Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

Bullet in His Calf, Carlos Barely Made It

Monday, September 15th, 2014

By Alexandra Starr

New York Magazine

Carlos, a soon-to-be-19-year-old from Honduras, is most fond of pastimes and people who bring on temporary amnesia. His former girlfriend, Maria, was one such happy distraction. He plays soccer every Saturday in the Bronx at Mullally Park, just a few blocks from Yankee Stadium. That helps, too. “I concentrate so much,” he says, “that I forget about everything else.”

Most of the memories Carlos would like to lose come from the trip he made from Honduras to the United States as an unaccompanied migrant two years ago. He fled because it was his best chance of having an adulthood. His hometown San Pedro de Sula has the highest homicide rate in the Americas. Once, gang members on motorcycles arrived at a park where he had been playing soccer and opened fire. A mushy white scar on his right calf records where a bullet pierced his skin. At 15, he saw a close friend shot in front of him. As a witness, Carlos would either have to join the gang responsible or be murdered. He went to live at an aunt’s house, an uncle’s, another aunt’s — at each, gang members arrived, threatening him. “I told my mother that if I was going to die, it would be trying to get out,” he says. She gave him $150 and he boarded a bus to Guatemala…

More than 10,000 unaccompanied child migrants were apprehended at the border in June 2014 alone. A public relations campaign warning Central Americans against the journey, combined with a Mexican crackdown on migrants boarding la Bestia, helped reduce the number of arrivals by two thirds by the end of the summer. Nonetheless, advocates estimate that some 74,000 children and teenagers will cross into the United States this year. That’s almost double the figure from 2013. Aside from Texas, New York has taken in more of these kids than any other state.

In part because of geography, Carlos stands a better chance than most of being permitted to stay. As a Central American, he is entitled to a court hearing to determine if he will be deported. (Mexican children, in contrast, can be screened and sent back by border patrol agents.) And, in a break with the past, the Office of Refuge Resettlement — the part of the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for the unaccompanied migrants — is picking up the tab for legal representation of children who are housed in their juvenile shelters in New York.

Because Carlos was released to his grandmother in New York City, it also meant he could access a medical and legal clinic operated by Catholic Charities, the Children’s Health Fund, and Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Every other Wednesday evening at the hospital, he and other unaccompanied teenage migrants in the city can receive medical check-ups, attend a group counseling session, and meet with an attorney.

Read the full story in New York Magazine

First-Day-of-School Giggles

Friday, September 12th, 2014

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By Alice Kenny

There is nothing like the first day of school.

And for these little preschoolers that attended Kennedy Child Study Center for the first time this past Monday — some developing typically, others with special needs and most from financially struggling families  — September 8 was a fantasy come true.

Dressed in their first-day finest of sleeveless shirts and shorts on this warm, sunny morning, they giggled as they herded into their primary-colored classrooms.

“Kennedy Child Study Center (KCSC), a Catholic Charities affiliated organization with locations in Manhattan and the Bronx, was thrilled to welcome over 300 students today for the 2014-2015 school year,” said Jeanne Alter, the agency’s Executive Director.

11For over 50 years, New York preschoolers have come to KCSC for evaluation; special education preschool; speech, occupational, and physical therapy; family support services; and much more, including the center’s recently added Universal Pre-K program for typically developing four-year-olds at its Bronx site.

“Students also benefit from our focus on healthy eating, exercise, technology-aided learning, and other initiatives that mark KCSC as a leader in early childhood special education,” Ms. Alter added.

Learn more about the Kennedy Child Study Center and the children at the heart of its work by visiting the website and following on Facebook.​

Honoring Those We Lost on 9/11

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Thirteen years later we remember clearly loved ones lost and heroes who risked their lives trying to save them during the overwhelming tragedy we now refer to simply as “9/11.”

We all feel it.  And like most, we at Catholic Charities wish there were no tragedies, no children left alone to grieve, no communal catastrophes we mourn together.  But whether a crisis is personal or communal we stand in the forefront of response.

