15 Aug

Thank You to Summer Volunteers!

USI volunteers

We couldn’t do it without you!

student volunteers

Student volunteers in our food pantry

We’re so lucky to have wonderful volunteers who joined us this summer:  students, corporate groups, and others who chose to give their time in service to our community.  We thank the many volunteers who have made a difference, with special thanks to groups from JP Morgan and USI for their service!

All About Pandas

“The kids are all pleasant, fun and engaging. It’s clear that the program is adding value.” —Gary K.

A group of volunteers from JP Morgan joined students in our summer program for an afternoon of activities all about giant pandas. Together, children and volunteers learned panda facts, made their own paper pandas and even found a name for the new class mascot–“Pamboo.”

JP Morgan

JP Morgan volunteers joined children in our summer program.

JP Morgan Volunteers

Volunteers helped children record “panda facts.”

#USIGivesBack

Employees from Emerson Reid/USI volunteered in our food pantry and thrift store in a company-wide service campaign. They helped with our weekly pantry distribution, assisting visitors to the pantry in selecting foods for their families. And they helped sort donations of clothing, preparing them for the Sharing Place thrift store, sales from which help support our other programs.

“I had a wonderful time helping in the food pantry!  I loved interacting with clients and even using a little bit of Spanish that I leanred in high school.  I am glad to have helped them smile and receive any resources they needed.”  —Danielle C.

USI volunteers

Volunteers from USI helped out in our food pantry.

USI volunteers

USI volunteers also helped sorting clothing in our thrift store.

13 Aug

LSA Beats Summer Slide

Children in our summer program beat the summer slide with science, reading, and fun field trips!

The program for children in K-3rd grades, wrapped up in early August.  Over the course of the program, activities helps prevent learning loss or the “summer slide”– a loss in several months of academic gains that can happen over the summer school holiday.

The best way to prevent the summer slide is by reading, and kids in our program did a lot of that!  The overall theme for the summer curriculum was water, and the children read and wrote about a number of topics related to the environment.  Trips and activities helped to reinforce what they learned in the classroom.  For example,  on a trip to Randall’s Island, children explored a salt water marsh and learned about wetland conservation.  They used binoculars, magnifying glasses, fish nets, and traps to find animals in the wetlands, and they did writing and drawing activities to describe what they learned.

On another trip to the Harlem Meer, the children measured water quality and learned about native plants.  They also learned all about giant pandas, with help from guest volunteers from JP Morgan.

Parent engagement was an important part of the program.  Once a week, parents accompanied children for workshops and activities to help them support the academic development of their children at home.  One activity included a trip to the neighborhood library.

The summer program was run by a combination of trained educators and volunteers.  We extend our thanks to the teachers, volunteers and interns from Make the Road and Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) who help make this program so successful for the kids and their families!

Tie-dying

It wouldn’t be summer camp without tie-dying!

Tie-dying

Children learned about the dying process, hands-on.

Randall's Island

On a trip to Randall’s Island, children learned about wetlands.

Randall's Island

On Randall’s Island, discovering wildlife

Parents and children reading together

Parents and children read together in our classroom.

Library trip

Parents joined children for a field trip to the library.

 

 

13 Aug

Video: Celebrating 60 Years

In 2018, LSA Family Health Service celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Little Sisters of the Assumption settling in East Harlem to provide health care and other support services to families.

This video, originally aired at the Spirit of East Harlem gala on May 8, 2018, shares who we are and what we do from the perspective of staff, volunteers, and the families we serve. It reflects the spirit of mutuality—that in lifting others, we are all lifted—that is at the heart of our work and that of our founders.

Video production by honto88.

31 Jul

At the Border

Laredo, TX

At the border, an LSA staff member translates with compassion

July 30, 2018 — Melina Gonzalez, LSA’s Immigration Outreach Coordinator, spent a week  in Laredo TX this July, volunteering as a translator for women detained at the Mexican border and pro bono lawyers that traveled there to help them.  Below is the message she shared with LSA staff and friends.

Melina’s message reminds us of the difference a compassionate presence can make for those in crisis.  It also reminds us that the challenges faced by immigrant families persist.  In our largely immigrant neighborhood of East Harlem, in New York City, where immigrants are central to the city’s history and identity, our commitment to immigrant neighbors remains strong.

We thank Melina for her service, and we are proud of her commitment to helping families, both here and in Laredo.


“I just want to be with my family!”

