May 2017 Newsletter

Categories: News


Partnerships Enhance the Lives of our Migrant Workers

Collaboration benefits migrant farmworkers


Susan Babcock Rabick is

Susan Billups Rabick is a Regional Director in Nebraska.

During the winter months and off-school times, Proteus staff in Nebraska take advantage of having time to develop additional partnerships with agencies that not only work with our target population, but seek our expertise, too. One such situation occurred one year ago when a grower, Daniels Produce, asked Case Manager Anna Santos if she knew of a way that they could send some of their Spanish-speaking workers to a training class to learn how to apply pesticides–they wanted certified applicators. Anna was able to connect them with Northeast Community College Agriculture Department and they put together a program to conduct the training sessions in Spanish. Those same workers now return to Daniels Produce each year and not only are crew leaders, but have extra expertise. They are more valuable to the growers and their incomes reflect that value of the extra training that they have received.

Another example of this mutually beneficial partnership is now a three-sided relationship. Four years ago one of the first health and safety training farms to accept free heat stress and pesticide safety offeredy by Proteus was Daniels Produce in Monroe, Nebraska. Another relationship that has also been in the works for about four years is with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, Center for Reducing Health Disparities. At the time, Dr. Athena Ramos was working on her dissertation and asked Proteus to introduce her to migrants who she could interview. In return, she provided them with goodie bags and a cash award for sharing their time and opinions.


Pre-training meeting with grower-partners from Daniel’s Produce and University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. Left to right: Anna Santos, Proteus; Kelly Jackson and Leah Travnicek, Daniels; and Dr. Athena Ramos from UNMC.

In April of 2017, Daniels Produce reached out to Proteus regarding an additional training that they hoped we could provide: Ergonomics of lifting heavy objects. They noticed an increase of backaches and strains with their workers. In an effort to be proactive they reached out to their “trainers” aka Proteus.

Proteus reached out to AFOP Health and Safety staff to see if there was anything already available, but there was nothing offered through their organization. A phone call to Dr. Ramos was made. Together, we visited the Daniels Produce location to learn their issues and see the working conditions. As a result, Dr. Ramos will now be consulting her colleagues in the rural health division at the Nebraska Medical Center and coordinating staff to conduct the trainings in June. This training will be done in conjunction with health and safety trainings conducted by Proteus.

Developing successful relationships takes time, work and a spirit of cooperation. Fortunately, Proteus staff have the freedom to seek out relationships, nurture them and work cooperatively to make the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworkers just a little less dangerous, stressful and difficult. In the meantime, our staff meet some really great people along the way! The rewards are immeasurable!

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Success on the Road and at Home

One family’s story of building skills for a better future together


Debbie Theriac is a Case Manager in Indiana.

Debbie Theriac is a Case Manager in Indiana.

I am Debbie Theriac, Case Manager in Vincennes, Indiana. I’ve had the pleasure of assisting Logan and his wife Korri along their career pathway to upgrade their skills and abilities for better employment opportunities. A better future for their family was in store for them with supports and encouragement from Proteus employment and training programs. By providing these services, Proteus was able to help Logan and Korri take care of their growing family.

As farmworkers, Logan and Korri knew that hard work and determination goes a long way and with the assistance of the National Farmworker Jobs Program, Proteus was able to help them reach their career goals and a better life. As clients of NFJP, they learned new skills, enhancing their opportunities for better jobs and good careers.


Logan earned his commercial driver’s license.


Korri upgraded her skills for a better career opportunity.

Logan completed the Proteus employment and training program by completing training courses and passing the test to earn his commercial driver’s license for over-the-road trucking. He now has a new full-time career that has more than doubled his yearly income.

Korri was referred to Proteus by her husband to upgrade her skills for a better career opportunity. She was a stay-at-home mom, but with her children getting older and becoming more active in elementary school, she decided that it was time for her to return to the workforce. Her goal was return to the workplace during school hours. Korri worked on soft skills and employment skills with Proteus. We helped her secure work at the post office in Orleans, Indiana and she has been employed for nearly six months. Korri really enjoys her new job and the fact that she still has time for family and friends. She appreciates everything that Proteus has done for her and her family.