After 9/11, Catholic Charities helped found the 9/11 United Services Group, a consortium of 13 major human services agencies coordinating aid to World Trade Center victims.  Msgr. Kevin Sullivan served as its first chairperson.

Thanks to the generosity of so many, Catholic Charities helped nearly 10,000 individuals, providing counseling, scholarships, employment assistance, service coordination and crucial financial aid.

We invite you to share your memories to honor those loved and lost here in the comments section below and on Facebook.

Haircuts, Pizza and Socks: Back-to-School Basics for These Bronx Boys

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

haircutBy Alice Kenny

Led by Catholic Charities staff, boys from the low-income Highbridge Gardens neighborhood in the Bronx crossed the East River, hiking over the Madison Avenue bridge that separates them by income, race and expectations from affluent Manhattan.

Their back-to-school adventure included free haircuts — high tops, Mohawks and zigzag parts, whatever they wanted — at the All Star Barbershop in Washington Heights.  It also included pizza and ice cream, t-shirts and socks and tips from barbers who remember what it’s like to struggle.

For many of their Manhattan peers, this may seem like only the basics for expensive back-to-school prep that extends to designer clothing, tutors and college-planning consultants.  But for these Bronx boys, ages 10-18 who mostly hail from single-parent families in a local housing project, it was essential.

The day’s adventure was one of many children participating in Catholic Charities Highbridge Gardens Cornerstone Alianza Division took part in during its free, seven-day-per week summer program. Catholic Charities Alianza Division provides a variety of services for youth ages 5 to 21 years old, promoting a world view that extends far beyond the streets where they live.

Crazy Enough to Run

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

By Lauren Liberatore

 I first learned about Catholic Charities and their efforts by working at the Archdiocese of New York in the Office of Superintendent of Schools and receiving e-Newsletters about their events and current work.   I am excited to join Catholic Charities and their mission in helping New Yorkers in need.

I always said I would never be crazy enough to run 26.2 miles, unless it was in the New York City Marathon.  I started getting into half-marathons in 2012, since then I have successfully finished three half-marathons, including the Diva Half Marathon in October 2012, the New Jersey Half-Marathon in May 2013 and the Rutgers United Half-Marathon in April 2014! Each half-marathon I have improved my time and form!

I stumbled upon the Team Catholic Charities homepage by accident after visiting CrossStreets, the Catholic Charities blog.  By being a part of this team, not only do I get to accomplish a dream I never thought I had, but I also get to support and represent such a giving organization.  Growing up in a Catholic family and attending Catholic school since kindergarten, I always learned to support great charities and to give back to my communities.  Running for Team Catholic Charities has been a huge honor and I am excited to help raise money for the organization!

I found the best place to train with the summer heat is at the Jersey Shore, where I spend most of my weekends.  The breeze off the ocean in the early morning is extremely refreshing and so is the option to jump right in!  During the week, I mix up my workouts between Crossfit, Running and teaching Zumba!

My family and friends are constantly supporting me by keeping me company during runs or attending my Zumba classes.  They are even kind enough to listen to me complaining about being sore and/or bragging about my achievements!

Help Lauren as she runs for Team Catholic Charities.

Help Empower Women

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Do you want to empower women and help them get ahead in their careers? Our affiliated agency, Grace Institute, is looking for volunteers to help hold mock interviews during their Converse with Confidence event on September 10th.
Grace’s mock interview series allows current students to prepare for the next step of their career journey.
How this works

  •  Volunteers interview Grace students in rotating 20 minute segments, using the tips below as guidelines
  •  Volunteers will see approximately six students during this time period


Agenda
9:00am – 9:30am: Breakfast and Orientation
9:30am – Noon: Interviews

Click to learn more

Trading Places: From Food Pantry Recipient to Volunteer

Friday, August 29th, 2014

IMG_6725smBy Alice Kenny

Once a food bank recipient, today a volunteer at the same food bank, Margarita Peralta knows firsthand how much better it is to give than to receive.

