25 Jan

3-K and PreK

Calling all 3s and 4s!

The LIFE program (Linking Immigrant Families with Early Childhood Education)at LSA is helping parents in District 4 enroll their children in 3-K and PreK programs.

Children living in District 4 and born in 2015 or 2016 are eligible for free PreK and 3-K programs in our neighborhood (zip codes 10035, 10029, 10027, and 10026).   We provide informational workshops to walked parents through the enrollment process, offering one-on-one application assistance, follow-ups and school tours.  We help families feel confident about the academic decisions they make for their children.

The application for 3-K and Pre-K opens in early February.   3-K applications close on April 18th, 2019 and Pre-K applications close on March 15th, 2019.

To schedule an appointment with a LIFE program coordinator, call 646-672-5200, ext. 324


25 Jan

Focus on Financial Health

January 2019 — Our Advocacy & Food Pantry program is kicking off the new year with resources that focus on financial health.  These resources are available through our partnerships with Food Bank for NYC and the Legal Aid Society.  Together, we’re helping people who visit our pantries move toward financial stability and self-sufficiency.

Financial Literacy Workshop & Employment Legal Clinic

On Jan. 18th we hosted a financial literacy workshop on financial goals.  The workshop was sponsored by Food Bank for NYC and led by our client advocate, Maritza Jimenez (in the photo above).

We also hosted an Employment law clinic with Legal Aid Society.  Lawyers were on hand to provide information pertaining to issues such as unpaid wages, minimum wage and overtime claims, discrimination–including discrimination based on criminal record, family and medical leave, and unemployment insurance benefits.

VITA – Tax  Preparation

With tax season at hand, we will once again start helping individuals with tax preparation, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, offered through the Food Bank for NYC.  We will be able to offer free tax return preparation help for people making $54,000 or less.  This program will start mid-February.

Financial Empowerment Center

We’ve been scheduling appointments for people to receive free one-on-one financial counseling at the city’s Financial Empowerment Center.  Counselors offer help with debt management, credit, creating a budget, opening a bank account, starting an emergency fund, saving for the future and more.  These referrals are being offered in partnership with Food Bank for NYC.

14 Dec

Bringing Holiday Cheer

Each year, generous donors provide gifts for families receiving services at LSA, ensuring that there are presents under the tree for everyone.  On behalf of the families we serve, we give heartfelt thanks to holiday gift donors for bringing extra cheer to our community.   Thank you!

Holiday Gift Donors:

Convent of the Sacred Heart School
The Buckley School
Catholic Charities
Joelyn Cecere
Jillian Diehl
Brenna Moore and Friends
Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine
P.S. 106
Riverdale Country School
Robin Hood Foundation Adopt a Family
St. Francis de Sales
St. John’s Bread and Life
St. Luke’s Giving Tree
Zonta Club of New York City

Above: the holiday party for children in our K-3 programs.  Tutors donated money so we could host the party, and the Zonta Club of New York donated the gifts for the kids. Our social work interns helped ensured the party was a success and our own Sr. Deysi was Mrs. Claus.


Brenna Moore (left) with her children and LSA’s Monica Sanchez and Trish Gough. Brenna hosted a gathering at her home and invited her friends to bring gifts for moms in our programs. The gifts were beautifully packaged and given to mothers in our Building Bridges art therapy program.


Children from our programs visited Riverdale Country School, for Breakfast with Santa! They fun-filled day included activities with Riverdale high school students.

Michael Chung from the Convent of the Sacred Heart School dropped off presents for children in our programs donated by Sacred Heart families.





30 Nov

NYCHA Settlement Agreement Addresses Mold Conditions

November 29, 2018 – New York, NY – For LSA’s Community Health Workers, a recent court settlement with NYCHA brings hope that families and children with asthma will finally get a fast and thorough response to complaints of mold in their homes.

U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley III approved a revised settlement agreement that he believes will hold the NYC Housing Authority accountable for making much needed repairs to homes with mold. The agreement introduces an independent data analyst, an independent mold expert and an ombudsperson who will oversee specific tenant complaints. The court will supervise the matter until NYCHA has demonstrated its compliance. (1)

Ray López, our Program Director and Director of Environmental Health Services, has been involved with Manhattan Together in the lawsuit that led to the agreement. He believes the decision will make a positive difference for families at LSA. East Harlem has one of the highest rates of children’s asthma emergency room visits in the city. Addressing asthma-triggering conditions like mold has been the focus of our community health work for the past twenty years.

“Our workers will be happy,” López said about the agreement. “It will be less frustrating for us. We’ve been documenting cases, going to NYCHA trying to get repairs. So we’re happy to have a new ally in this work.”

