05 Dec

Breathing Easier

Environmental Health Services - Family

Yazmin’s family had no furniture in their one-room apartment, only a single mattress leaning against the wall.  Her baby suffered from lead exposure, and her oldest son had bad allergies and Asthma symptoms due to the poor conditions of the apartment.

In East Harlem, health conditions due to poor housing are all too common. The rates of emergency room visits related to childhood asthma are disproportionately higher in East Harlem compared to other communities.

To help families breathe easier, Community Health Workers from LSA  work closely with families to improve the conditions of their homes and advocate with landlords to make needed repairs.

“LSA has been focused on the asthma issue for over a decade,” explained our Program Director, Ray Lopez in a 2015 Dateline NBC special on asthma called Breathless. “We’ve been working hands-on with families at home to eliminate mold, pests and toxins so they can breathe again.”

Rosario, one of LSA’s skilled Community Health Workers, made regular visits with Yazmin to improve the air quality in her apartment.  LSA provided the family with a new bed, play pen and storage bins. The family was also loaned a HEPA vacuum cleaner and provided integrated pest management, including vacuuming, cleaning, and sealing cracks and holes.

Today, the environmental asthma triggers are under control, the health of the children has improved and Yazmin and her family have a new, more positive outlook for the future.

“The situation was very sad when I met her, but now to see the smile on her face is all I need,” Rosario said.

“We’re very happy,” Yazmin said, describing how her son’s asthma has improved.  “He used to have a lot of problems, a lot of allergies.  Little Sisters really helped to improve our quality of life and the quality of life of our children.”

A 2017 report published by the New York Academy of Medicine described the impact of our program in reducing childhood asthma symptoms. Learn more.


LSA relies on the support of individuals to continue to providing services like this to families facing challenges to their health and well-being.

Help us make a difference and make a donation today.

 

27 Nov

Cristian’s Story

Families come to LSA for many reasons. Homelessness, food insecurity, chronic illness, isolation and other threats to well-being lead people to seek our family support services.  Each client has a unique story of courage and perseverance.

Cristian shared his moving story with guests at the 2017 Spirit of East Harlem gala.  Below is the speech he shared.

When I arrived in this country, I lived in Queens with my wife and our four children.  Unfortunately, my wife suffers from mental health problems. She began to abuse me verbally and physically and even threatened me.  I was very afraid and left home with my children.

For 8 very difficult days we lived in a shelter in the Bronx.  Then we moved into a family shelter.  They gave us emergency food and other help, but in a few days the food they gave us ran out, my children were hungry, and I didn’t have work or money for food. 

I spent hours thinking, crying.  One day I found a paper with information about Little Sisters of the Assumption pantry.  When I walked through the doors, they greeted me warmly.  They made me an appointment and gave me an emergency bag of food to feed my family.   I do not know if you know what that represents for a person who comes to your doors looking help.  I returned to the shelter with new inspiration. On my next visit to Little Sisters, they made an appointment for me to meet with an immigration lawyer. They invited me to support groups and even gave me vouchers to buy clothes. At that moment, I felt that a great weight was lifted from me. I felt that my problems and my situation were not mine alone, that someone wanted to help me. Little Sisters helped me in so many ways, they even gave me a turkey so that I could cook my first Thanksgiving dinner for my children. 

Soon I started volunteering at Little Sisters.  I came to understand that the purpose of life is to serve, love and help others.  I was assigned to volunteer only a few hours a week, but I felt so good about myself, that I came back every day.  Eventually, I was hired and made part of this wonderful family.

Today, with much pride and on behalf of my children, I want to say THANK YOU LITTLE SISTERS FAMILY HEALTH SERVICE.  My family and I will always be grateful.


To support our health, education and family support programs, make a tax-deductible donation today.  Your contribution will make an immediate difference for families in our programs.

Donate Now

17 Oct

Video: Spirit of East Harlem 2017

Each year, LSA provides over 2,000 families with health, education and family support services.  In 1958, our founders began providing nursing care to mothers in East Harlem.  Today, we still offer maternal health nursing, with additional programs that strengthen whole families, including new immigrants to our community.  In this video, two mothers share their LSA story.