Proteus provided job training and job skill building; soft skills; supportive assistance such as food, gas; and temporary child-care until Korri was able to find this on her own. She was impressed that we kept in touch throughout the training and employment process and that we showed compassion and concern, and followed up every step of the way.

It was wonderful to work with Korri and Logan and I can’t wait to see what more is in store for them.

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Summer Programming Offers Health Clinics

Returning health aide provides needed services



Paola Tolentino is a Bilingual Health Care Manager in Iowa.

With the summer months quickly approaching and Proteus’ busy season on the horizon, the health team is gearing up! Proteus operates a migrant health program to provide primary health services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers who come to Iowa. Based on the geographical need, Proteus bi-lingual community health aides and providers host remote clinics throughout the state in areas where migrant workers are located.

All these clinics wouldn’t be possible without the dedications of many people involved. That being said, this summer we are excited to welcome 15 summer health aids who will be helping provide these services. We are also very fortunate to have a few staff who will join us again this summer. This month we like to shed a light onto one particular veteran, Eric Castro.

During the summer of 2016, Eric Castro, an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, worked with the program. As a summer health aide, he committed to provide the best health care to an often overlooked population. He helped conduct health histories, vital exams such as temperature, blood pressure, height and weight, and blood profiling to check for anemia, cholesterol and diabetes, as well as assisting with interpreting services.

Eric Castro

Eric is a provider at Proteus summer health clinics.

Eric embodies what it means to be a leader, a team player and a role model of our Proteus core values. When asked why he liked working for Proteus he said, “At Proteus, students get experience like no other. Working with migrant farmworkers helps you appreciate the things we take for granted such as food, leisure time, and especially accessibility to health care. Many of the patients at Proteus haven’t seen a health care provider for many years. Many have health issues but aren’t aware until we uncover them. Nothing is more rewarding than to provide patients with proper medication to give them back the energy to work and rest properly. I am excited to work here again this upcoming summer!”

This past summer, Eric showed us that its employees like him that are the key in helping Proteus to spread the word about access to health care. Back at school, Eric continued his commitment to Proteus by working late clinic hours and being a dedicated presence helping patients get the care they deserved while trying to obtain his degree in human physiology.

Eric will graduate from the University of Iowa in May. We’d like to thank this outstanding employee for his dedication and hard work!

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Staying the Course to Earn Degree

Ag background helps student achieve her goal



Patrick Taggart is a Regional Director in Iowa.

Breanna Durnan was at a loss when she enrolled in a summer course to expedite her track to graduation. Her Pell Grant funds were committed to the spring and fall semesters, leaving any summer classes her responsibility. Being a full-time student and a seasonal farmworker left her short in paying toward any additional school expenses. Seeking guidance, Breanna spoke with financial aid advisor and Proteus friend, Mary Jean Svendsen. Mary Jean did not hesitate in contacting Proteus when Breanna divulged her experience of seasonal work on a farm performing a variety of services including: planting and harvesting crops, baling hay and tending a dairy herd. Upon completion of the intake process, Breanna was deemed eligible for services of the National Farmworker Jobs Program and was an ideal fit for our program.

Breanna Durnan 1

Breanna has met her goal and is using her education in the ag industry.

Having a passion for agriculture, Breanna felt ready for a change from the seasonal employment she had become accustomed to. She registered for classes at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar, Iowa, seeking a degree in dairy science. Obtaining a career in the ag field was very important to Breana, and with assistance from Proteus, this dream soon became reality. Proteus was able to fill the gap by contributing to her summer tuition as well as providing a stipend for the following two semesters. Determined to finish her degree and enter the work field, Breanna was relentless in completing her assignments and performing well in her classes. With the stipend she received from Proteus, Breana was able to focus on her studies rather then working more hours to make ends meet.

In May 2016, Breana received her diploma from NICC and started working at Associated Milk Producers. Maintaining her contributions to the ag sector, Breanna is challenged daily by formulating scientific procedures to craft top of the line dairy products. The work ethic she learned and appreciates from working numerous years on the farm has transferred to her current job where nothing but success awaits.

Seeing her goal of a career in agriculture and working consistent hours become a reality was supported by Proteus and the services we provide.

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