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Pilot program connects Honduran migrant families electronically

(Sept. 7, 2005)   —   A pilot program conducted by East Carolina University researchers aims to reduce the physical and mental stresses faced by migrant workers in the United States.

El Puente, or The Bridge, is a program set up in association with the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, a collaborative organization between East Carolina University, N.C. State University and A&T State University.

The pilot study encouraged email, written and verbal communication between Honduran agriculture workers in North Carolina with their families in Honduras. Since January, about 20 families have been communicating back and forth from centers in Honduras and in Durham, N.C. The program aims to show the benefits of keeping workers in touch with their families.

“The feedback has been very positive,” said David Griffith, an ECU geographer who is conducting the program along with Raquel Isaula, a researcher from the sustainable Development Network in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

Researchers at the N.C. Agromedicine Institute hope the study will be used as a springboard for other, expanded programs.

“We are proposing to create a system to improve communications,” said John Sabella, director of the N.C. Agromedicine Institutes.

Communications include email, video letters and audio letters. The researchers will determine what mode of communication is most effective and why.

Communications between family members is key to avoiding the destruction of the family structure, Isaula said.

At the end of the study, researchers will perform a cost benefit analysis and recommendations to how to implement similar programs at other locations in the United States. The pilot study has already spawned other researchers from Vera Cruz, Mexico to attempt a similar project with Migrant groups in the North Carolina towns of Clinton and Wallace.

Isaula’s work in Honduras has already established 103 communication centers throughout the country, each containing about six computers.

“We have to understand better. We have to recognize the communication problem and begin to have regular communication flow,” Sabella said.

The researchers are seeking funding from the National Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481