Proteus, Inc. recognizes outstanding contributions with farmworker and partner of the year awards

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Luisa Castro receiving Farmworker of the Year Award.
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A Ukrainian refugee, a lifelong farmworker, and a local business were honored last week

Des Moines – Proteus, Inc. recently presented Farmworker of the Year awards to two deserving individuals and a Partner of the Year award to an organization who has gone above and beyond to support farmworkers. The awards were presented during the 5th Annual I’m Thankful for Farmworkers Dinner on Thursday, November 9 at The River Center in Des Moines. 

Yaroslav Ziabkin: Farmworker of the Year

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Yaroslav Ziabkin, a Ukrainian refugee with farmwork experience spanning both Ukraine and the United States, was named Farmworker of the Year for his resilience and dedication to triumph over adversity. With support from Proteus, Inc.’s National Farmworker Jobs Program, Yaroslav obtained his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and now crisscrosses the country as an over-the-road (OTR) trucker in his newly purchased truck. The National Farmworker Jobs Program offers educational assistance and career placements for farmworkers.

Luisa Castro Santiago: Farmworker of the Year

Recognized as Farmworker of the Year, Luisa Castro Santiago, a dedicated farmworker originally from Mexico, epitomizes decades-long commitment and resilience in the agricultural sector. Luisa has worked in hog farming operations for almost three decades and since the mid-nineties, she has been a patient of Proteus, Inc.’s Agricultural Health Clinics. She continues to make a meaningful living through farmwork and, at the annual dinner, she shared her gratitude for the many opportunities she has been afforded throughout her life and career.

Active Endeavors: Partner of the Year

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Proteus, Inc. proudly presented Active Endeavors with the Partner of the Year award, acknowledging their compassionate role in the Water for Farmworkers campaign. For the past two years, Active Endeavors, a local retailer specializing in outdoor gear in the Des Moines area, supported Proteus, Inc. by helping secure Hydro Flasks for distribution to farmworkers. This collaboration ensures farmworkers have access to cold water throughout the course of the day which can keep them hydrated and lower their body temperature while they work in extreme heat outdoors during the summer months.

The event was emceed by Chenue Her and Samantha Mesa, co-anchors of Good Morning Iowa. The evening’s program included a moment of gratitude for farmworkers from Norma Guerrero, a Proteus, Inc. board member, who shared her family’s multigenerational farmwork experience, emphasizing the emotional connection and resilience that define the agricultural community. Suzanna de Baca penned a poem for the event titled “For Those Who Feed Us,” dedicated to farmworkers who have died or been injured on the job. The poem was recited by Davida D. Williams of Iowa Stage Theatre Company.

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The dinner, Proteus, Inc’s largest annual fundraiser dedicated to acknowledging the contributions of farmworkers, raised an impressive $86,500 to support farmworkers and various Proteus, Inc. programs. For more information about Proteus, Inc. or how you can support their mission, visit www.proteusinc.net.

To watch videos of the 2023 Farmworkers and Partner of the Year, visit www.youtube.com/@proteusinc.4021.

About Proteus, Inc.:

Proteus, Inc. is a non-profit organization committed to empowering farmworkers and supporting the agriculture industry through comprehensive services. With a mission to enhance the quality of life for farmworkers, Proteus, Inc. strives to create lasting positive impact in the agricultural sector. Learn more at proteusinc.net.

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