Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sinergia's Board President Gets High Honors

On October 15th, 2010, Sinergia Executive Director Myrta Cuadra-Lash and Deputy Executive Director Michael Mitchell traveled to Long Beach, NY to attend the 1st Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Dinner Dance sponsored by the Long Beach Latino Civic Association. Created by concerned members of the community, the Long Beach Latino Civic Association developed this event to honor outstanding local citizens who have made notable contributions to the City of Long Beach.

One of the three honorees was Len Torres, Ph.D (pictured above far right, next to fellow honoree, Rosa Marie Goeller, and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg), who also serves as president of Sinergia’s Board of Directors, and who was selected for the years of public service that he has selflessly dedicated to the people of his hometown. In addition to his years of teaching, working as the Dean of Students at Long Beach High School and serving as an Assistant Principal, Dr. Torres also taught English as a Second Language at Adelphi University and was a Principal and a Superintendent of Schools in Puerto Rico and the Bronx. He has also served on the Long Beach Zoning Board Housing Commission, is the Program Director for the Long Beach Latino Civic Association and is also the first Latino to serve on the City of Long Beach Council.

Sinergia is proud to salute Dr. Torres on his accomplishments and his well deserved acknowledgement on a night that was filled with good food, outstanding music and the company of great friends. Among the celebrants were Harvey Weisenberg, a member of The Assembly of the State of New York (pictured above on the left), and Karen Cerna, also a member of the Sinergia Board of Directors, the Long Beach Latino Civic Association and chairperson of this fabulous event. We feel lucky indeed to have such a well-respected and experienced person as Dr. Len Torres connected to Sinergia and appreciate his efforts on our behalf and for the people with disabilities that we serve.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sinergia's Quilting Tradition Continues

Sinergia has developed a tradition of quilt making by parents who have participated in various programs throughout the years.  The first quilt, pictured above, was made in 1997 by parent groups that assisted in the formation of advocacy groups of parents with children with disabilities in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. A parent, Cynthia Wallace, took the lead in the design and sewing of the quilt. There are 48 patches surrounding a large square denoting the theme, “It Takes A Village”. The parents embroidered poems, messages in Spanish and English, paintings of flowers, the sun, shooting stars, houses, names of their children and parent groups. A poet, Jean Wood, also inscribed one of her poems, From A Sermon, which reflects on the importance of each one of us and how we are interwoven and inextricably linked with each other. Each patch in this original quilt became a shared message of love for one’s children, home and family and the enveloping circle of community. The quilt is displayed  at the Christine Cuadra Conference Room on the 4th floor of Sinergia.

The second quilt (immediately above and below) was started a decade after and was created by  fifteen parents with developmental disabilities who participated in the “We Are Parents Too” program, as well as others attending the Day Habilitation and Residential Programs. Under the guidance of Maria Torres Bird, a staff member who is a quilter, the parents created a colorful quilt that focused on parenthood. The project gave parents an artistic and creative expression, allowing them to relive loving memories with stories and pictures, regardless of whether they have custody of their child(ren) or not.  This has been especially important for those parents who have lost custody since it is an acknowledgment of their parenthood and their hopes of one day achieving reunification. After completion the participating parents will decide where it will be displayed.

We hope that the quilting tradition at Sinergia will continue for many decades to come since it is a visual representation of stories of families, love and community.

You might also want to read our post last year: "We Are Parents Too" quilt project.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enlaces en Español sobre "Bullying"

¿Está su hijo o hija siendo acosado por niños malos? Este comportamiento, conocido por "bullying," es muy dañino y cruel, especialmente para aquellos con incapacidades. Infórmese sobre cómo proteger a su hijos con estos artículos preparados por PACER:

Creencias Comunes Acerca de Bullying
Hable con su Hijo acerca de Bullying
Mantenga un Registro
Notificando a los Administradores de Escuela de las Preocupaciones de Acoso
Utilce el Programa Individual Educativo (Individual Education Program - IEP) del Niño

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day Hab Program Participates in Pet Support

Day Hab Volunteers for Pet Support

Over the summer, art specialist Erin McSorley along with some of our Day Hab participants (pictured above: Maritza C., Terri B., and Edith C.) volunteered to care for animals at the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC Shelter). We had a lot of fun walking the dogs and meeting the cats who are all waiting for loving homes. They even have a chicken! Volunteering at BARC was a great opportunity for us to learn how to care for, socialize with and give affection to animals, since many program participants do not have pets in their own homes. Though it was sad to leave them, we will not forget the new friends we made. BARC is a 501c3 not-for-profit, no-kill, privately run animal shelter located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. To get more information about donating, volunteering, or adopting a pet visit

