Month: October 2014

Ambassadors of Good Health

We at AMPHS are doing all we can to spread the word about public health issues, as well as the services we offer in Sunset Park. On Monday, October 27th, we were invited to speak before a Zumba class at the Sunset Park Recreation Center.

In the gym, as people were showing up in their sweats and dance clothes, we spoke with the Center’s Program Director, Letitia Guillory. She explained that these weekly Zumba classes are free and open to the public as part of NYC Parks’ Shape Up NYC program. “I brought snacks tonight,” she said, pointing to a refreshments table, “for anyone who dressed up.” One guest was wearing a Batman mask. Another had her face painted like a cat. “I brought a pirate costume,” Letitia told us, her laugh echoing. “Don’t judge me!”

 

Sunset Park Recreation Center's Program Director, Letitia Guillory

Sunset Park Recreation Center’s Program Director, Letitia Guillory

 

Ultimately, there were between sixty and seventy people milling about, stretching and chatting—Spanish speakers, English speakers—sneakers squeaking. In her introduction, Letitia told the group, “You are our ambassadors of good health. Whether you have access to these services already or not, take this information. Share it with everyone you know.”

AMPHS volunteers Mon Yuck and Sarice speak to the group

AMPHS volunteers Mon Yuck and Sarice speak to the group

We had three volunteers at this event. Nick passed flyers around while Mon Yuck spoke about AMPHS and Sarice translated. After the presentation, many came up to speak with us and to share contact information, excited to spread the word. Then the Latin beats began to thump and everyone was up and moving, including Letitia, now donning her pirate ensemble and improvising moves with her plastic sword.

Zumba time!

Zumba time!

As we left the Center that evening, we walked through Sunset Park to find community members enjoying the fall weather, and the Manhattan skyline. Children playing. Soccer games. A group performing a Chinese version of Zumba to a remixed “Ode to Joy”—Zumba is very popular here on Monday nights. It was wonderful to see health and fitness bringing so many people together.

So go. Tell the masses about Shape Up NYC and AMPHS. Promote wellness. You are now a Good Health Ambassador.

Click here for more info about the Shape UP NYC offerings at the Center.

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United for Justice and Opportunity: AMPHS Joins NYIC’s “Consular ID Event”

Shortly after 9am on Sunday, September 28, immigrant community members and their families began to trickle through the front doors of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park. They were greeted by smiling representatives of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) who signed them in and gave them itineraries for the day’s events, which included presentations by various organizations on the opportunities, resources, and services available to immigrant communities.

2014-09-28 10.13.16-1Tables were set up along the front hallways where community members could minglewith volunteers and learn more about each organization. The New York Legal Assistance Group repurposed the cafeteria to offer counseling to unaccompanied minors and to those who might be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). And of course—the central purpose of the event—representatives from the consulates of Mexico and El Salvador were set up in the auditorium to issue passports and consular IDs to community members.

Volunteer Nick manned the AMPHS table

Volunteer Nick manned the AMPHS table

By noon, the hallways were bustling.

“We do these events nearly every month during the school year,” explained NYIC’s Director of Special Projects, Betsy Plumb. She wore a T-shirt that read: United for Justice and Opportunity. “We are really taking advantage of a policy change in 2011, which allows New York City school safety divisions to be able to accept consular IDs or foreign passports for entry. Before, parents without identification were having difficulty entering the schools their children were going to. This allows them access, along with the ability to better engage with their children’s education.”

Betsy told us that usually around 600 people attend these events, and that over the last three years approximately 22,000 New Yorkers have been assisted.

“The intent with the IDs was to fill a practical need,” said Claudia Calhoon, NYIC Health Advocacy Senior Specialist. She motioned toward the community members lined up in the auditorium and waiting in the seats. “Then we thought, we have a captive audience, right? So why not provide other kinds of outreach and helpful information while they wait?”

Advocacy groups like the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presented on DACA eligibility and benefits. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office spoke about ways to prevent immigrant fraud and to seek redress for crimes already committed. The City University of New York discussed scholarship opportunities and ways to seek financial aid. Even Council Member Carlos Menchaca was there to show his support.

Not to mention our very own Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu, who presented on immigrant healthcare issues. They also offered blood pressure screenings at the event.

AMPHS's Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu

AMPHS’s Hewett Chiu and Mon Yuck Yu

“Getting AMPHS involved is great,” Claudia told us, “because you do stuff that we don’t do. So we can let people know about these other resources and provide a more holistic set of services.”

Not only was this an opportunity for community members to learn about these helpful resources, but it was also an occasion for the organizations themselves to meet, discuss future collaborations, and share their stories.

One young woman from Atlas: DIY, Developing Immigrant Youth, came to our table to introduce herself. She spoke of her own experience as an undocumented immigrant and how Atlas: DIY helped her to achieve DACA status. It can be difficult, she explained, for young people with DACA status to get work, because employers aren’t always able to see a history of education or relevant work experience, so one thing Atlas: DIY does is offer its members vocational courses. After getting a job as a receptionist, she was so grateful that she continued to work with Atlas: DIY, eventually becoming their Director of Operations and Outreach.

This was the first event AMPHS and NYIC participated in together, and we certainly hope it isn’t that last. It was a day of community, information-sharing and solidarity, and we at AMPHS were thrilled to be a part of it.