Canada, here I come - Farm worker hails seasonal overseas programme as lifesaver
Richard Roye was filled with optimism as he departed the Ministry of Labour and Social Security offices on East Street in Kingston yesterday. He had just taken his COVID-19-test that is required to depart on the seasonal overseas farm work programme.
"I'm excited to leave again on the programme because I know this will be my chance to make some more money that I can't even make in Jamaica," he told THE STAR.
Roye is scheduled to depart the island for Canada on Wednesday. It will be the fourth year that he is venturing on the programme, which he said has significantly changed his life.
"Since leaving to work and thing, me already start to build my own house. Me and my wife was living with my parents and it just wasn't comfortable because we couldn't really do as we please," said the 32-year-old.
Thousands of Jamaicans are employed yearly on the farm work programme, which sees them travelling to North America to work on farms or in the hospitality sector. Some 8,071 persons worked in Canada on the programme last year at a time of heightened COVID-19 fears. Although he was at first apprehensive about travelling to Canada last year due to the COVID-19 scare, Roye decided to step out in faith because he hopes to finish his house by next year.
"At first I was scared of wanting to travel to go to another country to be in contact with other people and I don't know where they are from. I ask the ministry if I deny the travel if I would still have the opportunity to go again and they said I have to decide. So I went and did my thing and thank God I made it back home safely," he said
Lot of protocols
Before farm workers left the island last year, they were required to sign a waiver discharging the Jamaican government of any liability in a situation where they might have been infected with deadly respiratory disease.
Roye revealed, however, that the employers at the farm where he picks peppers and strawberries, did the utmost best to keep them protected.
"They had a lot of protocols in place to make sure we were good and we couldn't leave the farm at all," he said.
The Shewsbury, Portland resident who is a certified electrician said before travelling on the seasonal programme , he was struggling to make ends meet. To live here in Jamaica, sometimes I use to find myself even sitting down and waiting for my mother to done cook so I could eat. But now I feel more like an independent like a man," he said.
The farm work programme, he said, has been a game changer.
"My wife is happy because we will have a bigger space and it makes me feel good that I can provide a better life for them," Roye told THE STAR. "I see myself going back for the next five or seven years because I have a lot of plans for myself."