López explained how the court-appointed ombudsperson will help: “The Special Master [appointed by the court] focused on the systemic problems. He didn’t have the bandwith to speak to specific complaints. Now the ombudsperson will address that issue. NYCHA will need to send notice to the residents about what they’ve found and what they plan to do, and if the NYCHA tenant is not satisfied with the work, they can call the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson will be empowered to investigate the individual complaints and find the root causes.

“This is a relief for us because, essentially, we’ve been ombudspeople,” he added, referring to the advocacy LSA workers do on behalf of tenants. “But we don’t directly report to the court, so we don’t have that power.” He hopes that the recent agreement will result in improved conditions in homes and, ultimately, better health for families.

(1) A NYCHA mold lawsuit from 2013 gets a revised settlement approved, Nov. 29, 2018, AM NewYork

26 Nov

Holiday Dinners, Thanks to CSH Friends

Our great thanks to the students, parents and staff at Convent of the Sacred Heart, which have been such wonderful supporters over the years.  This Thanksgiving holiday, students donated apple pies and provided groceries for meals to 34 for families. They also donated funds to the food pantry for the purchase of milk, juice, and other essentials.

Here are a few photos of families picking up the donated groceries.

26 Nov

Kafayat’s Story

Kafayat shared her moving story of a complicated childbirth and double-hip surgery, all while caring for her children and staying in a family shelter.  Brigida, one of LSA’s home visiting nurses, helped Kafayat and her family through this critical time.  This is the story Kafayat shared at our 2018 annual gala.

My name is Kafayat Ibiyeye and I am from Nigeria.  I came into the country in 2015, with my husband and two children.  I gave birth to my little Princess on March 31st, 2016.  That is when I came across the Little Sisters of the Assumption.  I was referred to them from Harlem Hospital after delivery, because of problems with my hips and other health risks.

Two weeks after the birth of my daughter, a nurse from Little Sisters named Brigida paid us a visit. She came at the perfect time.  My husband and I were new to this country and neither of us had jobs.  I was very scared.  I had no one to talk to apart from my husband, and no one to give us the right information about what to do.

Brigida came into our family to take care of me and our baby.   But she found other ways to help us, and she never left any stone unturned.  We had no food, clothing or baby supplies with us, but she provided it to us through the organization.  She was always there for us, listening to us, talking to us through our biggest fears.  She helped me feel “we can do it.” 

When my daughter was about a year old I learned that I would need to have a double hip replacement.  When I heard this, I was very scared and nervous because I had never had such a major surgery before.  Brigida stood by me, motivated me, told me stories of people who have had successful surgeries.  She also got books for me, referred me to YouTube to watch videos of transplant surgeries, and helped me feel more comfortable with the procedure.

With the glory of God the surgery was successful.

This organization has been a blessing to our family through Brigida.  She even referred us to a job site where my husband found a job.   Thank you.  Thank you so much to the Little Sisters.  Thank you also to Brigida.  We will never forget the day we met you. 

Photo above: Brigida (l) and Kafayat (r)

26 Nov

Invisible Women: Mental Health Services at LSA

The sound of crinkling foil whispers through the room as a couple dozen art therapy and social work students bend their heads over balled up sheets of aluminum.  Mónica Sánchez, senior mental health counselor and art therapist at LSA Family Health Service, moves through the room, answering questions.

She is leading the students in a ‘self-acceptance’ art therapy exercise she regularly employs with women at LSA.  She has presented her methodology at NYU, Columbia University, the New York Women’s Resilience Conference, and the national Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference, among others.

Monica Sanchez leads students at Columbia University in an art therapy directive.

What makes Sánchez’ work unique is the way she combines trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy with art therapy. She is able to reach immigrant women with literacy barriers whose primarily language may be an indigenous language, like Mixteco. Because these women can be reluctant to seek outside help, even to go to the hospital, they are often “invisible” in traditional systems of care.

“Who is serving women who are indigenous?” Sánchez said recently. “Sometimes they don’t even speak Spanish. The students really want to understand how we do that.”

The key is the art therapy.  Where a patient in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy may be asked to write about her feelings, Sánchez employs artistic mediums such as drawing, photography and clay work.

“I’m very privileged because clients really trust the agency. I think they feel safe here. They’re able to express themselves better and advocate for themselves.”

“We’re designing a program that is tailored for clients of LSA.  Some may not know how to read or write, but they’re very intelligent.”

By sharing her culturally-competent approach to therapy with immigrant women, she helps others understand the complexity of the work. “All of our clients are high-risk,” she explains. On any given day, Monica may be helping a client struggling with domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide risk, or postpartum depression.

She emphasizes the importance of building a trusting relationship with the client as part of the trauma-informed approach: “I use every moment to make a connection. I’m very privileged because clients really trust the agency. I think they feel safe here. They’re able to express themselves better and advocate for themselves.”

