19 Jan

A Lively Little Girl Needs a Kidney Donor: New York Times

The New York Times featured the Campos family as part of their Neediest Cases campaign. Below is an excerpt of the original story.  A follow-up story with New Yorkers profiled in the campaign, including the Campos family, can be seen here.

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A Lively Little Girl Needs a Kidney Donor

The Neediest Cases
by Jonathan Wolfe.  December 30, 2015

The day that Edgar Campos brought his wife and newborn girl home from the hospital was bittersweet.

Mr. Campos was overjoyed to have his family under the same roof for the first time, especially his wife, Amalia, 24, who spent almost a week in the hospital with pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and potential organ damage.

“But that moment of happiness was very brief,” Mr. Campos, 29, said.

An hour after his wife arrived, he left to take his older daughter, Maria Guadalupe, 4, to the hospital for a medical procedure. “It was hard to leave those few minutes of happiness,” he said. “It was really very painful.”

Maria learned in April that she had kidney failure. There is no cure. The only remedies are dialysis, a temporary solution, or a kidney transplant. The trip to the hospital that day was to put in a catheter that would be used for her dialysis.

Mr. Campos graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from New York City College of Technology, but he has had a difficult time finding employment.

“You have to be completely dedicated to your job, and sometimes I have to drop everything and take Maria Guadalupe to the hospital,” said Mr. Campos, who receives help with his job search from theCatholic Guild for the Blind. “It’s difficult because now we’re having economic problems.”

Mr. Campos and Maria each receive $750 a month in Supplemental Security Income, and the family receives $250 a month in food stamps. Their rent is $550 a month, and Mr. and Mrs. Campos share a cellphone.

Medicaid pays for most of the family’s medical expenses, and they receive nonfinancial support from the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, which provides social services for vulnerable East Harlem residents.

“I’m asking the public to help me,” Mrs. Campos added, shifting her newborn across her lap to wipe tears from her eyes. “Have pity on me as a mother. I don’t want to see my daughter suffer. Have pity on my daughter. One kidney can completely change her life.”

Read the full story at nytimes.com

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16 Dec

A DREAMer Gives Back


Prioska Galicia, volunteer with reception, data entry, and food pantry

When Prioska’s mom asked where they could go to get help with a DACA application, a friend sent her to LSA.

LSA has been on the forefront of helping people like Prioska apply for DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – which protects people who came to the country as children and know no other home. Our deep roots in the community help us to reach people who are eligible, and our partnerships with organizations like the Legal Aid Society and the NY Legal Assistance Group help us connect individuals to the support they need.

Through LSA, Prioska got assistance in completing her DACA application. Her mom got help, too: “we didn’t know she could get her papers – we thought that she didn’t qualify. But they told her, yes, you’re eligible to become a citizen.”

Her relationship with LSA did not end there. This DREAMer is now giving back to the LSA community through volunteerism.

On her first visit to LSA, Prioska befriended Melina, one of our client advocates. Prioska offered her volunteer assistance as she wanted to give back to LSA in some way. Since then, Prioska has been a regular fixture at LSA, helping out in our food pantry, at our reception desk, and doing data entry.

Prioska said:  “What I like is that I get to interact with people one on one, to practice both my English and my Spanish, and to learn how to be on time and have responsibility. At the reception desk, I need to be ‘open ears and open eyes,’ so I can see who comes in and who needs help, or I’m on the phone helping people. In the food pantry, I’m making them feel comfortable. I just like helping people.”

She has been volunteering since September of 2015 for about six hours a week. Her friendly face often greets our LSA clients at the reception desk when there is an Advocacy staff meeting on Monday afternoons or during an all-staff meeting. She moves seamlessly among the three programs with which she volunteers, and has become an essential help to all.

“Prioska is always enthusiastic and eager to help – she is very attentive to the children, very engaging with our families. Her positive energy is great for children to be around,” said Wendy Miron, Director of the Education and Youth Services program. Prioska helps Wendy with data entry, and also with child care activities on Friday afternoons.

