HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area nonprofit is finding an innovative way to offer health and computer services to farmworkers: a double-decker bus that will visit their work sites.
The bus is being retrofitted and it is expected to arrive at the Coast by the end of the month so the program can be implemented next month, according to Joaquin Jimenez, farmworker program director at ALAS in Half Moon Bay, the nonprofit spearheading the project.
Jimenez said the bus will be equipped "with a conference room, computer lab, and three rooms, for small conferences and for doctor's visits through telehealth, with mental health clinicians as well. (It's a) state-of-the-art vehicle that's going to be visiting the farms, bringing equity into the farms."
He said farmworkers may not see a doctor when they're sick due to transportation challenges or a fear of missing out on pay.
Farmworker Yesenia Garcia said the bus will make it easier to get medical care.
"That way we don't have to miss too much work," Garcia said. "The time is limited for us."
The bus will visit three farms on the Coast certain days of the week and Jimenez said they hope to visit other places too.
"Areas like Northern Salinas, Watsonville, Central Valley, so maybe other organizations in that area will be interested to implement a program like this," Jimenez said.
The program is also meant to help bridge the digital divide, providing wifi.
"We have a computer lab in this bus to work with the farmworkers, just to learn the basic skills about using a computer, opening up an email, how to do their own research, how to learn different things, learning the language, learning English, even visiting family members through the Internet," Jimenez said.
"Sometimes we don't get good reception with the Internet so I think it's going to help me a lot too," Garcia said. "A lot of farmworkers don't have the cell phones or things like that to be able to talk to their families in Mexico."
Jimenez said research shows a high percentage of farm workers experience mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and stress. The bus would bring much-needed mental health services.
Organizations are helping fund the Farmworker Equity Express Bus, which will benefit at least 1,500 farmworkers.
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