Monday, December 9, 2013

Somos El Futuro Fall Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The 2013 Somos El Futuro Fall Conference was held this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico from Nov. 6-10, 2113. Since last year's conference had to be postponed last November because of Super Storm Sandy there was much anticipation and interest in ensuring the success of this year's conference. Sponsored by the Somos El Futuro, Inc. and NYS Assembly//Senate Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force, which is chaired by the Hon. Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz it drew major elected officials from U.S. Congress, New York State Assembly/ and NYC Council, among them, the Hon. Congresswoman Nidia Velazquez, Mayor Elect, Bill De Blasio Hon. Assemblyman Roberto Rodriquez, and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. There were over 500 participants from the business community, Not for Profit organizations, Puerto Rican officials and over 100 legislators from NYS and NYC.

The conference was dominated by major issues such as immigration, national policies in Latin America and the needs of the growing Hispanic population in New York and the United States. The critical nature of these needs transformed the conference into a true policy retreat for all legislators and participants. The workshop topics ranged from issues of Charter Schools vs. District Schools, Economic Development, Hispanic Women Empowerment, Higher Education, Civil rights of the LGBTQ community to Mental Health and Preservation of services for Hispanic and underserved individuals with developmental disabilities The conference included some of the most perplexing issues facing the Hispanic family today.

The Honorable New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, was honored and commended for his commitment to preserving services for persons with developmental disabilities and multicultural providers by the Federation of Multi-Cultural Programs, Sinergia, Inc., Human First and the New York Assoc. of Emerging and Multicultural Providers,. Moreover, Assemblyman Ortiz was recognized by our agency for his vision and foresight in the enormous undertaking of organizing the Somos el Futuro Conference.

On November 9th, the fourth day of the conference, our very own Myrta Cuadra-Lash, Sandra Ruiz and Dr. Len Torres joined other non-profit providers in a workshop focused on the preservation of services for people with developmental disabilities, and the critical role that community based, multicultural organizations play in serving them. The panel focused on the need to advocate for the sustainability of these agencies who serve the most underserved individuals, particularly Latino, other language minority and minority individuals.
Somos el Futuro posed three major questions:
  • Who are the most vulnerable among us?
What can we do to guaranteed human rights for all?
  • Where do we go from Here?

The mission of the Somos El Futuro is to create opportunities that increase the participation of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic community in the public policy making process and to build the capacity of New York's Hispanic communities to work towards the development of policies, laws, state rules and regulations that address the needs and issues of Hispanics across the state.

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive

Sinergia Inc., would like to express its most sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal  for their ongoing generosity. For the past three consecutive years they have donated 50 turkeys to our families during the Thanksgiving Holiday. Sinergia is grateful for this and other contributions the Franciscan Friars have donated throughout the year.      

We are thankful that they share 
their blessings with the families served by Sinergia. In addition on November 26, 2013 Sinergia  distributed 40  more turkeys to families in need. thanks to a generous donation by the Church of Heavenly Rest.
Families served by our Family Support Program, the Parent Support Group, Residential, Family Care, "We are Parents Too", Respite and Tier II (shelters) programs were beneficiaries.We thank these two organizations for their generosity and for making Thanksgiving a truly thank full day for these 90 families.    

Staff Announcements

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Yesenia Estrella will become the Deputy Director of Sinergia this December.   She is the present Director of our Housing Services and is very knowledgeable about the operations of the Metropolitan Parent Center, service coordination programs and other programs operated by the agency.  Mrs. Estrella has worked at Sinergia for the past seven years and is well respected and admired for her competency, devotion to individuals and families served and is well deserving of the appointment. 

Rolando Aquino has been appointed this December as Assistant Director of Residential Services.  He has been employed by Sinergia for the past 12 years and is an integral and important member of residential services and has earned this promotion. 

Paola Jordan assumed the position of coordinator of the Autism Initiative in September of this year.  Formerly a board member of Sinergia, she is the mother of twins in the autism spectrum and has enthusiastically taken the helm of the project and in a short time has introduced additional recreational and enrichment activities for the children and parents..

Last but not least Sandra Ruiz has stepped in as Interim Deputy Director in addition to her duties as coordinator of the We Are Parents Too Project.  Sandra can always be counted on to support the organization in whatever way is needed.  She is a treasure.

Dr. Len Torres has reduced his time at Sinergia because of his pressing work in Long Beach as an elected official.  Nevertheless, we thank him for his deep commitment to the people we serve and the mission of the agency.

Myrta Cuadra-Lash

Discoveries, Plus Retreat

 On October 19 through October 23, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, I attended the Marc Gold & Associates fifth annual Discovery, Plus Retreat. The retreat required long days and even some evenings of attending informational sessions, presentations and workgroup sessions, but all of the time spent learning about Discovery was worth it. Beginning next year, staff at Sinergia will learn about Discovery.
This invitation only, retreat provided participants with information, skills, hands on experience and activities in understanding Discovery, and  how Discovery strategies are different from traditional assessment procedures for individuals with disabilities in preparing for customized employment.
Instead of trying to uncover the answer to what a job seeker wants to do, Discovery tries to determine a host of other findings. Discovery seeks to understand who the person with a disability is in as many aspects of life as necessary to inform planning.
A facilitator during one of the sessions helped us understand the shift that must take place by commenting; as professionals who work with and on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families we must find a way to share in the journey of Discovery. This will require beginning new relationships, a new pact and new expectations.
In late January 2014 I will be training staff from Sinergia's Day Habilitation staff abut the Discovery process so that they may start introducing customized employment to the participants.
Cassandra Archie