Laura & Marvin Reiskin: 2023 Pillars of Change Honorees

For going above and beyond to support survivors in their quest towards living wage jobs within Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program.

After retiring in 2015, Laura Reiskin began volunteering at a few organizations before being introduced to Sanctuary for Families by a former colleague. Laura was immediately drawn to the mission of Sanctuary and felt a personal connection as a survivor of domestic violence. She was especially excited about Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) and supporting survivors in their quest towards living wage jobs.

Laura began volunteering with EEP’s Interview Prep, assisting program participants with practicing job interviewing. It wasn’t long before Laura got her husband, Marvin, involved, attending events and joining the Career Advancement Network (CAN), Sanctuary’s affinity group of volunteers who focus their time, resources, and connections on the Economic Empowerment Program.

Sarah Hayes, Director of Economic Mobility, shared, “Laura and Marvin are committed to leveraging their established networks to create upskilling opportunities for Economic Empowerment Program participants. Their work with EEP represents the chance for many participants to recognize their dreams of living wage employment”.

The connections and support that Laura and Marvin have shared with EEP have positively and unmeasurably impacted the lives of survivors. They have directly connected multiple participants to internships and job placements.

I think my service helps clients feel more confident in their ability to succeed – so many clients have very low self-esteem, and having volunteers with professional credentials in a variety of industries and positions, actually helping them prepare for their entry/re-entry into the workplace, is an added ingredient to the already successful formal training they are receiving.” ~Laura Reiskin

A recent meeting of the Career Advancement Network was focused on engaging city government as partners in EEP’s important work. Thanks to Marvin’s guidance in this area, the meeting was a huge success and has further informed the EEP team on how best to secure internships and job placements for participants in city government.

“It is rare to come across individuals who so readily offer up their networks and connections for the benefit of our clients. Laura and Marvin’s tireless efforts to support and advocate the program’s benefits are perfect examples of the integral volunteer efforts that make Sanctuary successful in its work with survivors”.

-Sarah Hayes, Director of Economic Mobility

On behalf of all of us at Sanctuary for Families, thank you for helping to end the cycle of violence with your unending support toward the economic empowerment of survivors and their families.

“The reward is mine – I receive far more reward back from this work than I give. I feel such gratitude and satisfaction watching the clients grow and prosper”.

-Laura Reiskin

To learn more about Laura and Marvin and their work, please join us on April 20th from 6:00 – 7:30 PM at Pillars of Change.

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Simon Kwon: 2023 Pillars of Change Honoree

For his incredible commitment as a volunteer tutor for some of the most vulnerable student-aged clients at Sarah Burke House at the height of the pandemic.

For the last two years, Simon Kwon has devoted his time and skills as a volunteer tutor in various roles at Sanctuary for Families. Simon joined Sanctuary’s weekly virtual homework help sessions through a partnership with NYU’s Dean’s Service Honors Corp in the height of the pandemic. When educational support was greatly needed for some of the most vulnerable student-aged clients at Sarah Burke House, Sanctuary’s large transitional shelter, Simon provided a constant presence during an otherwise uncertain time.

Simon stated, “The tutoring program gives students the opportunity to supplement the learning they do in school in a more personal, slower-paced context.” Sanctuary’s tutoring programs help with academic support and create a safe, empowering space for growth. Simon recalled the memorable moment when his first student read a complete sentence independently, “Focusing on one student this semester has allowed me to watch his steady progress, which is the most rewarding aspect of any teaching role. Sating the curiosity and the natural appetite for learning of a young student has always been a gift.”

Simon’s first grade student said, “I learn about shapes, measuring, writing, and reading”. When asked about his tutoring sessions with Simon, he replied, “I love him so much. Have a great day Mr. Simon”.

Hope Faison, Manager of Volunteer Relations, has seen firsthand how Simon’s commitment to Sanctuary extends beyond his passion and dedication to tutoring:

“Simon has shown tremendous commitment to our clients through the last several years of tutoring support while being a full-time student at NYU. He continues to show up for our clients by providing educational support and desires to extend his support by making an impact with our legal team in the near future.”

All of us at Sanctuary for Families are grateful for Simon’s expertise and continued support.

To learn more about Simon and his work, please join us on April 20th from 6:00 – 7:30 PM at Pillars of Change.

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Ariella Rosenthal: 2023 Pillars of Change Honoree

Acknowledging her phenomenal work providing individual trauma-informed counseling, advocacy, and case management to clients between the ages of five and twenty-one years old.