15 Nov

Thank you, Barbara!

LSA staff celebrated Barbara Richert, who has volunteered as a mental health counselor with our Parenting and Child Development program for 11 years. Barbara is bringing her regular volunteerism with LSA to a close this month.

“There are no words to say how grateful we are to have her for 11 years,” said Inginia Garcia, co-director of the socialization program. “She has given unconditional support to our families. It has been amazing.”

Heather Mitchell, former director of the Parenting and Child Development program joined us for the farewell celebration. She said of Barbara: “I feel so grateful to have worked with Barbara for so many years. She’s one of the most giving people, and it’s wonderful to see her with the staff. Thank you for giving so much of yourself to so many people for so long.” True to her generous spirit, Barbara’s farewell party included a ‘gift’ from her to the Parenting and Child Development team: a lesson on slow breathing to reduce anxiety and stress.

The party also included a serenade of boleros!

Of her time at LSA, Barabara said: “It’s such a special place, in part because of you who are doing such important work, more important than ever. The work that you do here is bigger than any one individual.”

Barbara recently participated in a video, created in partnership with Catholic Charities, in which she describes her work with LSA families. We at LSA Family Health Service offer Barbara our deepest gratitude for her years of service.

Thank you!

The Parenting and Child Development team

Sebastian Cruz (left) and friends serenaded Barbara

01 Jul

Monte Sinai Students Volunteer

Monte Sinai Student Volunteers

June 8, 2016 — Thirty high school students from the Monte Sinai High School near Mexico City, Mexico, came to LSA to learn about our work and to participate in activities with children in LSA programs. They toured the building and had a Q&A session with LSA Advocate, Pura Cruz.

The students brought art supplies and snacks with them and played games with the children.

The activity had a great impact on the high school students. One of the facilitators from the high school wrote:

It was an honor visiting you and having an activity with the kids.

Most of our high school students come from migrant families that arrived to Mexico in WWII.  They had never before thought about what it must have been like for their grandparents to have to move to another country, and most of all they did not understand the issues of poverty and immigration and were not aware how often it still happens today. It was definitely an eye opening experience for our students to learn about the struggles of Mexican immigrants in the United States.

The conclusions they gave at the end of the trip about Little Sisters and what they learned here were amazing. They said that they just learned about an entire different  reality of the  USA, NY and the world in general that they were not aware of previously.

They learned that sometimes just by playing with someone you can give so much.

At the end of the activity, the students very generously donated from their own pockets, and the total amount was $354.

We look forward to having students from Monte Sinai visit LSA again next summer!

28 Apr

Pantry Volunteer Helps Families Think Healthy

Gabriela Sanchez, Food Pantry Volunteer

Gabriela Sanchez, a recent Hunter College graduate, volunteers once a week in the LSA food pantry. She has always had an interest in nutrition and community health — volunteering at local health programs in college as well as various farmers’ markets. She currently works part-time and is a development intern for New York Cares and Slow Food USA where she helps with fundraising and outreach. Despite working and interning, Gabriela still somehow finds time to volunteer.

Having an aunt who worked at LSA for ten years, she thought that volunteering at LSA would be a great way to gain experience post-graduation. Gabriela said volunteering is a great way to obtain valuable work experience and knowledge about the community, as well as learn the inner-workings of an organization. She believes it is a “great stepping stone” for her career and an excellent way to directly contribute to the community. Working in an environment where every employee is “nice, smart and welcoming” encourages her to work harder. “Seeing people at LSA who have worked here for so long is inspiring — it’s great to see the camaraderie here.”

What is the best thing about volunteering at LSA? Gabriela paused and a huge smile covered her face from ear to ear. She responded simply, “It makes me feel really good.” Working at the food pantry every Wednesday, she does the heavy lifting, re-stocking, and often works non-stop for hours. However, she feels rewarded being able to see how many families and people they’ve served.