I have only been in Laredo TX for three days, and I have already witnessed more suffering and injustice then I have seen in all my years working with the immigrant communities in NYC. All I hear from these  woman is, “I want to be with my family!” As an immigrant woman and mother, I can’t bear the thought of not being with my children.

We are not allowed to show any affection to the women we are interviewing—this has been the most difficult part of my journey. I feel the need to comfort them, but I cannot. So I focus all my energy in my work as a translator and do the best I can to make sure all their questions are answered and that all the details of their cases are communicated to the lawyers.

I want to thank all of you for your continued support and affection. It’s because of all of the support of my family, friends and coworkers that I can be here helping this group of lawyers to make a difference in so many ways for the women that are detained in Laredo, TX.

 With much gratitude,

Melina

20 Jul

Field Trips Keep Kids Learning

Students in the k-3 grade summer program are beating the summer slide by exploring the theme of ‘water’ in books, writing and field trips.

On a recent trip to the Harlem Meer at Central Park, the children used scientific methods to examine water quality and the surrounding environment. They kept track of their observations in field journals.

The children sampled the water for E. coli, bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates and nitrites, chlorine, hardness and pH.  They observed the temperature change in the meer using digital thermometers. And they also identified animals and trees around the park (oak, beech, ginkgo, bald cypress, black locust).

Throughout the summer program, children will continue learning about the environment and about different bodies of water.  By keeping children engaged in learning, our program combats the “summer slide,” the tendency to lose some achievement gains students made the previous year.   In 2017, 93% of children in our summer program gained at least one reading level.

Thank you to the great team of teachers, volunteers and interns from Make the Road and Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) who make trips like these possible!

Children took a field trip to the Harlem Meer

Children took a field trip to the Harlem Meer

Measuring water qualities

The children had the chance to measure different water properties.

A magnifying glass helps students see particles in the water.

A magnifying glass helps students see particles in the water.

Children keep track of their observations in field journals

Children keep track of their observations in field journals

 

06 Jul

Building Bridges Summer Exhibit

June 28, 2018 — Families and guests enjoyed an exhibit of work created by mothers in the Building Bridges of Hope Art Therapy Group entitled Las mujeres inmigrantes somos poderosas / We, the immigrant women, are powerful.   The exhibit included works of papier mache, weaving, felting, doll-making, painting, photography and sculpture, among other techniques.

The Building Bridges group works with women and mothers with children 1.5 to 3 years old.  The goal of the group is to empower women, helping them to increase self-esteem, build confidence, and learn effective ways to deal with stress and prevent the negative impact of toxic stress in their children and themselves.

The group provides support to achieve these goals by providing the clients with the stepping stones in understanding toxic stress and trauma, learning self-expression, reducing feelings of shame and guilt, and developing coping skills to deal with stress, anxiety and depression.

Mónica Sanchez, senior mental health counselor and licensed art therapist, led the group, with the assistance of Argelia Tlatelpa.  Our special thanks go to:

  • Partners SAORI Arts NYC, Mano a Mano and Materials for the Arts for lending their expertise t o our workshops and providing art materials and other resources.
  • The musicians who came together for this special concert for LSA’s clients performing songs that were especially selected for our clients: Mireya Ramos, Grammy winner and founder of Flor de Toloache, violin and voice; Nilko Andreas Guarin, guitar and voice;  Sinuhé Padilla, leona and voice; Sebastián Cruz , guitar, requinto and voice.
  • The mothers in the group who brought so much heart to each project.
  • Childcare providers Natividades Prudente and Eulogio Cortez and volunteer Bonnie Jurkschat, who allow mothers in the group the time to reflect, heal and learn.

Below are a few photos from the exhibit.

Monica Sanchez (center) introduces the musicians who performed for guests at the special exhibit.

05 Jul

PCD Graduates Blossom

“Flowers Growing in Life’s Garden” was the theme of graduation for forty 3-year-olds and their parents in our early childhood socialization groups, part of our Parenting and Child Development program.

The program is geared toward families for children 0-3 year old, where there is some risk of developmental delay in the child.  Through the socialization groups and one-on-one home visits, LSA’s early childhood specialists guide parents with parenting techniques to help their children achieve developmental milestones at the appropriate time.  The five focus areas of the program are: attachment and healthy separation, language and literacy, exploration and learning, self regulation and emotional development, and connections to outside resources.

All of the children graduating are either already enrolled in a “3k” or other preschool program, or being assisted by our LIFE (Linking Immigrant Families to Early Childhood Education) project coordinators.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends high-quality early education and child care to improve childrens’ outcomes and prepare them for school.

