26 Apr

National Volunteer Week

It’s National Volunteer Week, and here at LSA we are counting our volunteer blessings!

We have an amazing group of dedicated, passionate volunteers who support nearly every program at LSA.  From after school tutors, to homework helpers, early childhood classroom assistants and food pantry and thrift store helpers (to name just a few), our volunteers are truly invaluable to the services we provide to our East Harlem neighbors.

75 volunteers are currently supporting LSA. We know we really can’t do the good work we do without them!

We are celebrating all week on social media by highlighting some of the amazing volunteers who help us serve the community, like Fran, the volunteer tutor in the photo above.   Read about her and other volunteers below.

We’ll be celebrating again on June 9th, at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Evening.

From the bottom of all our hearts here at LSA, THANK YOU volunteers, for all you do!

 

 

25 Apr

Verano Verde

Verano Verde

Save the Date for

VERANO VERDE: A Celebration of East Harlem

Hosted by the Junior Board of LSA Family Health Service

Tickets will be on sale soon!

June 22, 2017
6:30pm – 9:30pm
in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery, Lincoln Center Film Society
at plaza level on the north side of West 65th Street
165 West 65th St

Enjoy cocktails, refreshments, entertainment and a silent auction

All proceeds will support programs for children and families at LSA Family Health Service.

 

14 Apr

NBC4: Immigrant Hunger Pains

April 13, 2017 – Immigrant families from LSA programs spoke with NBC4’s Melissa Russo about their fear of receiving food stamps for their U.S. citizen children in light of a greater fear: deportation.  The NBC4 I Team story shows scenes in LSA’s food pantry and classrooms.

Staff at LSA have been working closely with families concerned about shifting immigration policies, including conducting “Know Your Rights” workshops and connecting families to free legal consultation through partner organizations.  In addition, we are assuring families who are struggling with food insecurity that they can feel safe visiting our food pantry for assistance.

Watch and read the full report below:

NBC4 New York I-Team: Fearing Deportation, Immigrant Families in Tri-State Are Forgoing Needed Food Benefits

“It scares me because I start to think they have all my info and then at any time they can grab you and then what happens to my kids?” one mother of eight says.

By Melissa Russo

Some needy immigrants in the tri-state area are giving up free food from the government and charitable groups, saying they’d rather risk hunger than deportation.

Several local anti-poverty groups tell the I-Team their immigrant clients are asking for help getting off the food stamp rolls because they fear accepting the benefit will expose them to scrutiny from federal immigration officials.

Like many families with mixed immigration status, the parents are undocumented, from Mexico City, but their three young children were born in America. As U.S. citizens, the children are entitled to $345 a month in food stamps; the benefit will run out at the end of April.

Speaking in his tiny kitchen recently as he prepared burritos for his children, the father told the I-Team he works 70 hours a week in below minimum wage jobs. He says the food stamps have helped him feed his children for the past year. The couple doesn’t have the money to buy the food needed to feed their whole family without the help of the food stamps, but the parents say they want to stay off the radar of federal immigration officials.

“I buy food for my kids. Not for us, for my kids,” the father said. “But right now I am scared because I hear a lot of things around New York.”

Several families tell the I-Team they’d rather eat fewer meals than risk being separated from their children if they face deportation.

Another mother without papers who calls herself “Kristina” has eight children, several of whom are U.S. citizens and qualify for food stamps. She says the community-based non-profit LSA Family Health Service talked her out of canceling the benefits, but she remains fearful.

“It scares me because I start to think they have all my info and then at any time they can grab you and then what happens to my kids?” she says.

Local programs for the poor are conflicted about how to advise their needy clients on this subject. Wengler says he’s not comfortable assuring families that accepting benefits won’t harm them down the road.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says.

Recent statements by President Trump have fueled the fear, including one that said “those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially.” A draft of a White House executive order leaked in February called for potentially expanding the list of benefits by which an immigrant could be defined as a public charge and thus be deported.

A spokesman for the NYC Human Resources Administration, the local agency that administers the federal food stamp program, tells the I-Team their data does not reflect a trend of people discontinuing their benefits. According to HRA, the federal government does not possess a list of local food stamp recipients even though it is a federal program. City officials insist they have no plans to turn over any such lists. But such reassurances only go so far. The I-Team has learned some immigrants are afraid to even accept groceries from community-based food pantries that have no connection to government.

At the West Side Campaign against Hunger, housed in the basement of a West 86th Street church, the freezers are full of tilapia, turkey and fresh produce. Spanish-speaking, grateful grandmothers wheel shopping carts and suitcases from all five boroughs to access the free, nutritious staples offered to the low income clientele. But in recent months, Gregory Silverman, a chef who runs the pantry, has noticed what he describes as an alarming trend.

