“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” -- Cesar Chavez
These words sit at the heart of my father's tireless efforts to advocate for change. He believed that protection from the hazards of pesticides; fair wages and improved working conditions were not achievable if not founded upon an improvement in the overall well-being of the community.
This meant finding ways to provide safe housing, education and other services that would bolster individual and family well-being. Thus, improving the progress and prosperity of the whole and empowering them for the road ahead.
A Day of Service to Honor a Servant of the People
The Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning, observed on or near March 31st, my father's birth date, is an opportunity for communities around the country to learn about the values that my father epitomized and a chance to take action to serve.
The Cesar Chavez Foundation's (CCF) own National Chavez Center, located in Keene, California, will be staging a restoration and clean-up activity of the Center's grounds March 28, 2012. Through the support of a grant provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service, several CCF community partners have been able to build out service activities for Chavez Day that were originally initiated on the National Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.
One such organization, the Center for Music National Service, a San Francisco-based non-profit that focuses on providing youth the opportunity to play music and/or refurbish school music rooms. This kind of sustained activity is truly a testament to the philosophies and legacies of both of these servant leaders.
Working Towards Community Progress and Prosperity
Beyond the day of service, the Cesar Chavez Foundation (CCF) continues my father's legacy through many year-round efforts to enrich and improve the lives of farm worker and Latino families by meeting their essential human, cultural, and community needs. To date, CCF and partners have achieved the following:
- Built more than 4,300 units of new and rehabilitated high-quality affordable housing in four states. Through a partnership with AmeriCorps and other program affiliates, all feature extensive social services, from early childhood education to programs for seniors.
- Founded Radio Campesina, a nine-station Spanish-language radio network, with popular regional Mexican music and high quality interactive educational programming that reaches half a million daily listeners in three states.
- Provided thousands of farm worker and Latino youth after-school and weekend instruction and tutoring
- Aided millions of students in learning about Cesar's work through promotion and participation in the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning, as well as supporting youth involvement in service-learning activities in communities around the country.
Our Lives Are All That Really Belong To Us
My father once expressed the sentiment that “our lives are all that really belong to us” and therefore it is how they are used that determine what kind of individuals we are. At CCF, it is our belief that the actions of the many people participating in service on behalf of community also determine what kind of society we are and hope to become.
For more information about activities commemorating the Cesar Chavez Day of Service, visit the CCF website. A model curriculum, produced in conjunction with the California Department of Education, that focuses on the life of Cesar Chavez and on service-learning is also available for educators.
Paul F. Chavez is the President of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, and Cesar Chavez's son.