Thus, it is only natural that The Bandana Project, created by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Esperanza, the Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the SPLC, would find a local sponsorship at Adelante – especially because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The Bandana Project is powerful in its compelling yet simple imagery. To show their solidarity, farmworker community members, advocates, and other individuals across the nation have decorated white bandanas to honor those who have taken action to hold the perpetrators and their employers responsible for this reprehensible violence.
These bandanas are also a show of support to victims whose shame and fear prevents them from taking action.
There is great symbolism in the use of the bandanas, explains Claudia Annoni, Adelante’s Adult Program Manager.
Interviewed by La Prensa during the agency’s well-attended open house for the program, she says farmworker women use their clothes, including their bandanas, which serve double-duty as protection against pesticides and the oppressive heat of the fields, as weapons to protect themselves against the perpetrators of sexual violence.
The problem is so widespread that a California survey reported that an alarming 90 percent of farmworker women state that sexual harassment is a major problem.
“This is the first time that the Bandana Project, which started in 2007, has been done in Toledo,” says Annoni. “This program gives voice to the women who are victims, and whom are terrified by this crime.
“We offer support to the victims and the survivors, and in doing so, we want to raise the community’s awareness and support by sharing these stories of the women, who are often just working in the fields to get food for their families.”
Reporting the crimes through standard law enforcement channels is frequently complicated by the fact that the women may not have legal immigration status, points out Annoni.
“We want to give a voice to those who endure these horrors in silence. But there are so many reasons for the silence, such as fear for their safety and that of their families,” adds Annoni.
“Advocating for women is really my passion,” says the Argentine-born Annoni, who in addition to being a social worker is also a journalist. Annoni has a five-year counseling degree from the University of Buenos Aires.
As Josh Flores completes his sixth year on the agency’s board (and prepares to turn the reins over to incoming chair Dan Briones), the ten-year teaching veteran at East Toledo’s Waite High School can proudly bask in the success of Adelante. And there is no doubt that much of that success is because of the inspiration and leadership brought to the agency by Troche.
Sonia Troche and programs of Adelante, Inc.
Sitting in her office during a brief lull in the program, Troche briefly reviewed some of the agency’s current success stories. But she is quick to share any credit for the agency’s success with her staff.
“You have to look at the quality and passion of the people working here,” she says, adding, “They are all very talented and passionate people doing direct service.”
Sonia Troche, Josh Flores, Claudia Annoni, and Lewis Huerta at Adelante Inc.’s Open House.
She explains that services at Adelante, Inc. are provided by two major divisions: the Family & Community Resource Division and the Children and Youth Division.
“One component of the Youth Division is for elementary schools with many educational programs for pupils in kindergarten to sixth grade. Here the focus is primarily upon dealing with math and the reading performance of students,” says Troche.
“Another key component is the Prevention programs, where we encourage young people to realize that neither drugs nor violence are the solution to problems. Instead, we stress the importance of physical fitness and proper nutrition.
“We do this by utilizing a lot of fun stuff. We emphasize the cultural experience such as the Toledo Museum of Art and the Toledo Zoo and also their Latino culture through the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center. We realize that many of them may not be speaking Spanish at home, but we want them to be proud of whom we are. We believe that it takes a community,” says Troche.
Adelante, Inc. recognizes that Toledo’s Latino community encompasses more than just the Old South End. Accordingly, they work closely with Toledo Public elementary schools in East Toledo such as Garfield, Oakdale, and Raymer; as well as those in the South End such as Walbridge, Marshall, and Westfield.
“Parents are key components in everything that we do,” stresses Troche.
“Our junior high and high school programs basically follow the same line with emphasis upon math and reading, but with the addition of programs dealing with academic performance, career development, and choosing colleges.
“We bring in guest speakers to talk about trades and careers, and many companies and businesses let us take tours so students can actually see a workplace situation. We especially try to show them what the employment situation will look like 10 to 15 years from now.
“We provide them with leadership training because we believe strongly in developing leaders for tomorrow. So we start early.
“And above all, we stress the importance of community service. We agree with the philosophy that if you’ve been given opportunities, you need to give back,” says Troche.
Among the highlights of the programs offered by the Adult Division are domestic violence projects as well as the innovative Nosotras program for pregnant women.
“Our ultimate goal is for women to have healthy babies,” says Troche of Nosotras.
“We also sponsor health clinics to promote healthy and drug free lifestyles, and we have a home ownership and financial literacy program to help individuals who are purchasing a home,” adds Troche.
The agency recently received a major grant from the Key Foundation, a foundation funded by KeyBank, to continue its work.
Troche also proudly points to Leamos Juntos, which presents a Parent’s Workshop devoted to educating without violence.
“Our programs are truly comprehensive and encompass the entire family from the youngest to the oldest,” says Troche.
“We have partnerships with Read for Literacy as well as English as a Second Language. We maintain a food pantry and we offer free legal clinics.
“Our new voluntary tax program has already processed more than 250 returns for many people who do not have a Social Security number, but do not know that they are not precluded from filing and paying income tax,” Troche says.
“Advocacy and translation are always among the social services we provide. We strongly believe in cultural competency training especially in issues of education and health. Cultural sensitivity is very important to us and helps us remain in the forefront of Latino issues,” says Troche.
For more information about Adelante, Inc. and their programs and services, call them at (419) 244-8440 or visit their Web site at: www.adelantelrc.org
On the Internet:
Sonia Troche, visit: https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2006/August%2016,%202006/Adelante.htm
Southern Poverty Law Center, visit: www.splcenter.org
The Bandana Project, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wY2WExyIXg
Claudia Annoni: https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2006/August%209,%202006/DomesticViolence.htm
Toledo Museum of Art, visit: www.toledomuseum.org
Toledo Zoo, visit: www.toledozoo.org
Toledo Public Schools, visit: www.tps.org