Canada-bound rookies, veterans sow seed of faith in overseas farm work
Although this is the first time that 24-year-old Shaquille Medley will be travelling overseas, what he will be required to do may not be entirely foreign to him as he currently helps his father to do farming on the plains of St Elizabeth, where he is from.
Medley is one of 228 workers who were dispatched yesterday to take up employment opportunities under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) in Ontario, Canada, in areas such as Leamington, Bradford, Simcoe, Milton, Strathroy, Goderich, Tilsonburg, and St Thomas.
The farmer and part-time welder is hoping that this opportunity will be life-changing.
“I am a very young person, so business-wise, it can help me and my family,” he said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner less than an hour before boarding a bus bound for the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
Indicating that he was prepared for the anticipated harsh weather conditions, Medley, who was scheduled to leave for Canada yesterday afternoon, intends to make the most of the opportunity.
“I plan to go in and work very hard so that I can get another request so I can reach this man age and, hopefully, I can go even longer than him,” he said, referring to the oldest participant, 63-year-old Morris Plummer.
Plummer, who was recognised as the oldest participant of the batch during the send-off activities yesterday, said that SAWP has enabled him to support his family, having first participated in the programme in 1989.
Recounting his first experience in the 53-year-old farm work programme, the farmer and mason, who hails from Malvern, St Elizabeth, said that it was by chance that he was able to participate in the initiative.
“Well, it was a challenge. I get the card and a medical and I come up here. I never get no call fi fly. But I say I want come up here and check out if my time come to go to Canada, and I come, and they say it’s not my time, but a flight going out that same day, so if every man don’t come, they’ll put me in that space, and that’s what happened,” he said.
The senior citizen is encouraging others to join the programme, saying that it could be a great opportunity.
“I would encourage them because it’s a big opportunity to start in life, so, yes, I would encourage anyone to try it. I encourage nuff youngster in my area,” Plummer said.
The SAWP, part of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s Overseas Employment Programme, recruits workers who are engaged in planting fruits and vegetables, greenhouse flowers, tobacco, as well as working in factories, nurseries, and orchards.