Evolving from recipient to volunteer, she offers a special perspective on the benefits and challenges related to each role.

She likes it so much, she added, that she plans to transfer to a city college so she can continue volunteering for Catholic Charities, complete her studies and care for her dad.

“I remember as far back as when I was eight, when my mom would take me to the Catholic Charities food pantry in Washington Heights and, unlike at the store, they’d give us all this stuff for free. Then we’d go home and my mom would line everything up on the table – tuna, chicken, rice, beans.

“We were happy but still it felt weird. I wondered what it would be like to be on the other side, to be the one giving the food instead of getting it.”

Now she knows.

The first in her family to go to college, Margarita took time off from her junior year at SUNY Potsdam to nurse her dad whose health has been eaten away by diabetes.

To fill out her days, she volunteered at the same food pantry she and her mom used to visit.

Evolving from recipient to volunteer she offers a special perspective on the benefits and challenges related to each role.

Her parents were hard working immigrants from the Dominican Republic who never wanted to ask for help, she says. But illness diverted their race towards the American dream.

Her mother, a home health aide, had to quit her just-above minimum wage job to regularly rush Margarita as a child to the E.R. for treatment for sickle cell anemia, a chronic disease shared by one out of every 20 Dominican New Yorkers.

Her father, meanwhile, once a supermarket delivery driver, had his vision and much of his kidney function stolen by diabetes, another illness that strikes 10-percent of New York state’s population.

“He was always a working man but lost his license because he can barely see,” Margarita says, grabbing a napkin to cover her tears. “It’s a shock to see him go from being so active to just lying in bed.”

She inherited her parents’ work ethic, donating more than 100 hours to the food pantry during the winter months.

“I like the environment, the way staff and people served are so close and friendly,” she says. “It feels like a big family.”

She likes it so much, she added, that she plans to transfer to a city college so she can continue volunteer for Catholic Charities, complete her studies and care for her dad.

“It brings joy when I know that I’m feeding someone that can’t feed themselves. Because my mom, dad and I have been in that position, it’s interesting to now see how for others, also, a bag of food can make someone so happy.”

Real Internships: Refugees and the American Melting Pot

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

An outreach trip to the Brooklyn Grange– Urban rooftop farming merges with refugee resettlement, providing them with workplace acclimation in a more familiar farm setting.

Catholic Charities intern Franchesca Verendia wrote for her Boston College “Career Edge” website about her eye-opening summer internship with Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Department.  Her post includes photos of outreach trips she took and events she helped arrange.  Highlights include the Brooklyn Grange where urban rooftop farming merges with refugee resettlement to provide new arrivals with workplace acclimation in a more familiar farm setting.  It also includes a World Refugee Day Banner themed “Laying Roots” where clients painted a tree with their hand prints to symbolize leaves as well as the different countries they come from. And it includes insightful quotes from this perceptive college student such as:

“I have come to admire the resiliency of our clients who do not want pity… but rather just someone to point them in the right direction.”

Let’s find out what else Franchesca has to say:

This summer I had the incredible opportunity of working in the Refugee Resettlement Office of the Catholic Charities located in downtown Manhattan. As an intern, I worked mostly on an appointment-based system with clients in order to improve their English as well as explain American workplace customs. Additionally, I accompanied some clients to different government offices around the city in order to advocate on their behalf in the case that their English was limited…

 Given our focus on employment, I worked primarily with adults. While many of the jobs we help our clients get are entry-level jobs, these jobs help clients get the US work experience they need to professionally advance in the future, or help support them while they pursue higher education…The education levels and English proficiency found in our clientele is a wide spectrum, with some possessing PhDs and others not completing high school. Some clients may possess English that is grammatically better than my own, while others require a translator…

Clients come from a variety of backgrounds. Thus, each client is different and should be treated much like how one would treat anyone else—as an individual.

