Academy missionaries ventured only 40 miles away from Tampa during Mission Week to Ruskin, where migrant workers travel each year to harvest crops in the agricultural belt of Florida. To these dedicated young women, this giving of their time and love embodies a turn on the phrase “service starts NEAR home.”
Migrant workers in Ruskin average an annual salary of $5,000 to $7,000, about $35,000 less than the average annual national income. This sub-par income makes the missionaries’ service to the Ruskin community all the more necessary.
Oftentimes, migrant children arrive at school hungry because their only meals come from their non-parental care during the day. The families live in trailers sectioned for four families, hardly allowing enough living space for a large family.
The Ruskin missionaries assisted at Ruskin Elementary during the day, helping the teachers out with simple tasks and building unforgettable bonds with the children. The girls even instructed the children during a bike safety event put on by St. Joseph’s hospital.
In the afternoons, the Ruskin missionaries worked to improve the RCMAs in the Tampa area. RCMA stands for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. These centers provide a sanctuary for the migrant children to develop and grow while their parents work laboriously in the fields.
The RCMAs give the children breakfast, lunch, and snack to nourish their young minds and bodies with nutritional foods that they otherwise would not get at home. The centers serve in the basic education of the children, which is why they are so crucial to their development.
While at the RCMAs, the missionaries completed tasks, such as planting butterfly gardens and painting murals, and influenced the lives of the children by performing puppet shows and helping the children with crafts. The centers especially appreciated the murals since they
illuminated the buildings and gave them more life.
While not working at the school or the RCMAs, the Ruskin missionaries spent their time at the Girl Scout camp, Camp Dorothy Thomas. All 24 girls and the four adult leaders stayed in the cabin CIT for the week.
The girls definitely made the most of the 220 acre camp with a nature walk, scavenger hunt, game of manhunt, and other activities throughout the week. After they finished dinner and chores, the missionaries would conclude the evening with a prayer service, led by the senior
and junior leaders. This time was used to grow together through praying, reflecting, and sharing.
Ruskin workers and their children showed their appreciation to the hard work and service of the girls throughout the week. All of the Ruskin missionaries grew mentally and spiritually and developed more fully as young women of integrity.
Compiled with reports from missionaries and Achona staff members Elaine Petrarca and Christina Gerecke