(written by Ted Coine, from newsletter)

Immokalee, Florida, is one of the poorest towns in the United States. Actually, before moving to nearby Naples, I had never seen the likes north of Mexico. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Immokalee is appalling. And to think that it’s only a forty-minute drive from the most affluent small city in America. You can see why my wife and I want to do our part to help.

Over eighty percent of the residents of Immokalee are immigrants, many illegal. Half of them are migrant farm workers, who make only $3.50 a day. Due to an exception in the federal minimum wage guidelines for farm workers, that’s legal. And it is illegal for farm workers to form unions.

It gets better: just about a month ago, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the FBI broke up a slavery ring – the seventh such group in the past few years. These were field hands kept against their will in the back of a truck, let out only to pick tomatoes, kept under lock and key under the threat of death.

Life for children isn’t all that promising. Half of the children drop out before graduating high school. Half! The other half don’t have it that good, either. Literally from birth, these children are condemned to the prison of low expectations. If they can keep their kids out of gangs and prepare them for a low-wage trade before the girls get pregnant, educators consider themselves successful.

As with other Waveplace areas, Immokalee is cursed by its economy: the low-paying blight of tourism, the slightly better wages of construction, and the single worst-paying sector of the US economy, agriculture. If Immokalee’s children want to make something of themselves, they have to leave their hometown, parents, neighbors, siblings, and friends behind. There are no job opportunities for the college-educated in this town.

Immokalee may be land-locked, but it is every bit an economic island. And as such, its children need our help. With XO laptops and guidance from Waveplace mentors, the children of Immokalee may get the same chance that our middle-class daughters do in Naples. Maybe some will even return after college to improve Immokalee, an America-Indian word meaning “Our Home.”

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