“We have customers calling on a regular basis asking to have their information taken out of our databases,” he said. “They’re not willing to come in because of fear. And translating the message to them to say, ‘It’s okay,’ is not really that easy.”

Silverman says dozens of clients a week have pulled out of the program, despite staff explaining their database is not viewed by immigration officials.

The NY Common Pantry in East Harlem, which doles out enough groceries to provide about seven meals a month to its customers, has also noticed a downturn. Jose Garcia, a retired father from the Dominican Republic, says this pantry “helps his budget.” Garcia says he no longer encounters some of his fellow immigrants on the food line. He says he worries about some of them who are collecting bottles and cans instead to make ends meet.

“They afraid they getting arrested,” he said.

Some anti-hunger programs in New Jersey describe a similar situation. At the Christ Church Food Pantry in New Brunswick, director Judith Kuldinow says she has lost dozens of immigrant clients.

“It’s sad that in this day in age that people don’t have enough food. That’s exactly why we’re here,” Kuldinow said. “And now we’re one of the people they’re afraid to come to.”

The Trump administration did not respond to a message seeking comment left Thursday morning.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in New York declined comment and referred questions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A message was left.

—–

Source: I-Team: Fearing Deportation, Immigrant Families in Tri-State Are Forgoing Needed Food Benefits | NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com/investigations/Immigrant-Identity-Fear-Deportation-New-York-Hunger-Children-Investigation-Food-Stamp-Apply-Benefits-419375124.html#ixzz4eELq9GNU

10 Apr

Something Fantastic!

Something Fun!

April 9, 2017 – Forty five children from LSA families enjoyed a fantastic evening on Broadway at our Something Fun! family fundraiser.  The event raised close to $20,000 for our programs.

The event included lunch and games at Dave & Buster’s restaurant on 42nd Street.  After lunch, guests crossed the street to watch Something – a performance at the New Victory Theater by the Liberi Di Physical Theater group.

Our deep thanks go to the many event sponsors whose generous contributions sponsored tickets for LSA children and supported our organizations.

Click the arrows on the left or right to scroll through photos from the event.

23 Mar

Mobile bank comes to LSA

Mobile Banking

March 17, 2017 – LSA hosted a celebration of a “pop-up” credit union financial health initiative, in collaboration with The Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment, the New Economy Project and the LES People’s Federal Credit Union.

The two main parts of the initiative are, first, the deployment of a mobile banking branch of the LES Credit Union – a 40-foot bus – to promote financial health in the neighborhood, with a focus on Spanish-speaking and immigrant members of the community. In addition, a team of community members recruited through LSA Family Health Service serve as financial health promoters, or promotoras. These promoters are peer educators who conduct workshops and speak with people one-on-one to provide information about financial rights and opportunities with respect to banking. They also share information about the LES Credit Union which is an affordable banking option in the community. The goal is to bridge the financial services divide by delivering reliable, accessible information and high-quality services in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Lorelai Salas of the Department of Consumer affairs attended and commended the work of the promotoras: “the promotoras do is key… and we are grateful to be working with them.”

The initiative began with workshops with community members to understand the needs in the neighborhood. As part of their training, promotoras visited all the banks in the community and discovered that many of them had fees and ID requirements that were prohibitive and kept people from opening accounts. “In East Harlem there is a financial divide,” said Deyanira Del Rio of The New Economy Project. “There are 2 pawn shops or check-cashing places for every bank… What we’re doing today is celebrating a campaign we designed to eliminate some of the barriers to financial opportunity.”

Alicia Portada of the LES People’s Federal Credit Union described how grateful the credit union was to work with the promotoras: “For us it has been a good lesson to get feedback. [The promotoras know about the financial dynamics in the community. It has also been an excellent outreach tool — we have reached more people than we would with a flyer or an email. I want to thank the women, and I really hope that we can continue to work together.”

Guillermina, one of the promotoras shared her own story in Spanish: “I am grateful because I had an account in a bank that charged me every month for being below the minimum. I didn’t know that I could have an account without those fees. When I learned, I changed my account and myself became part of the credit union.”

The pop-up mobile banking bus will be at LSA every Friday during the month of March for people who want to open account.

Promotoras with Commissioner Salas and members of New Economy Project and LES People’s Credit Union

20 Mar

We have a new CEO!

Reada Edelstein

We are pleased to announce that Reada Bunin Edelstein has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of LSA Family Health Service. Reada was appointed CEO by the Board of Directors in February 2017 after serving for over two years as LSA’s Chief Development and Communications Officer. She served as Interim CEO from August 2016 through February 2017.

