March 16, 2020
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Octogenarian who grew up in a farmworker family now advocates for fellow workers

Meet Farmworkers Self-Help Inc., one of the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. Five winners each will receive $40,000 from The Atlantic and Allstate.

Margarita Romo founded Farmworkers Self-Help Inc. in 1982. The nonprofit has been serving thousands of migrant farm workers in the Tampa region for decades.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Meet the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. The annual program from The Atlantic and Allstate honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities. This year, five winners each will receive a $40,000 prize from The Atlantic and Allstate. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out who the winners are and follow the hashtag #RenewalAwards.

Margarita Romo grew up in a family of Mexican farmworkers in Texas. That upbringing inspired her to help fellow workers in need as a translator in the 1970s in her community of Dade City, Florida. Together with farmworkers in the area, she founded Farmworkers Self-Help Inc in 1982. The nonprofit helps workers organize, develop leadership skills, and access education, medical, and legal services.

Today, Romo is 83 years old and still leading FSH. The nonprofit regularly helps about 15,000 farmworkers in the counties surrounding Tampa, Florida, many of whom are undocumented and unable to access government assistance programs.

Serving this community is why Farmworker’s Self-Help Inc. was named one of 15 finalists for the Renewal Awards, a program of The Atlantic and Allstate.

“Giving a voice to those who don’t have one,” Romo said, describing her nonprofit’s mission in an interview with Moffitt Cancer Center. “And once they get that voice, empower them to use it.”

Helping the children of migrant farmworkers is also a key component of the nonprofit’s work. FSH has a youth center where they provide crucial services, including tutoring and mentoring to young people.

Hands-on work with the community is the foundation of FSH’s advocacy efforts. Romo frequently heads up to the state legislature in Tallahassee to lobby for important causes on behalf of the people she serves. She uses these trips as another opportunity for education, by bringing along young people to learn more about the political process and how they can make a difference. And make a difference they did—FSH lobbying efforts helped to pass a bill that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition.

“People see we are vested in the community and we care a lot about all our people here,” Romo told The Florida Catholic. “We can’t afford to give up.”

You can follow Farmworkers Self-Help Inc. on Facebook.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project