Ariella joined the Manhattan Family Justice Center in the Children and Family Services Program (CFSP) in the fall of 2022 as a first year Master of Social Work student at Colombia University. Her work with Sanctuary for Families has provided individual trauma informed counseling, advocacy, and case management to clients between the ages of five and twenty one years old. She also conducts intake assessments for children and teens referred for counseling services.

Ariella’s work goes far beyond providing clinical support. She co-facilitated a Bingo Blowout event with our Children’s Activity Leader, and has assisted with children’s room activities as well as decorating and planning themes for the room. She is also co-facilitating a group for young girls with a focus on healthy relationships and self-empowerment.

Katherine Roman, Clinical Supervisor, and Erick DuShane, Counselor, said “Ariella has been an asset to our clinical team. She does a fantastic job completing thorough intakes while establishing and maintaining rapport with clients. Ariella has demonstrated trauma-informed care through her patience and effort to meeting clients where they are at. Children and families who have worked with Ariella have developed a positive relationship with Ariella, and the children enjoy coming to counseling.”

In addition to making a huge difference in the lives of the clients she works with, Ariella has also positively impacted her team of staff.

“She brings humor, dedication, empathy, and compassion to each setting, and she works hard to advocate for those around her. She is truly one of a kind. We are going to truly miss her [when her placement ends], but we are also proud of what is to come in her future.”

-Katherine Roman, Clinical Supervisor

Ariella has grown through her internship with Sanctuary in many ways. She said, “I have learned so much from my supervisor, Katherine Roman and the rest of the clinical team. I feel lucky to have so much support from them. They have taught me valuable lessons about trusting my instinct, following my clients lead in the direction they are ready to go, enjoying the process, and the value of self-care”.

Erick recalls a memorable moment with Ariella when she shared her genuine and warm demeanor with her “This was evident during the very first session when each of the clients shared that they were initially nervous joining the group but were completely comfortable by the end of the session.” Katherine fondly cherishes her one on one supervisions with Ariella, seeing her grow in her clinical skills and confidence, as well as watching her engaged in various activities within the program.

A huge thank you to Ariella for all her hard work and dedication to survivors of gender violence!

To learn more about Ariella and her work, please join us on April 20th from 6:00 – 7:30 PM at Pillars of Change.

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Valentina Ramia: 2023 Pillars of Change Honoree

In recognition of her sensitive, skilled, and steadfast support to survivors within Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project.

For the past three years, Valentina has provided sensitive, skilled, and steadfast support to survivors within Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project (IIP). She was first introduced to the Project’s Co-Deputy Director, Deirdre Stradone, by a mutual connection as she needed to interview someone involved in asylum work as part of her PhD research.

Valentina shared, “My work with Sanctuary is part of my anthropological research about how fear is interpreted in asylum law. I have been a volunteer for a long time, but my experience at Sanctuary (SFF) has a special place in my heart. At SFF, I have been able to get a deep understanding of the impact of legal representation on the lives of people who are fleeing gender violence and what the law expects from them in their court appearances. The amount of work, dedication, and passion that the teams put into the lives of their clients is invaluable and never ceases to inspire me”.

After the initial interview with Deirdre, Valentina expressed interest in volunteering to support the team and further understand the experiences asylum seekers face. Since 2019, Valentina has been integral to three asylum cases for women facing removal proceedings in immigration court. Valentina has assisted the IIP team by providing necessary document translation and trauma-informed interpreting in Spanish, her native language. In addition to hours of translations, Valentina has also provided beneficial insight into the cases, having also had experience with asylum law.

Deirdre says it is difficult to fully express the impact Valentina has had working with IIP. She says, “Due to Valentina’s work, I have been able to provide both strong legal representation and emotionally supportive cases to my clients. Instead of using different translators throughout our preparation or using faceless/nameless telephonic interpreters, my clients have been able to see Valentina’s face over Zoom or in person throughout the course of our prep. They have come to know Valentina as another woman who supports and cares about them and wants to help them obtain safety, freedom, and happiness in the U.S. Valentina has shown our clients that they have a whole team of people to support them and who believe in them“.

“Valentina is far more than a ‘volunteer’ or ‘translator.’ She has become a friend to both me and all of our clients that she has supported.”

– Deirdre Stradone, Co-Deputy Director (IIP)

Deirdre goes on to say, “I cannot express all of my gratitude for Valentina. She has donated hundreds of hours of her time over the past three years and has helped Sanctuary to change the lives of these women”.

On behalf of everyone at Sanctuary and the survivors we support, thank you for your amazing volunteer contributions, Valentina! We are so grateful.

To learn more about Valentina and her work, please join us on April 20th from 6:00 – 7:30 PM at Pillars of Change.

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