Throughout my time at the RRO, I have come to admire the resiliency of our clients who do not want pity, much like anyone who has grown up in the comfort of the US, but rather just someone to point them in the right direction.

I truly believe that any success a client achieves is one that is entirely their own. Clients rarely mention the reasons they fled their homes and instead focus on the future and what they must do to achieve whatever they believe to be the American dream.

Read Francesca’s full blog post.

 

It Takes A lot to Humble Yourself

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Lizzie  Sister ShyneBy Alice Kenny

Moms and children hungry, struggling and embarrassed by their need: these are some of Lizaura German’s earliest memories.

Lizzie practically grew up at the Catholic Charities food pantry  in Washington Heights.   Her mother, the site’s longest volunteer – 36 years and counting – brought Lizzie along when she was just past kindergarten age to help out in their neighborhood center.

Those served felt comfortable sharing their fears and tears with the then-little girl.

“It takes a lot to humble yourself to let people what know what you’re going through,” Lizzie says, recalling what she learned from an early age.  “There is a lot of pride involved because people want to fix things themselves.  When people finally express their need you don’t want them to lose hope.

“A food pantry,” she adds,  “is not just a bag of food, it’s a doorway for helping clients.”

As program manager for Catholic Charities Feeding Our Neighbors program, Lizzie enters this doorway daily, sometimes seven days a week.  She oversees nearly half of Catholic Charities food pantries plus three soup kitchens – more than 30 all told – commuting from the Catskill mountains to Staten Island along with the Bronx, Manhattan and, of course, Washington Heights.

The job, she says, relies nearly as much on diplomacy as it does on knowledge.  Most food pantry staff are volunteers including retirees from Wall Street. So while they are committed to helping their community, these volunteers are also accustomed to taking charge.  Lizzie makes sure volunteers feel appreciated while guiding them to listen to those on food pantry lines and make sure they connect them to the breadth of services Catholic Charities offers.

“Clients come in for a bag of food,” Lizzie says as she exchanges smiles with an elderly woman entering the food pantry.  “But meanwhile, their lights are being turned off or they’re being evicted.  We need to make sure the client feels comfortable enough to express that to the volunteer.”

With a masters degree  in public administration from Baruch College, a background that includes a stint at the United Nations, and a dad who works as executive sous chef at the famed Carmine’s restaurant in Greenwich Village, Lizzie could likely land a job almost anywhere.

But her commitment, she says, is to those she serves at Catholic Charities.

“My job is to be the voice of the client,” she say, “because there is nothing worse than losing a client or knowing that a client was not fully helped.”

Be Sure to Catch Larry and Friends

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Larry and Friends Event Flyer FINALBy Alice Kenny

Nearly two dozen immigrants, refugees, children and staff listened spellbound last week at Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement department in downtown Manhattan as an illustrator and writer, each New York based but bred in another land, shared their just-published story, Larry and Friends, an ode to immigration, diversity, friendship and acceptance.

The reading served as the kick off for a conversation about challenges immigrants face, some as obvious as learning a new language, others as surprising as getting used to the way Americans coddle their pets.

“Events like this help to create community with the clients we serve,” Catholic Charities Director of Refugee Resettlement Kelly Agnew-Barjas said after the event.

The book, filled with illustrations reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s famed Where the Wild Things Are, was illustrated by Ecuadorian-born Carla Torres and written by Belgian-born, Venezuelan-raised Nat Jasper. Its silly yet sensitive story features a drum-beating African zebra, a tight-rope artist Polish pig, a Colombian street musician alligator and fellow ambitious animals relocated to New York City from around the world.

“We work so hard to help clients and we engage in very serious issues every day,” Ms. Agnew-Barajas added. “It’s important to step back and remember that we are part of a larger immigrant experience in New York City.”