Q&A: Meet the Founder Behind the App that Helps Farmworkers’ Health

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Faith Estella Florez and her team of app developers brought the farmworker aiding app, “Calor”, to life as a way to promote health and education. Photo Credit: Latina Legacy Foundation
Faith Estella Florez and her team of app developers brought the farmworker aiding app, “Calor”, to life as a way to promote health and education. Photo Credit: Latina Legacy Foundation

The “Calor” App Brings Knowledge and Wellness to the Fields

Arturo Hilario

El Observador

Faith Estella Florez is a senior at La Cañada High School and she wants to change the conditions of farmworkers across the country.

Growing up in the Central Valley, she saw up close the strenuous working conditions that these individuals are subjected to in order to pick crops in sweltering heat. In fact, her great-grandmother died because of the heat conditions in the fields.

This sparked an idea for Florez, find a way to use technology to help the health of farmworkers, promote wellness and education, as well as be a lifeline to emergency services.

Through her research and concern for the timely issue, she pursued the idea of creating an app for smart devices, which could potentially be invaluable to the health of farmworkers.

Eventually this came to fruition as the “Calor” App. Now Florez has begun a fundraising campaign to take the app to the next level and have it available in the fields as a smartwatch application.

In the following we find out more about the history and purpose of “Calor”from Florez herself.

Can you give me a rundown of how you came up with the idea for the “Calor” App? Are you into programming and tech?

I came up with the “Calor” Application during my sophomore year of high school. Surprisingly, I’m more interested in English and History than Computer Science! So, really, the application was more so inspired and motivated by empathy rather than academics. Which, I think, is important. Although, I do genuinely believe that a liberal-arts perspective is essential in pursuing research-based fields. Because coding for social justice requires recognizing problems that need solutions. And from a relatively early age, I’ve been keenly aware of the plight of farmworkers.  

You grew up in the Central Valley of California, how did this and knowing your great-grandmother succumbed to the hot conditions affect how you see and advocate for farmworkers?

I grew up in a small town called Shafter within the Central Valley of California. This undoubtedly impacted my development, as I witnessed farmworkers loading into rusty pickup trucks, bending over rows of strawberry shrubs, and retreating under small tents. My own great-grandmother, Estella Florez, died because of these conditions of work in the fields. Because of this, I believe my advocacy is inspired by empathy. I know that farmworkers as some of the most dedicated, loyal, and strong workers the nation has to offer. And I really try to convey that to others whenever the opportunity is available.

In your opinion, why is it important for you to take on this mission of getting this app out to farmworkers, and why do you think it’s important that their situations are highlighted?

If I don’t create this application, who will? Not many people outside of Delano, Wasco, and Shafter know about the problems that remain unsolved in these types of rural, agricultural communities. So, I believe, as members of these communities, it is our responsibility to make more people aware and of the plight of farmworkers, because only we have the experience to vividly illustrate the situation—the sweltering heat, the calloused fingers, the sore backs, and the blistered feet—and personalize statistics regarding heatstroke. I think it’s important to do so, because no person in the nation should have to sacrifice their health for their work.

How will the app help improve lives through its features?

The application is relatively simple. It functions to register farmworkers under farms, fetch local weather data, send text-based notifications, host educational videos and quizzes, and serve as a hotline to 911 and Cal OSHA. I believe that, through these combined functions, the cases of heatstroke reported will drastically decrease within the next decade. Workers will not only be more aware of their legal rights, but they will also be more cognizant of their health and safety, which I believe is very important as the climate changes.  

How did you find the USC team behind the development of the application, and what was it like working with them on this?

I found out about the Viterbi School of Engineering through notable alumni of the University of Southern California. I submitted a proposal, outlining the basic application concept, and a team of graduate students picked it up as their first semester project. Since then, we have met frequently, setting up meetings with contractors, farm workers, farmers, and regulators in the Central Valley. We have also refined the functionality of the web-based platform, which we now will convert to an iOS application. And working with them has been amazing. They are a very diverse, versatile, and skilled group of students. They are, also, incredibly compassionate and empathetic individuals. They’ve gone above and beyond, and have even chosen to work during the summers with us. So, this all would not be possible without their hard work and dedication to the project.

Your startsomegood.com fundraiser is at more than 50,000 dollars, with 30 days to go. How does it feel that your idea and the proposed solutions indeed do have support from others?

About a year ago, I started explaining the application concept to others. The responses were decently snarky and petty questions regarding why this application was even necessary or feasible. So, I began to feel very doubtful about the achievability and success of the project. However, the amount of support I am now receiving on the fundraising page is…overwhelming. To say that I am appreciative is an understatement.

If you meet your goals for this fundraiser, what would be the plan long term for the application, and have you theorized how it would be possible to have farmworkers acquire the smartwatches, which are generally pricey accessories?

If we meet the goal for our fundraiser, the 60,000 dollars would be dedicated to our ultimate goal of standardizing the application amongst farms across California. We will focus the funds, specifically, on producing quality educational content, purchasing apple watches for the pilot, running trial and error sessions on farms, refining the application functions, and ultimately implementing the application on larger-scale farms. Though the goal is ambitious, we are hoping that farmers see both humanitarian and financial incentives of implementing this technology on farms: lowering insurance rates, increasing productivity levels, and promoting the health and safety of their workers.

More information on the “Calor” app and fundraising efforts can be found at Calorapp.org and startsomegood.com/Calorapp.

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