Southbrook Farms, a vineyard based out of Niagara-on-the-Lake, is raising money via a GoFundMe for an injured employee.
Juan Carlos, known to many as ‘JC,’ has been flying in and out of Canada from Mexico and working with Southbrook for the last 12 years. Carlos has over 20 years of viticulture experience and works in wineries around the country and even in other parts of the world.
On March 23, Carlos was chopping pasture shoots on a farm in Mexico when the shoots wrapped around his hand and dragged it into the industrial chopping machine.
Carlos was able to promptly stop the machine and had emergency surgery the same night, and as a result, keep his hand and three fingers.
In Mexico, health care and employment insurance is uncommon for trade workers like Carlos, so the married father of four has relied on his savings to pay for the surgery, subsequent checkups and medication. He is also paying out of pocket for transportation to his checkups in Mexico City from his hometown of Ayapango, over an hour away.
Carlos is unable to work with his current injury. Although members of his family have been able to help somewhat, finances are already stringent and Carlos has yet to start physiotherapy.
“He's been coming to Canada to work for about eight months a year where he's away from his family and providing for them,” said Ann Sperling, director of winemaking and viticulture at Southbrook Farms.
She set up a GoFundMe campaign for Carlos after hearing about the incident. "When we heard about this, we realized it’s not just an injury that he's going to recover from quickly and that it's going to take a lot of time but also mental strength to be able to get through this,” Sperling said.
She said that Southbrook typically keeps in contact with their employees, even in the off season. She said that Ontario’s first lockdown prevented Carlos from travelling to Canada to work and when an opportunity arose to work in British Columbia several months later, Carlos was mugged at knifepoint for his phone and passport.
At that point, Southbrook had lost contact with Carlos. The next time they heard from Carlos was when he reached out to inform them about his injury. She said the injury may result in Carlos being unable to "do the same kind of work again (and) we want to help him get through this initial stage."
Sperling said physiotherapy will be vital in Carlos' recovery. If he were to return to Canada, he would need to go through a physical examination and it's possible the 48-year-old could be deemed unfit to work.
Carlos is required to undergo physiotherapy for a year, and the goal of his GoFundMe campaign is to cover the cost of therapy, travel, groceries and medicine. The target is to raise over $16,000 by October 2021.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News