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)

13 Aug

Video: Celebrating 60 Years

2018 LSA Family Health Service Video

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.

Join us in building community and creating opportunities for children and families to thrive!

Donate today

Video production by honto88.


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.

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.

Donate to support LSA programs for families

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

Donate to support LSA programs for families

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.