Prioska’s first impression of LSA was the everyone was “very nice” “friendly” and “welcoming.”  Volunteering at LSA has really helped her “to be able to speak up more for myself – I  can get along with a lot of different people as I have to help many different people in the food pantry,” she said.

Through her volunteer work, she is gaining skills that she hopes will prepare her for a future career in Communications.  She says she feels “more prepared to face the challenges ahead,” thanks to her volunteer experience at LSA.

Where does she see herself in 5 years? “I see myself graduating college and having a stable job. I would like to do communications and I would also like to be in the community helping people. That’s my plan.”

Photo by Micah Rubin.

09 Dec

Jessica’s Story

Aaron and Jessica

When Jessica and 18-month old Aaron started attending our socialization groups, Aaron rarely spoke. Our child specialists also noticed that he made little eye contact and did not respond when called by name.

After discussing their observations with Jessica, they soon referred Aaron to the Early Intervention Program, a public program through the City of New York, for extra help with his development.  Because LSA contracts with the city to provide Early Intervention Services, Jessica was able to have Aaron’s services coordinated here, in a setting where she already felt at home.

“I was reassured about the entire process after meeting with an LSA service coordinator assigned to my child’s case,” she said.   “The director of the EIP was also reassuring – Nydia Torres met with me and my child and addressed all of my concerns.”

Over the course of the next year, Aaron received therapy through our Early Intervention Program and participated in the play groups in our Parenting and Child Development Program.

She described her experience with LSA:

“Through the play group I got ideas of what I could do at home to help his fine motor skills, his language, and so forth.  It really helped him being around other children. He would enjoy it and I would enjoy it, too.  You get to meet other parents who might be going through a situation similar to yours or who can help you find out about other resources in the neighborhood.

“Aaron entered early intervention with PDD – Pervasive Developmental Disorder, the Autism Spectrum. I was also told by other professionals outside of EI that they suspected he had ADD and ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

“At the time, when I was first in Early Intervention, I didn’t know about early childhood development, I didn’t know about his diagnosis – I didn’t know about any of those things.  The therapists helped me to understand his diagnosis, how to help him, how to better adapt to his needs.

“My team was always there for me and my family, especially when no one else was there and when no one else understood.  They were there when I needed someone to talk to, to listen and provide advice, making recommendations when I was uncertain. They helped me to make informed decisions for my family’s needs. They were my support.

“With the intensive therapy Aaron has had and the program I had set up with him – he’s almost like a brand new child.  He got so much help and it benefited him so much that he doesn’t even have a diagnosis at this time.”

Thanks to the therapy sessions, Aaron improved dramatically. Today Aaron is in his first year of kindergarten and thriving.  And Jessica has the confidence to support Aaron in years to come. “I am now a better advocate for my child,” she said.  “I bloomed as a parent.”

Join us in helping more families like Elizabeth’s!

04 Dec

Q&A with Alice Nelson

Volunteer Alice Nelson

One of the nice things about LSA is that, once people have been a part of our community, they tend to come back:  old friends stop by to visit, clients return as volunteers, volunteers keep finding new ways to be involved.

They may even travel 10,000 miles, as volunteer Alice Nelson did, to work with us again.  Alice Nelson is a writer from Western Australia.  When she last volunteered with LSA, from 2001-2003, the agency was still in a brownstone on East 119th Street.  On a recent visit she found much changed, but the spirit and heart of the organization as welcoming as ever.

What do you remember about your first volunteer experience with LSA?

I came as a Little Sisters full time volunteer in 2001 and lived with the nuns.  I worked two years at the time in Advocacy.

I just loved how it was like a family, how there was no hierarchy and everyone pitched in. You’d have the bosses bagging food in the pantry as well as the volunteers.  The families felt that as well.  It wasn’t, you know, “us and them.”  It was a really lovely mutual feeling.

