During the course of our response to the pandemic, in which Direct Relief has delivered more than $195 million worth of PPE, medicines, and medical supplies to over 2,500 recipients in the U.S., it became clear to us early on that one of the most vulnerable populations would be farm workers. Though our partners are usualy health care providers and public health agencies, the sheer scale of this disaster led us to reassess our programs and protocols to see if we could respond more broadly.
In addition to sending as many non-hospital grade masks as we could to to essential workers, we also wanted to use our platform to bring attention to the struggles people who bring us our food are having, as well as to the health care providers who are helping keep these unsung heroes healthy.
Through this video, and at a time of intense politcial divisions, we wanted to explore universal themes that connect us-- while also showing the unique challenges, and intense fortitude and resilience, of farm workers in California's Central Valley.
We decided to focus our attention on a family that had first hand experience with Covid-19. By working with Clinica Sierra Vista’s branch in Lamont, Calif., we were able to meet Laura and Ramon Siordia, a married couple who are farm workers and survived the disease, along with some of their children.
The goal was to show the tension they felt in having to balance making a living with contracting the diseases and then, unfortunately, the awful reality of having to combat the disease in their own home without knowing what the next day would bring.
But the Siordias were not alone in their ordeal. Clinica Sierra Vista, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), and its staff members were there to treat them and help manage the disease. As an FQHC, the clinic does not turn anyone away and provides care on a sliding scale.
Emmy-nominee Olly Riley-Smith drew on his experience from a years-long documentary he has been filming on farm workers in California’s Central Valley to bring a nuanced perspective to this short documentary, which was made possible by transparent conversations with the subjects on how to best amplify their voices as they told their stories. Being invited to the Siordia family home was a tremendous honor, and we tried to use this trust as a way to help the audience better understand the family and their daily lives in the time of Covid-19.
The story here was indeed one of fear and bravery, and is a story that has been often overlooked and little seen in videos—namely, immigrant farmworkers talking about their struggle during the pandemic in their own words.
Luckily, this story had a happy ending, as all members of the Siordia family recovered, but their account serves as an ongoing challenge to us as a society regarding how to best support the people who bring us our food.