For women who meet weekly in her art therapy group, workshops culminate in exhibits of their art work. Sánchez highlights the exhibit as a clinical goal. “It is an amplification of their voices,” she explains. “It is recognizing a story that has beauty in it, even if it has been tragic and difficult. Clients really like it. Some clients cry when they see their self-portraits. They don’t recognize themselves.”

21 Nov

LIFE Project Celebrates One Year Anniversary

On Oct 21, 2018 the LIFE Project at LSA celebrated its first anniversary. For the last year, through the LIFE Project, LSA staff members have been helping families with young children to register for preK and 3-K classes and to access other early childhood education resources.

The fall harvest themed event was a celebration of families registered for classes through the LIFE Project: their success, support, friendship, and dedication.  The day included a resource fair followed by live music by Sebastian Cruz and the Tiny Giants.  Families picked pumpkins in our very own pumpkin “patch”  and gathered in our early childhood classrooms for pumpkin decorating.  Children also enjoyed face painting. The afternoon ended with lunch and LIFE Project updates.

We’re thrilled that our contract for the LIFE Project has been renewed and we will be able to continue offering this important resource to the community.


23 Oct

Connecting with Global Migrant Leaders

Above:  Melina Gonzalez (third from right, bottom row) with other migrant and immigration advocates at the TMDD training in Dublin.

LSA’s Melina Gonzalez Traveled to Ireland to Share Our Immigration Outreach Strategies

The NPNA (National Partnership for New Americans) invited our Immigration Outreach Organizer, Melina Gonzalez, to participate in the “Transatlantic Migrant Democracy Dialogue: Nothing About Us Without Us — Migrant Leadership Convening, ” from October 12-14, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.

This training brought together 50+ migrant and refugee leaders from across Europe and US to discuss the current political climate, work being done around migration and refugee rights, and key models/strategies. Melina was the spokesperson for the We Lead program and the Community Navigators in NYC.

According to the Immigrant Council of Ireland: “The purpose of the Transatlantic Migrant Democracy Dialogue is to harness migrant leadership and building of migrant-led movements across Europe. It’s an opportunity for peer learning, information exchange and to sharpen expertise – it’s also a chance to work alongside like-minded, determined, passionate change-makers and have a lot of fun! The training attracted migrant leaders from 50 nationalities resident in Europe.”

Melina describes the experience:

The main reason for me to go to the “Transatlantic Migrant Democracy Dialogue (TMDD 2018)” in Dublin, Ireland, was to learn how European countries are working with immigrants and their communities and to share how we work with immigrant communities in the U.S.  It has been one of the best work experiences ever! Before I knew it, I was surrounded by all the diversity that makes life more colorful, exciting and joyful.

I achieved so many things in the TMDD–it exceeded my expectations! I met an incredible number of people in a brief period. Many have become real friends, and most have participated in making my experience unforgettable.

The cultural exposure was the most exciting part of my journey, and I experienced it daily. Being surrounded by people from all over the world speaking different languages makes you feel like you are in an ‘open country’ which welcomes everyone and gives everyone a chance. 

I never thought that I would be able to do so much in such a short period. Visiting EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was an exciting experience. I could easily imagine the journey and hopes of immigrants arriving and leaving Ireland. Traveling, working and living abroad makes one grow and become more confident; it opens minds and is self-rewarding. It forces people to ask questions, to listen, to be patient, to take initiative, to understand others. I like to think that cross-cultural experiences should be mandatory today; it could solve some of the world’s problems.

A presentation at the TMDD training in Dublin, Ireland.

24 Sep

High School Volunteer Open House

book marks

Teens Attend Open House for Volunteers

High school students volunteer with our programs in various ways, earning community service credit and giving back to the NYC community in meaningful ways.

On Sept. 23, the LSA Parent Committee, a group of parents who volunteer to promote service opportunities at LSA, hosted a volunteer Open House for teens.  Teens from a number of schools attended to learn more.

In addition, we introduced the LSA Youth Board as a fun new way to get involved. The Youth Board, which was founded by a Spence volunteer and is just getting started this fall, offers an opportunity for high school students to support LSA through fundraising activities and unique volunteer efforts.

The Open House gave participants a taste of what it might be like to volunteer with the after school program.  Volunteers and children from the program made book marks together and enjoyed a tasty pizza dinner. Our thanks to the Parent Committee and to the volunteers who made it such a fun afternoon!

volunteer tutor

Mac shared her moving experiences as a tutor to a student struggling to develop writing skills.

student volunteer

Mia talked about her experience volunteering in our food pantry and introduced the new Youth Board

A little help please! Volunteers helped children make colorful book marks

In addition to making book marks together, volunteers and children got to know each other by talking about their favorite things

Children put their creativity to work making unique book marks.