fields helped). On weekends, we planned soccer games and a community dance (the “trouble-makers” were recruited to supervise and given great respect). That year for the first time in anybody’s memory there were no serious fights!
I hated to leave at the end of the summer, but I felt reassured that the people would continue to help themselves as Cesar had hoped.