What brought you back to New York and LSA?

I’m in New York for the whole winter, staying in East Harlem for the next couple of weeks and pitching in in the food pantry.  I’ve got a novel which is actually set in East Harlem so it’s also a research trip.

Does LSA appear anywhere in the novel you’re working on?

It does!  Heavily disguised, but there is a Catholic social services agency that’s sort of at the center of the novel where the characters go and one character volunteers there.

LSA moved into this building in 2004 – a year after you returned to Australia.  What do you think of it?

I had no idea it was going to be so glamorous!  After my days in the freezing cold basement – freezing in winter and hot in summer – it’s amazing!


In the week since she’s been back, Alice has already been a great help to our Advocacy & Food Pantry, Parenting  and Childhood, and Education and Youth Services programs.  Thanks, Alice!

Photo by Micah Rubin.

30 Nov

Jonathan’s Story

Jonathan's Story

With his neat tie and bright smile, Jonathan is a cheerful presence in The Sharing Place – LSA’s community thrift store.  He has been volunteering in the store this fall to meet his community service requirement as a sophomore at Cristo Rey High School.  And he likes the work.  “I like helping clients find what they want because they thank you, and that’s a good feeling,” he says.

Though he started volunteering this fall, he’s not new to LSA.  In fact, as a graduate of LSA’s nursing and early childhood programs, Jonathan has been a part of the LSA family since his birth!

Jonathan’s mother, Alva, first came to LSA for nursing care when she was pregnant with Jonathan.  Our nurses helped ensure that she remained healthy throughout her pregnancy and after Jonathan was born.  Alva enrolled Jonathan in our early childhood parenting program and was actively involved in LSA’s parent groups.  With the help of LSA, Alva took ESL and GED classes.  Eventually, she even started working with LSA to provide childcare for children while parents attended special workshops.

Although it was a long time ago, Jonathan still remembers coming to LSA with his mom. “I used to come hang out with my friends,” he says.  “I feel comfortable around here because everyone knows me, and I can just be myself.”

Today, Jonathan is a successful student.  He likes math and wants to pursue a career in technology.  We are proud to have a graduate of our programs giving back to the LSA community and wish Jonathan a world of success!

Join us in helping more families like Jonathan’s!

Jonathan bringing out clothing to stock on the shelves of The Sharing Place.

Jonathan bringing out clothing to stock on the racks of The Sharing Place.




Photo by Micah Rubin.

30 Nov

Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth's Story

For most of us, home is a place of warmth and comfort.  But for Elizabeth Gonzalez and her three children, home is a dangerous.

“Cockroaches scurry across the walls and floor. Elizabeth has tried to get rid of them, but they keep coming back—through the electric outlets and from under the sink, where leaking pipes create a black sludge. Her floor is wet, her walls damp and moldy. Garbage bags stacked in the living room keep the family’s possessions dry. Despite multiple complaints, no work has been done to make things better.”

That is how a National Geographic reporter described Elizabeth’s apartment in a recent article about Asthma in East Harlem.

Elizabeth and her three children all have asthma, made worse by asthma triggers in their home that she has not been able to control on her own – mold, moisture, and roaches.

“I’m happy to have a roof over my head, but this apartment is keeping us sick,” Elizabeth told reporters.

That’s where LSA came in.

LSA’s Environmental Health Services team helped remove some of the mold, loaned her an air filter, and showed her ways to improve the air quality in her apartment.  We also helped her work with her landlord to get much needed repairs.

With LSA’s help, Elizabeth’s family is on their way to having a safe and healthy home.

Join us in helping more families like Elizabeth’s!

Elizabeth wears a mask to clean mold

Elizabeth wears a protective mask to clean mold

A photo of the mold in Elizabeth's bathroom

A photo of the mold in Elizabeth’s bathroom