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El Sol is On a Mission To Improve the Lives of Day Laborers and Their Families

By Rebecca Gaunt

El Sol was founded in 2006 to aid day laborers in Jupiter, Florida. Hundreds of laborers, mostly from Guatemala and Mexico, were gathering daily on Center Street in search of work to the concern of local residents who were concerned about safety, traffic and home values. The unorganized market also left the laborers vulnerable to being victims of theft and unsafe work environments. A group of residents, consisting of immigrants, town and university officials, and church groups banded together to form the non-profit neighborhood resource center.

"The town of Jupiter's construction boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s brought an influx of day laborers from all over Palm Beach County and Indiantown, Florida," says Communications Coordinator David Urieta. "Other areas like Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, and Loxahatchee Groves are considering opening centers like that of El Sol. El Sol promotes a harmonious integrated community in which all people can achieve their highest potential."

The labor center is the primary focus of El Sol. Day laborers are registered and available to be picked up during established hours and the center matches workers with the appropriate skills to the tasks. Pay is established in advance. Common tasks include yard work, painting, cleaning, moving and carpentry. There are 9,000 laborers registered, and most days, there are at least 100 workers available. In 2014, El Sol fulfilled 14,463 job requests.

"Although day laborers are successful in finding work through our labor center, it does not eliminate other challenges like finding stable, full-time employment versus day work," says Urieta. "On average, day laborers make an average of $8,000-$10,000 dollars a year. How can someone meet their most basic physiological needs with such an income?"

For that reason, El Sol provides a small breakfast and a lunch to the workers who are not hired for the day with help from local business, churches and restaurants. They also partner with C.R.O.S. Ministries in the operation of a food pantry.

El Sol offers a number of classes to the community. ESL classes develop conversational English skills, while literacy classes in the native language help prepare them to learn English. Vocational classes focus on skills such as landscaping and painting. Computer classes are available, and the sewing center also teaches marketable skills.

The organization participates in a number of events throughout the year. In November, the workers get the opportunity to display their artistic talents at ArtFest. The Fiesta Maya celebration features Latin food, music and clothing. Workers also compete in the Jupiter Police Department soccer tournament in order to build positive relationships and trust between the two groups.

The Sunshine Organic Community Garden was established in 2014 to combat diet-related illness and lack of food in the community, and while El Sol does not provide health services directly, they do provide referrals and assistance.

"We seek to be the model for other communities dealing with day-laborers," says Urieta.

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Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a...

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