Reada brings to the position over 30 years of experience in nonprofit management and resource development. She came to LSA in November 2014 from the Center for Social Inclusion, where she was Director of Development. Prior to that, she led her own full service event firm and served as Associate Executive Director of Communications and Development for the YWCA of the City of New York. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from Adelphi University and completed two years of family therapy from the Ackerman Institute for the Family.

Most recently, Reada was part of a small team made up of senior management and Board members that led the agency through a strategic review, helping to position the agency for innovation and growth in response to the changing needs of the community.

Reada plans to lend her expertise to preserving our mission and helping the agency position itself for the future. She states:

“Our commitment to East Harlem, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the City, remains undiminished. We will continue to serve the community, with a special focus on the needs of immigrant families.”

Reada replaces Traci Lester, who stepped down from her role as Chief Executive Officer in July 2016.

07 Mar

Before PreK

Parenting and Child Development program

Photo by Micah Rubin

LSA’s early childhood program empowers parents, nurtures healthy child development

Wendy Miron, director of our Parenting and Child Development program, teacher Miriam Pena and home visitor Jennifer Ferreira met recently to share how the program prepares both children and parents for a successful experience in preschool.  The program includes home visits twice a month and participation in group socialization classes twice a week with the aim of empowering parents to nurture health child development. The goal: keeping at-risk children 0-3 developmentally on track during the most critical years of brain development. 

WM: Wendy Miron, Director, Parenting and Child Development
MP: Miriam Pena, Teacher, Socialization Program
JF: Jennifer Ferreira, Home Visitor

 

Building Trust, One-on-One

WM: Everything that we do is based on the five priorities – language and literacy; play and exploration; attachment, security and separation; self-regulation and emotional development; and connection to resources. That has really helped to make sure that everyone is working on the same goals with the parents. It might look different, because the home visitors are working with the parent and the child in the home and the teachers are working in the classroom setting, but everybody’s focusing on the same things.

JF: As a home visitor, I meet one-on-one with the mother and the child. The home visit gives an opportunity for the mom to speak up more. They’re in their own homes, and they don’t feel intimidated by anyone. It allows the home visitors to motivate and encourage the moms to know their rights and inform them as much as possible. That connects with the language priority – because if the mom is expressing herself more in general, she’ll be able to express herself more to her child. Encouraging the mom, motivating the mom, making her feel confident will also reflect on the child. It’s a domino effect.

MP: And I feel like having that one-on-one interaction also motivates moms to advocate for themselves. The mom can express her needs and the home visitor can guide her in the process of what to do next. The home visitors are there to push parents so that they can advocate for themselves and hopefully, later on, for their children.

One of the things happening now because of the political situation is that a lot of the kids are being bullied. I have a mom who has a child that is 6 years old. He was being bullied at school because of his background. You know, “you’re an immigrant, you need to go back to Mexico” – that sort of thing. It got to the point where the child was being aggressive at home and at school. He was feeling like he wasn’t wanted.

The mom didn’t feel she had the right to advocate for her child. So I connected her with a home visitor. The home visitor was able to say, “Its okay. You can speak for your child. He’s feeling this way. You are his advocate. You need to advocate. You need to defend him.” It was very important to have that home visitor encourage the mom to actually be heard and say it’s okay to speak up and voice what I feel – and to mirror what her child can do for himself.

“Even if we may not see it as directly related to child development, connecting parents to resources that alleviate some of their challenges can allow them to focus on the developmental priorities and making sure that the children are learning.”  –Wendy Miron, Director of Parenting and Child Development

WM: Sometimes when we talk about what the early childhood program does we focus on developmental milestones and making sure the kids are meeting those, but it’s so much more than that. We incorporate everything that’s going on in the environment for the families. Even if we may not see it as directly related to child development, connecting parents to resources that alleviate some of their challenges can allow them to focus on the developmental priorities and making sure that the children are learning.

We really work on building trust – not just assuming that people are going to trust us because we’re service professionals – but really building the trust and learning to understand who they are and valuing them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak English or you’re undocumented or you’ve never gone to school. We really value who you are and what you bring. I think that probably sets the program apart – and that’s why we have a waitlist. We’re never short of clients.

Preschool Prep, Starting at 6 Months

WM:  One of things we do is help parents understand what Head Start is. It’s easy to assume that families know what Head Start is, but if you’re coming from another country you might not. Whereas a family may have waited until kindergarten to put their children in school – because maybe the parent didn’t feel ready or they thought that the children were too young – by coming here, a lot of the families have been able to start their children’s education in Head Start.

