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.

 

19 Nov

Invisible Women: A Model of Trauma-Informed Care

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.

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.

“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.”

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.

14 Sep

Back to School & Diaper Drives

Kids in our programs got geared up for school with a little help from our friends!

Our thanks to school supply and backpack donors:

The Brooke Jackman Foundation
Church Pension Group
Disney
Emerson Reid/USI
Insperity
Morgan Stanley
St. Francis de Sales
St. Monica’s

Special thanks to Morgan Stanley!

Morgan Stanley held drives to donate school supplies,  snacks for our children’s programs, and diapers and wipes for families with babies and toddlers.  In addition, some representatives from the company joined us to help distribute diapers.  These supplies are a tremendous help for our families.

THANK YOU!!

Students pickup backpacks and supplies, getting ready to go back to school

Backpacks from the Brooke Jackman Foundation

Diaper giveaway

(above and below) Parents picked up diapers, distributed by friends from Morgan Stanley.

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.

 

 

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