Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sinergia Hosts NYAEMP's Family Forum

From the Desk of the NYAEMP President, Wafa Abboud

Good afternoon everyone,

As a result of the massive destruction and impact of Hurricane Sandy, I have waited to send you an overview of NYAEMP's Family Forum with OPWDD Commissioner Courtney Burke on October 25th at Sinergia. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am sharing with you some of the joy that those of us who were at the Forum experienced. The Family Forum was very successful on many levels. A number of you who were there have told us so, and we thank you. The room was packed, with many standing at the back of the room and in the hallway. All of the participants were moved by the power of the stories they heard that day. I was and am proud to be a member of NYAEMP and to be serving you as the President of the Board of Directors.

Commissioner Burke was accompanied by Jill Gentile (Deputy Commissioner), Donna Limiti (Regional Director 6 & 4) and Pat Sarli (Development of Community Services). They heard from 12 individuals and families representing 10 of our member agencies. Every story was very powerful, both in its personal content as well as the critical role played by the multicultural agency.

Among some of the powerful statements made by individuals/families were the following:

“A native of the Dominican Republic, Ms. P is non-English speaking, has physical disabilities and is often confronted with cultural challenges that impede her ability to advocate for her children. Ms. P did not receive early intervention services because Ms. P. was culturally indoctrinated with the belief that her daughter's behavior and developmental deficits were characteristic of a spoiled child." Ms. P’s agency helped her to understand her daughter’s challenges and was able to help her receive the necessary services.

“Being part of a multicultural agency means so much to me because: “They understand my religious needs making sure I always have a Com-Hab worker to help me with my cooking before Sabbath and the Jewish holidays, as well as making sure I have everything for the holidays...the dedicated staff always make sure I have workers that share my beliefs and are sensitive to the principles I hold dear. This is very important to me especially when my son (with disabilities) is around, so that he hears and sees only things that I would approve of."

"I didn't enjoy the foods on the menus that were done by the nutritionist, and the staff expressed this to her peers. My agency had someone come in and sit down with me and my peers to ask us what we would like to see on the menu. I stated that I like soul collard greens, yams, and mac & cheese. Because this residence has a mixed ethnic group the menus have to appeal to all of us. This is not something that I can have at every agency. They worked with the nutritionist to help us get the foods we like, only healthier."
Commissioner Burke applauded the families for their courage and for the power of their stories. She was observed as being moved to near tears several times. The Commissioner stated that the stories "create fire in my belly and keep me going". She also stated that as OPWDD focuses more on service outcomes, "we need to partner with multicultural agencies…and bring them along with us as we change." Later in the Forum, Jill Gentile reiterated Commissioner Burke's commitment and stated in response to a question about the future of multicultural agencies, "We need them all."

As the president of NYAEMP I want to thank Yvette Watts and Allan Bergman for a magnificent job in preparing for and facilitating NYAEMP's Parent Forum. At the conclusion of the Forum, Yvette presented the Commissioner and Jill Gentile with notebooks containing the typed stories and photographs of the participants as a visual reminder of who we are and what we do.

I also want to thank our Host Mytra Cuadra-lash, Executive Director of Sinergia and her staff for making the afternoon a success with their warm hospitality. The room was filled to capacity with families, consumers and providers all of whom were warmed by the compelling stories everyone shared regarding the various agencies.

We need each other more than ever before. Please accept my thanks for your commitment to NYAEMP and our top priority for the year, which is to ensure the continuation, viability, sustainability and growth of New Yorks' multicultural agencies.

I also extend to you, your families and loved ones and to the individuals and families to whom you provide services and supports my best wishes for a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. All of us have some things for which we are grateful at this time of year.

Below are pictures from the Parent Forum. Thank You, Wafa Abboud

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