MP: Our program starts with babies. We have three groups of children – the groups are 0-9 months old, then 10-19 months, and 20-36 months. With the 20-36, the focus is more on activities where the child and mom are together but there will also be occasions where they separate. We’re doing activities where the children will be with a teacher on one side of the room and moms and the other teacher will be together in a separate area of the room. Or, for example, the other day we had a workshop. Some of the children felt safe enough to stay in the classroom while the moms were in nearby room for the workshop. We do activities like that to get parents and children ready to separate when the time comes. And like Yolanda, it’s usually not the kids who have a hard time separating. It’s often a mom or dad who says “I’m not ready” or “is he going to be okay?”

Because I usually work with the youngest group – the babies, I usually focus more on moms. I ask: “How has it been for you?” “How do you feel?” We talk a lot about attachment and the importance of bonding with their children.

Earth Day Activities

A toddler explores a new texture and develops motor skills

WM: With the program priority of play and exploration, teachers and home visitors focus on talking to the parents about their experiences as children – what did they play with or how did they play, how do they understand the importance of play.

With literacy – even if a family has very low literacy, we emphasize the importance of having books around and exposing children to books, or we show parents how they can share a book even if they don’t know how to read. And we talk about how, in addition to early literacy, reading promotes attachment and self-regulation. That’s how the five program priorities come together, because a parent and child might be working on language, but by being able to express their needs they’re also working on self-regulation, because if you have more verbal ability to express your needs and understand your feelings, then you’re probably better able to self-regulate. I think it’s great the way the priorities come together in everything that the program does.

Parenting & Child Development Graduation

Graduation day for children in the program.  LSA staff help families transition to preschool.

JF: When it comes to schools and children, research shows that children from Spanish-speaking families are more likely to be delayed in speech when they enter kindergarten. For our program to focus on very young children, providing their families with the resources they need so that when their children enter school they can be ready – it’s amazing. There are not a lot of programs that start from 0-3.

WM: –and work with the parent. I think that also sets us apart. It’s really a two-generation approach. We’re working with the parent and we’re working with the child at the same time.

MP: Most of the programs that are like ours, either you have to pay or you have to have papers to qualify for them. And we welcome everybody here, whether you speak Spanish or you don’t, whether you are working or not, we just welcome everybody.

WM:  Another thing that sets us apart is that we have the resources of the other programs at LSA. Of course, we make referrals outside the agency, but I think it’s helpful to refer families to programs right here in the building if, for example, families need the food pantry or legal assistance or a mom is pregnant. That also makes the program strong. It is a holistic approach that we take. It really helps parents, they feel comfortable to get the resources. And we work really well together, and that also helps.

I think that’s one of the strengths of this program. I worked at a Head Start before and, you know, you can plan great workshops, but you have to be able to get the families there. This program helps parents understand that it’s really beneficial for them to access resources. So, in addition to the home visits and socialization groups, we may have a fire safety workshop or a “Know Your Rights” workshop or a special education workshop. Parents come to learn the value of attending them, and hopefully that understanding is something they will take with them when their children move on to PreK or Head Start.

06 Mar

Solidarity March

March 4, 2017 — Around 30 staff members, families, and volunteers gathered on the Upper East Side to walk under the LSA banner in the East Harlem Solidarity March, hosted by NYC Council Speaker and East Harlem District 8 City Council representative Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Marchers held posters with positive messages of solidarity with families in the community, especially with immigrant families. LSA was joined by the team of Cada Paso, and walked with fellow community and health organizations that serve the neighborhood. The march ended at the Johnson Community Center on Lexington Avenue, where various speakers – including our own CEO, Reada Edelstein, and Child Specialist Yolanda Tovar – spoke to express messages of unity with the families we serve.

   

02 Mar

Associated Press: LSA’s Mental Health Services for Immigrants

Mas alla del miedo

The Associated Press featured LSA in a story on efforts by community groups to expand mental health services to immigrants in the midst of uncertain immigration policies.

Below  is an excerp, followed by the English translation, describing a workshop at LSA called “Más allá del miedo” (Beyond Fear) which included art therapy to help participants process the anxiety they experienced.  The full story can be read here.


Ven aumento de ayuda psicológica a inmigrantes por Trump

Por Claudia Torrens

NUEVA YORK (AP) — El temor a que la deporten y separen de su hija de dos años llevó a la mexicana María Luisa a una sesión de ayuda psicológica.

La terapia llamada “Más allá del miedo” fue organizada por un grupo sin ánimo de lucro de East Harlem, en Manhattan, que busca aliviar el estrés que la política migratoria del presidente Donald Trump ha generado en los inmigrantes.