The graduation theme, “Flowers Growing in Life’s Garden,” was visible everywhere, with flowers decorating the walls of LSA’s 3rd floor.  Teachers dressed as insects and children wore flower tee-shirts.  LSA wishes all the graduating families a happy summer and joyous start in their new schools this fall!

28 Jun

Inside NYC’s Public Housing

LSA’s Ray Lopez was Featured in a Blog by the National Resources Defense Council

The blog, entitled “Inside NYC’s Public Housing, Mold and Neglect Are a Dangerous Combo,” featured activists and residents of public housing involved in the class-action lawsuit and subsequent settlement with NYCHA.   Following is an excerpt.  The full story can be read on the NRDC website: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/inside-nycs-public-housing-mold-and-neglect-are-dangerous-combo


Inside NYC’s Public Housing, Mold and Neglect Are a Dangerous Combo

The New York City Housing Authority has failed to comply with court orders to remedy unhealthy living conditions. But tenants and advocates refuse to let the nation’s biggest residential landlord off the hook.

June 25, 2018 Nicole Greenfield

[Excerpt]

RAY LOPEZ

Director of Environmental Health, LSA Family Health Service

Ray Lopez speaks in a calm and even way, exuding a patience fundamental to his line of work. Since 2001, Lopez has worked with the East Harlem–based Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, helping people struggling with asthma to improve their indoor air quality and reduce the triggers that can lead to attacks. And although he enjoys working on a personal level with households in the neighborhood, Lopez has broadened his mission to address the larger mold and moisture issue plaguing public housing apartments across the city, linking up with Manhattan Together to pressure NYCHA to begin making the necessary repairs.

“Months into this job, I realized that while it’s nice to help one family at a time, I couldn’t ignore the reasons why people were stuck in these kinds of conditions,” he says. “And I quickly realized I couldn’t get NYCHA’s attention on my own.”

Working in tandem, Lopez and the Manhattan Together organizers were able to expedite repairs for some families suffering from rampant mold problems. He says it was rewarding to invite tenants to meetings with NYCHA representatives where they could share their stories. By bringing their concerns out into public forums, Lopez says, the residents were able to hold officials accountable. Despite some heartening cases, however, over time the quality and the timeliness of those repairs went downhill, leaving them no other option than to pursue litigation.

Details from Lopez’s visit to a Taft House apartment show moisture stains under a sink, peeling paint in a child’s bedroom, and a repaired section of a ceiling left unpainted.

Lopez notes that although they still feel frustrated by the relative lack of progress, the tenants in his community do have more tools available to them—namely, advocates like Lopez who now know how to navigate the system, and who have a direct line to legal help and New York City’s Department of Health—and they are often eager to share information with neighbors. They also feel good about shining a brighter light on the mold and asthma issue and to have gained some leverage over the housing authority to be more responsive.

“It’s been a very long game,” Lopez says. “None of these things have quick solutions. But I think we’ve done well with the options in front of us. There’s nothing really you can do except be positive, encouraging, and just not give up.”

[Photo above, from NRDC.org: Ray Lopez, director of environmental health for LSA Family Health Service, uses a device that reads moisture levels during a home visit at Manhattan’s Taft Houses.]

22 Jun

Keep Immigrant Families Together

LSA Family Health Service stands against family separation and for family reunification.

The current immigration crisis in which children are being separated from their parents resonates with us as an organization that:

  • strives to keep families in crisis together;
  • works closely with immigrant families in East Harlem who sacrifice so much to make a better future for their children;
  • provides mental health services to families experiencing the trauma of being separated from their loved ones in coming to this country;
  • is made up of trained professionals who understand the fragility of a developing child and the lasting trauma that separation from a parent can cause;
  • is a community of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.
We urge our legislators and government agencies to return the children quickly and prevent the toxic trauma to children that results from prolonged separation from parents. And we urge them to begin serious work on an immigration policy that is moral, just and humane, and to ensure that this tragedy is never repeated.

What we’re doing to help

For the families we serve, immigration policies that result in families being indiscriminately torn apart have increased the levels of toxic stress in individuals, families, and the community at large. These effects are likely to have long-lasting consequences and intergenerational layers of traumatic stress.

While policy-level changes are essential, the services immigrant families receive through our programs, including a supportive and safe environment, mitigate some of the negative experiences of trauma and loss.

Our on-staff Immigration Outreach Coordinator continues to provide up to date information and resources to families. In the past year, over 1,000 people have participated in our Know Your Rights workshops, and over 400 people received free, on-site immigration legal assistance.