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spotlight on Sinergia's Day Hab Program

Sinergia's Day Habilitation Program is a five-day-a-week program that develops social, recreational and vocational skills of adults with developmental disabilities. While the program is headquartered out of Sinergia's new main office at 2082 Lexington Ave., many of our activities take place off site in the community. The 40+ individuals in the program range in age from 21 to 64, and we tailor the activities to suit their needs and desires. Monday through Friday you will find participants volunteering for "Meals on Wheels", gardening and harvesting vegetables at a local "pocket garden", bowling, visiting museums, photography, working on job skills, writing resumes, engaging in internships, working on computer skills, working out in our gym, visiting amusement parks, partaking in group discussions about current events, learning how to become better self-advocates, creating artwork and needlepoint, learning how to traverse the New York City public transit system and much more.  Some individuals take part in groups that work on job related skills that have helped them acquire and maintain actual jobs.

Twice a week in the mornings, the Day Habilitation participants offer light breakfast refreshments and coffee in the ever-popular "Café-Café" program. They walk through our offices taking orders and delivering breakfast sandwiches, fruit, juice and, of course, hot coffee. This provides an opportunity for them to increase their social skills and create friendships that go beyond the program itself.

Recently, one of the participants held a weekend party to celebrate his 25th birthday and many of his Day Hab friends attended. They arranged their own travel and purchased presents all by themselves. The family of the young man celebrating his birthday was very touched that so many of his peers could arrange to come on their own on a Saturday to join in the celebration.

For further information on Sinergia's Day Hab Program call Lore Barcelona at 212-643-2840 ext. 318.

Sinergia Delivers 10 Computers to Local Preschools

The IBM KidSmart Program is a joint initiative between the PACER Center and IBM that awards Young Explorer computers to preschools. As a partner, Sinergia identified 10 schools in New York City and delivered the kid-friendly PCs with all the software to the sites this past week.

"We received the unit, unpacked it, set it up and started using it the next day. The kids love it!" --Rita Brito, Child Center of New York

The following preschools received the Young Explorer computers:
  • Association to Benefit Children, 419 E. 86th St., NY, NY 10028
  • Echo Park Early Childhood Center, 1841 Park Ave. NY, NY 10035
  • Bilingual Head Start, 440 East 116th Street NY, NY 10029
  • The Child Center of NY, 60-02 Queens Blvd. Woodside NY 11377
  • Escalera Head Start, 169 West 87th Street NY, NY 10024
  • Falu Foundation, 333 East 118th Street NY, NY 10035
  • LSA Family Health Services, 333 E. 115th Street NY, NY 10029
  • Union Settlement Head Start Assn. 237 E. 104th St. NY, NY 10029
  • Sinergia, Inc., 2082 Lexington Ave, 4th Floor NY, NY 10035
Sinergia's Young Explorer (pictured above) will be used by children whose parents attend the educational workshops or await their case managers, or for other staff. The only problem is keeping the big adults away from them since they are so cute!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Promise Neighborhood Grant Update

We are sad to report that Sinergia was not selected as a recipient of the Promise Neighborhood Grant. Our proposal was to develop a one year planning program that would create solutions that would close the achievement gap of all the children in the East Harlem community, including children with disabilities and English Language Learners. Nevertheless, we wish to express our deepest appreciation to all the organizations that worked together and formed an enthusiastic partnership during the preparation of this important initiative.

Thanks go to the Global Neighborhood Secondary School, Esperanza Preparatory Academy, and Renaissance Charter High School who were our school partners.  I cannot adequately express my admiration for these creative and dedicated principals of these schools who are true leaders.  The other institutions who continuously serve the community and who responded to our call to work together for the children and community were  Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Center, Boriken Neighborhood Health Center, Union Settlement Assoc., Hunter College, Hostos Community College, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Association to Benefit Children and the Committee for Hispanic Children.  

It was a great collaborative effort that has solidified relationships that will work together in the future to help children in East Harlem make educational progress that will enable them to achieve successful outcomes into adulthood and strengthen the community.  Thanks to all, especially the writers of the Sinergia proposal who worked long and hard in the preparation of this grant and all others for their valuable contributions.

We congratulate the recipient of the grant in the New York area, the Abyssinian Development Corp. as well as the other recipients throughout the U.S. We wish them much success and as their plans unfold we hope for a future full of promise for all children.