“Sentí que podía hablar, expresar mis miedos”, dijo la hispana de 34 años que prefirió no dar su apellido. “Pude compartir ideas y me tranquilizó ver a otras madres con el mismo sentir que yo”.

Desde que Trump ganó las elecciones en noviembre la necesidad de asistencia psicológica para los inmigrantes es mayor que nunca, aseguraron activistas y psicólogos, aunque aún no hay datos estadísticos disponibles. Miedo, ansiedad y depresión son los síntomas que han visto en ascenso entre la población inmigrante tras las redadas ocurridas recientemente en todo el país y las órdenes ejecutivas que tienen por objetivo la expulsión de los extranjeros sin autorización.

“La necesidad de ayuda psicológica siempre ha estado ahí, pero tras las elecciones y las acciones ejecutivas de Trump el miedo ha aumentado”, dijo Theo Oshiro, vicedirector de Make The Road New York, un grupo que por primera vez está organizando sesiones grupales para inmigrantes con una psicóloga voluntaria.

Aproximadamente 125 de los 171 miembros de un programa de padres y jóvenes de Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, en East Harlem, han manifestado un aumento en la ansiedad debido a las políticas migratorias de Trump, aseguró la portavoz del grupo. Por ello se iniciaron las sesiones de “Más allá del miedo” de las que participan unas 16 madres y donde se sirve café con panecillos, huele a incienso y se oye música relajante.

“Tengo pacientes que no quieren enviar a sus hijos a la escuela”, dijo Mónica Sánchez, la terapeuta que dirige las sesiones. “Decidimos organizar ‘Más allá del miedo’ porque vimos un aumento de personas que tenían miedo, ansiedad. Queríamos decirles que no están solos”.

En la sesión Sánchez entrega un papel y lápices de colores a las participantes y les pide que expresen sus temores a través de un dibujo. Pueden cerrar los ojos y trazar garabatos o dibujar libremente con todo detalle.

“Algunas pintan un círculo negro y lo rayan y dicen ‘no veo nada*. Otras lo describen como un remolino”, explicó.

“Yo pinté un círculo rojo porque me da miedo la sangre y la violencia”, dijo María Luisa.

Durante la reunión, que dura dos horas, a algunas se les quiebra la voz al hablar y lloran tímidamente. Sobre el final del encuentro Sánchez destaca la necesidad de estar preparado para una posible deportación en lugar de quedarse paralizado. …


More Mental Health Support for Immigrants Due to Trump

by Claudia Torrens

NEW YORK (AP) – Fear of being deported and separated from her two-year-old daughter led Mexican Maria Luisa to a mental health counseling session.

The “Beyond Fear” therapy was hosted by a nonprofit group in East Harlem, Manhattan, which seeks to alleviate the stress President Donald Trump’s immigration policy has generated on immigrants.

“I felt I could speak, express my fears,” said the 34-year-old Hispanic woman who chose not to give her last name. “I was able to share ideas and I was relieved to see other mothers with the same feeling as me.”

Since Trump won the November election, the need for psychological assistance for immigrants is greater than ever, activists and psychologists say, although statistics are not yet available. Fear, anxiety and depression are the symptoms they have seen rising among the immigrant population following recent raids across the country and executive orders aimed at the expulsion of foreigners without documentation.

“The need for psychological help has always been there, but after the election and executive actions of Trump, the fear has increased,” said Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make The Road New York, a group that, for the first time, is organizing group sessions for immigrants with a volunteer psychologist.

Approximately 125 of the 171 members of a program of parents and young people at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service in East Harlem have expressed an increase in anxiety due to Trump’s immigration policies, the spokeswoman said. For that reason, the “Beyond Fear” sessions were started, with 16 mothers participating thus far. Coffee and muffins are served; one can smell of incense and hear relaxing music.

“I have patients who do not want to send their children to school,” said Monica Sanchez, the therapist who runs the sessions. “We decided to organize ‘Beyond Fear’ because we saw an increase in people who were afraid, anxious. We wanted to tell them that they are not alone.”

In the session Sánchez gives a paper and colored pencils to the participants and asks them to express their fears through a drawing. Participants can close their eyes and draw intuitively or draw freely in full detail.

“Some paint a black circle and scratch it and say ‘I do not see anything.” Others describe it as a whirlwind,” she said.

“I painted a red circle because I am afraid of blood and violence,” said Maria Luisa.

During the meeting, which lasts two hours, some people’s voices break as they speak and cry timidly. At the end of the meeting Sánchez stresses the need to be prepared for a possible deportation instead of being paralyzed by fear.