Our counseling and support groups give community members an opportunity to discuss their concerns and fears about immigration policies and the current situation at the border.

We are seeking speakers of indigenous languages in our community to provide translation help to RAICES, a Texas-based organization working to reunite families.

We will continue to mobilize our community to respond in any way we can.

What you can do

Cayuga Centers in East Harlem is looking for Spanish-speaking foster families that would be wiling to temporarily care for immigrant children.  People willing to foster should be Spanish-speaking, live in New York City, and have a bedroom for the child. If you are interested in serving in this role, call the agency’s Home Finding department at 718-860-1656.

Volunteer as a Child Advocate for a unaccompanied migrant child. A Child Advocate is an adult who volunteers to spend time with and advocate on behalf of an individual unaccompanied immigrant child while he or she is subject to deportation proceedings.  Visit Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights for details

The New York Immigration Coalition offers a list of resources for those who wish to take action, including links and referrals to upcoming rallies, information on the most recent immigration legislation, and links to volunteer opportunities and petitions.

Contact your legislators and urge them to close loopholes that allow for family separation. Tell them that you want our government to return separated children to their parents immediately. (Look up contact information for your representatives here.)

Join LSA in the End Family Separation March and Rally taking place on June 30th, 10am – 2pm.  Click here for more details on how to participate.

Make a donation to support LSA Family Health Service and our work with immigrant families in East Harlem.

Updated as of June 23, 2018

12 Jun

New Paths to Family Health

Our six core programs offer vital health and social services to improve family health and well-being. In addition, services offered through our program partners, like financial literacy classes, nutrition workshops, summer camp programs, and legal services offered right in our community center give families opportunities to learn and build a strong foundation for the future.Below are some of our newest initiatives to improve the quality of life for New York families.

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program – LSA partners with the Food Bank for New York City on VITA to connect low-income New Yorkers with free tax preparation services. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) serves people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and others who need assistance in preparing their returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. In 2018, LSA was able to offer VITA to over 30 clients.

LIFE Project – Through the LIFE (Linking Immigrant Families to Early Childhood Education) Project, LSA promotes enrollment in PreK for four-year-olds and in the new “3K” program for three-year-olds. The goal is to make more families in the neighborhood of East Harlem aware of the availability of these programs offered by the NYC Department of Education. The PreK and 3K programs offer free, high-quality early childhood education. Studies show that early childhood education sets children up for success throughout their school years. During the enrollment period, LSA staff members have been holding information sessions in the community and offering hands-on assistance to parents interested in enrolling children in these programs. The LIFE project is available through a grant from the New York Immigration Coalition.


“Our partnerships really expand what we’re able to offer families,” said Ray Lopez, Director of Programs at LSA Family Health Service. “By collaborating with other organizations, we’re able to give families even more tools to build a stronger future and, ultimately, a stronger community.”


New Domestic Violence Protocol for Preventive Services – Earlier this year, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice announced a new protocol to help identify and intervene in domestic violence cases. Under this new protocol, families in high-risk cases who are receiving prevention services like those offered at LSA will be screened for risk factors and helped to develop safety plans. LSA’s A-rated Preventive Services program is funded by ACS and will be following this new protocol, working with investigative consultants to strengthen our program and ensure the safety and well-being of children.

Nutrition and Language – East Harlem is home to a vibrant immigrant community, including families from Latin America who speak indigenous languages and have rich cultural traditions dating back to pre-Columbian times. To respond to their specific language and health needs, LSA partners with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA) to offer health and nutrition classes to speakers of Mixtec (spoken in parts of Mexico), Mam (spoken by a Mayan group in Guatemala), and other indigenous languages. The classes offer community members ideas for nutritious and culturally relevant meals. Through this partnership, the DOHMH is reaching a segment of the population that it has not engaged with in the past.

Women Empowered to Lead (WE Lead) Community Navigator and Mentorship Program – Kudos to Melina Gonzalez (pictured above on the left), LSA’s Immigration Outreach Organizer, for being accepted into the WE Lead Program’s Immigration Navigator Cohort through the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). This opportunity will allow Melina to become a Department of Justice Certified Instructor.The WE Lead Community Navigator Program is a women’s empowerment training and workforce development initiative — launched by The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), Jones Day Law Firm and Cities for Citizenship (C4C) — to train Community Navigators, empower immigrant women and their communities, and expand immigration legal services.


This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Open Door Newsletter.  By Barbara Norcia-Broms.

Photo above:  Tamara received her tax return check after filing through the VITA program