A woman and her nonprofit have been there for the farmworker community for nearly a year after the mass shooting at two Half Moon Bay mushroom farms. A ray of hope in the midst of unfathomable tragedy is Dr. Belinda Hernandez-Arriaga.
“There’s been so many miracles we’ve seen, so many threads of love,” she commented. A year ago, Hernandez-Arriaga and her organization ALAS sprang into action in response to a suspected incidence of workplace violence involving a murderous shooting rampage at two coastal mushroom farms.
Since they were pioneers in aiding the farmworker community, the crew knew many of the victims and their loved ones. “It doesn’t seem like a year at all. I can hardly believe that has transpired. “The emotions are still very fresh in our hearts for us and so many, including the victims,” she said.
In the first pandemic summer of 2020, a donor purchased a sunny-colored house for the nonprofit ALAS and Hernandez-Arriaga to utilize as their home-base in downtown Half Moon Bay. They are now providing mental health therapy in addition to the basics—2,000 individuals every week—with food, healthcare, and education.
After the shooting, the demand for counseling services increased twofold. In response, Hernandez-Arraiga and ALAS have introduced innovative art and music therapy programs that draw on participants’ common cultural experiences to facilitate the process of healing from trauma.
“We have to be there, think about how we heal together collectively,” she commented. Over the holidays, for instance, participants showcased their accordion skills they’d honed in music therapy sessions for an audience of hundreds.
Hernandez-Arriaga also gives Sonoqui Martinez a place to perform the songs he wrote during his time spent working as a farmhand. One of his most recent listeners said that his music made them feel less alone in their battles. His singing that night brought everyone to tears because he was a cultural healer, Hernandez-Arriaga said.
Being a qualified mental health clinician, Hernandez-Arriaga finds that loving the coastal farmworker community gives healing to her heart as well. “That collective strength, the care, and my personal faith, has helped us to say, ‘We’ll get through this one day a time,'” according to her.
Poor living circumstances for farmworkers were brought to light by the shooting, according to Hernandez-Arriaga. She expresses her gratitude to the county supervisors who, last week, approved the construction of over a hundred affordable housing units on the grounds of a former nursery.
Additionally, 45 housing units for elderly farmworkers will soon be under construction, thanks to ALAS. Also, as part of an evening vigil to remember, ALAS will exhibit an artwork in its front yard next Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the terrible massacre.
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