Friday, August 10, 2007

Pesticide Free Kids Days - Wrap up

This entry is written by Anna Jensen, who worked in PESTed's office this summer through the Into the Fields Internship program at Student Action with Farmworkers.
“What’s another way you can get rid of bugs in the house?” I prompted the 7-year-old standing in front of me.

With a little more coaxing, she finally remembered: “Squish them!”

“Do it!” the other kids urged, and she pantomimed stepping on me. Like any good cockroach would do, I curled up and died. Our audience of parents laughed and applauded.

The occasion for my transformation into a cockroach was Pesticide-Free Kids Day, an event that I organized in two different small towns in North Carolina this summer. Families in Prospect Hill (near Hillsborough) and Bailey (near Wilson) gathered to talk about pesticide use in their communities and how to protect their children from exposure. PESTed worked with health clinics and Migrant Head Start centers in these areas to organize an afternoon of food, children’s games, and discussion about the risks of pesticides and safe alternatives. During the parents’ discussion, the children created a play about the dangers of pesticides, and other ways to kill or prevent bugs in the house, which was how I ended up crawling around on the floor pretending to have antennae.

Both events aimed to teach safe pest control to parents, with an emphasis on safety for farmworker families who face additional work-related exposure besides the everyday dangers of pesticide drift, household pesticides, and food contamination. Parents had an opportunity for hands-on learning with a “make-your-own nontoxic cleaner” station, and kids learned about safe pest control as well by doing activity booklets, playing the quiz wheel, and creating their own play about safe alternatives to pesticides. Kids and adults alike enjoyed meals made from fresh local food donated by area farmers and stores. We finished off the events with raffle drawings for prizes like phone cards, gift cards, and movie tickets, also donations from concerned community businesses.

Perhaps most importantly, PESTed also had a chance to learn what families’ primary concerns were; whether parents were worried about safe home pest control, pesticide drift, or the pest control plans of their health clinics or daycares. PESTed staff gave the families information about alternatives, and the parents discussed among themselves and with the community partners present what their priorities were in reducing pesticide use in the area. PESTed made connections with parents, health clinics, and daycares who are interested in continuing to work together to ensure “Pesticide-Free Kids” in their communities!

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