“There is only one child in the world and the child’s name is All Children.”
--Carl Sandburg

Sinergia Elects New Board Members

Sinergia held its annual meeting and election of members of the Board of Directors and officers on September 16, 2010, and the following are the officers that were elected:
Len Torres, Ed.D.- President
Cecile Vanech - Vice-President
Cecile Vanech - Co-treasurer
Fathima Torres - Co-treasurer
Melissa Toribio-Boughner - Secretary

Sinergia welcomes all members elected to the Board of Directors. We particularly congratulate three members for whom this will be the first year they serve on the Board:

Fathima P. Torres

Founder and President of a grassroots based organization, DONAR, Inc., which is committed to working with the Latino population of Community District 9 and Council District 7 in Manhattan. The core program focuses on adult education and civic engagement. DONAR also provides technical assistance to the Dominican Republic with a focus on special education. Mrs. Torres has served as Director of Public Relations with the Dominican Women’s Caucus and President of the Parents Council for The Oliver Program. She is a member of the National Dominican Women’s Caucus, member of Community Board #9 and is the Finance Chair for the Dominican American National Roundtable, and founder of Northern Manhattan NOW Chapter.

Johnny Rivera
Long time East Harlem activist and Senior Program Director for Mount Sinai Medical Center, formerly Director of the East Harlem District for Congressman Charles B. Rangel. He also worked as Program Director for the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, and was a community organizer for the Community Service Society and the I Have a Dream Foundation. He is a Board member of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, former President of Community Board #4 and he has served on Manhattan Community Board #11.

Yolanda Sanchez
An institution in the Latino community who has spent over thirty years in the development and management of diverse human services. She serves as the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs and is President of the National Latinas Caucus, past president of the East Harlem Council for Human Services and former director of the CUNY Office of Puerto Rican Program Development.  Ms. Sanchez is a former National Urban Fellow and a graduate of Harvard University’s School of Business, and holds an MSW degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work.

Sinergia congratulates Dr. Len Torres, President of the Sinergia Board of Directors. We are proud to announce his selection as honoree of the 2010 Community Leadership Award by the Long Beach Latino Civic Association. Sinergia is appreciative of Len’s leadership and his long time dedication to the education of all children. Please contact 516-889-4912 if you wish to attend the dinner dance in Long Beach, NY on October 15, 2010 when Len will be presented with this highly merited award.

Flu Season Q and A with Sinergia's Nursing Staff Coordinator

As fall gets underway it's that time of the year again when we need to disseminate important information about the Influenza virus, commonly known as the "flu". Last year the H1N1 outbreak caused more illness in young people and pregnant women than usual, and although the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the same virus is expected to circulate again this flu season, along with other seasonal flu viruses.Click  her for more on the current situation.

We asked Sinergia's Nursing Coordinator, Asuncion Muyalde BSN-RN, some basic facts to keep in  mind.

What is Flu? 
As defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is a contagious illness caused by the influenza viruses. It can be mild to severe and at times lead to hospitalization and even death.

When I should get the Influenza vaccine? 
Annual outbreaks of the seasonal flu usually occur during the late fall through early spring. The best time to get the vaccination will be during the month of October and November.

What is the biggest issue for persons with disabilities and their parents?
The dissemination of information is the number one issue – knowing the importance of getting a vaccination and where to get one.
Most people that don’t get flu shots don’t think they need one until the peak of the season when they get sick and sometimes it’s too late.

Where I can get the vaccine? 
Your primary care physician will offer shots. However, children and adults with disabilities often have a certain set schedule to visit their doctor and get follow ups, and they have to wait until there is an appointments available in their area. So in addition, the Department of Health has immunization clinics in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that offer flu shots at no cost, and also many pharmacies offer them for a nominal fee. In New York, check out CVS, Duane Reade and Walgreen's. Last year Sinergia was a recipient of donations from the DOH; not only for our consumers but for those in our staff who needed it. I have forwarded our request to Department of Health to receive free flu shots again this year and am awaiting their response.

Some say getting the vaccine has more health risks than not getting it. Is that true?

Some people have heard that flu shots will harm their child or that there will be bad side effects so they won't take the vaccination. There may be minimal side effects - like a low grade fever - but these are not fatal or deadly. Your doctor will explain that to you and they always do a pre-assessment questionnaire beforehand in case you have allergies or have had a bad reaction in the past.

Who needs to get vaccinated?
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • Younger people at high risk from influenza and its complications, including children 6 through 23 months of age
  • Residents of Long Term Care Facilities
  • People with long-term health problems such as:
    -lung disease
    -anemia, and other blood disorders       
    -metabolic disease such as diabetes
    -heart disease
    -kidney disease
  • People with weakened immune system
  • Household contacts of people at high risk
  • Healthcare workers, and
  • Children younger than 9 years of age getting influenza for the first time
The Nursing Team urges parents and caretakers of the disabled to seek information on getting vaccinations. Any questions please feel free to call us at ext. 361.

For more useful tips and resources visit