Although Gabriela only started volunteering in October of 2015, she has already begun two projects with a focus on nutrition and food advocacy. As a pantry volunteer she was able to see firsthand the severity of the nutritional and health issues facing members of the community.

Gabriela saw that clients were interested in learning better eating and shopping habits. She decided to reach out to a local branch of the nationwide program, Cooking Matters at the Store –a federally based program that provides materials and a curriculum to organizations to help them lead their own tours at supermarkets. Gabriela hopes to directly teach people in small groups the best practices and techniques when shopping for food. In these tours, leaders will teach various shopping skills, such as reading nutritional labels or determining the difference between fresh and canned foods. “I basically just want to teach people how to shop so they can get the best monetary and nutritional value.” She led a workshop in March with moms whose children are in the tutoring program. There will be another “Cooking Matters at the Store” workshop in May.

Her second project involves creating recipes using ingredients provided by the food pantry. She became curious as to what people really prepared with the food LSA provided every week. She began doing her own research — buying sandwiches and meals from local restaurants and stores and recreating them using affordable ingredients in her own home. Having little time herself, she believed that she had a good approach and perspective similar to the clients who had little resources and time to create nutritionally sound meals. After working closely with the Advocacy staff, Gabriela is kick starting this new project at LSA. She would like to use the ingredients found in LSA’s own pantry to create recipe cards that include nutritional values.

Gabriela believes the holistic approach has been vital to LSA’s success and is what makes it so successful and distinguishes it from other non-profit organizations. “LSA is a good model for other non-profit organizations” she said. “There should be more trustworthy organizations like LSA that focus on the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups.

Gabriela would like more people to know about LSA. She would like others to know about the  work LSA does, the range of services provided, its importance to the community.  She would like LSA to be known by everyone in New York and beyond, hoping that “when people hear East Harlem, I want them to think LSA and know the great work that they do.”

Story by Julia Correa, Development Special Projects volunteer

28 Apr

Breaking out of her comfort zone

Student overcomes shyness as a volunteer

Rosa Sanchez, Christo Rey Student Volunteer

Rosa Sanchez, a 12 grade student at Christo Rey High School on 106th and Park, says the best part of her volunteer experience has been to “really connect” with the toddlers she works with in the Parent and  Child Development program. She also loves the feeling of being “trusted” by the mothers to take care of their children. She also mentioned how welcoming the program staff have been, and how patient and willing they have been to teach her how to interact with the families. She said this experience has helped her to overcome her shyness and “break out of her comfort zone.”

Rosa began in the fall with 3 other Christo Rey volunteers; and typically the commitment is for only one semester; however she had such a good experience that she asked to be placed for a second semester at LSA, and it was permitted.

Rosa is hoping to attend Fordham University in the fall – it was her first choice of 9 colleges she applied to (she was accepted to all nine). She wants to study forensic pathology with a minor is psychology.

She said if she decides not to pursue forensic psychology, she would like to be an early childhood teacher.

We probably can guess where she got that idea!

 

28 Apr

Helping Families Through Art

Nicole Walker, Art Therapy Intern, Parenting and Child Development Program

“Everyone is so close in the program – teachers, aides – everyone knows each other well,” said Nicole Walker, describing what it’s like to work in the Parent and Child Development program at LSA.  “It’s a very interactive environment, and they made it easy for me to jump right in.  It’s a lot of fun, like being with family,” she said.

Nicole is a senior at Marymount Manhattan College studying art therapy. She will be graduating in May, and says her time at LSA has reinforced her interest in becoming an art therapist.  In addition to spending thee half days at LSA, she is a part time nanny for a family with four children on the Upper East Side.

She said that the most exciting part of the volunteer work is “meeting and interacting with so many different children.”  Though she does not speak Spanish, the primary language of the majority of our families, she has come to know the children well. “I learned that each child is so different and has a unique personality,” she says.

Nicole describes her most memorable experience: “When one of the toddlers in the program, named Nicole, learned that my name is Nicole, she first didn’t believe there could be someone else named Nicole! But she finally accepted it, and now whenever she sees me, she comes running right up to me, and gives me a big hug. Every time.”