Elders waited patiently at Queens Borough Hall to see the Mayor and air their issues
On 18th July, Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a City Resource Fair at the Queens Borough Hall in order to help residents understand the various services available to them, and untangle problems incurred by the people of the city. The event was very well organized and different departments like NYC Department of Health, Department of Aging, New York Police Department, Fire Department of the City of New York, MTA’s Access a Ride as well as Reduced Fare services, NYC Rent Freeze Programs were represented at the venue.
India Home seniors Bharti Parikh, her nephew, and Narendra Bhutala with NYC Mayor Bill D’Blasio at the City Resource Fair in Queen
Most of the people who were waiting to meet the Mayor had come in search of a solution to specific issues like health care, transportation, housing and so on.
Several seniors from India Home attended the Resource Fair. Our seniors were very excited as well as honored to be able to meet the Mayor of New York City. The long lines did not deter our seniors, instead, the waiting allowed our elders more time to come up with other concerns they wished to share with the Mayor. “Since the Mayor has made so much of effort to organize this type of an event for all of us, in turn, we can definitely spare a few minutes standing in the line to meet him,” said Mr. Butala.
In the end, the hassle of waiting in line paid-off as the seniors finally got to meet the Mayor and expressed their problems. Mayor de Blasio immediately helped the seniors find solutions. “He was very friendly and patient in listening to all my problems and further asked Donna Corrado, Commissioner of Department for Aging who in turn helped me with information on care resources for my husband,” said Bharti Parikh. As for Mr. Butala, he brought an important issue to the Mayor’s notice: “I notified the Mayor about the increasing number of accidents near my neighborhood and how badly someone needs to take action for it,” he said.
By Rohandeep Arora, Intern (Pace University).
For 75 years the Voice of America – VOA has been the the official news source of the United States government and provides news and information in 47 languages to a weekly audience of more than 236.6 million people on 5 continents around the world. Last week they did a multi-media segment on India Home.
They explored the problems our seniors face…
“Among New York City residents over the age of 65, the immigrant population accounts for 49.5 percent, up from 38 percent in 2000, and growing. Facing language and cultural barriers, increased isolation, and higher levels of poverty than their native-born counterparts, the rapid expansion has taken its toll on both immigrants and the small, cash-strapped organizations that serve them….
Interviewed Lakshman Kalasapudi, India Home’s Deputy Director :
“But Lakshman Kalasapudi, deputy director of India Home, says there is a misconception that South Asian immigrants who arrive as older adults are “fully taken care of” when they live with their children.
“This financial dependency kind of creates family tensions, especially when the seniors are living in overcrowded situations,” Kalasapudi says. “There becomes a real breakdown in the family structure and it really profoundly negatively affects the seniors’ mental health.”
And talked about India Home’s services:
“India Home is a secular organization that depends heavily on community donations and discretionary funding from local council members. It confronts social isolation and loneliness among South Asian elders. But it does so by partnering with existing centers, including Jamaica Muslim Center.”
To read more click here: https://www.voanews.com/a/aging-new-york-immigrants-confront-shortage-of-culturally-appropriate-services/3959423.html
We are collaborating with a sister organization, Sapna NYC, on the Tiffin Project. The project is named after the “Tiffin,” a stainless-steel three-tiered utensil that is used to transport lunch in South Asia. In the city of Mumbai for instance, home cooked meals are delivered to workers in offices and factories by an army of delivery men or “Tiffin Walas” on bicycles, rickshaws and motorbikes.
The Tiffin Project, helmed by Michelin-starred, Chef Surbhi Sahni, brings the familiar tastes of a home-cooked meal to our elders. On Thursdays, the congregate meal we serve at our Queens Community House program in Kew Gardens is a healthy, culturally appropriate 6-item vegetarian lunch from Sapna NYC.
The Tiffin Project also helps in the “economic empowerment of low income South Asian women,” who lack “job seeking skills, work experience and English language proficiency, ” according to Sapna NYC.
India Home collaborates with Sapna NYC to help underserved women bring culturally appropriate meals to our elders
As Sapna NYC says on its website: “Tiffin” trainees will receive a special ESL class, financial literacy training, resume writing, and life skills training. Each trainee will open a savings account and begin saving. Each trainee will have an opportunity to work in the industrial Hot Bread Kitchen for up to 12 hours per week, at a salary of $12/hour. It is expected that the life skills, ESOL, and commercial cooking experience will provide a bridge to entering the formal job market.”
On August 2nd, 50 of India Home’s seniors took a trip to Bear Mountain State Park in New York State. And boy, do they know how to have fun….
1. They recited jokes, and poetry on the bus, often their own creations.
2. There were snacks. Pre-lunch, at lunch, and post lunch. Lots of snacks.
3. They made sure they took lots of BFF pictures- and by that we mean, lots.
4. They took advantage of the view, and ….the props
5. They raised their hands and screamed….or maybe it was power yoga? Whatever it was, they had fun doing it.
6. They helped each other…
7. …enjoy the view
8. and some even went on a boating expedition.
All of which only makes us grateful to our seniors for showing us their true spirit- generous, loving and bursting with life.
Picture credits: CK Lalita, Anokha Venugopal, Bharat Patel. For more pictures of the trip to Bear Mountain, go here
Sunnyside Community Center celebrations
Diwali may be celebrated for only a few days in the year in India, but for our seniors the festivities have lasted all month long. The Festival was launched with a grand celebration at Sunnyside Community Center. Our member Usha Mehta, spearheaded the planning and execution with a little help from her friends. We had fun decorating the space with traditional diyas and hangings.
Over 65 of our members attended the event, which featured among other events, a vigorous garba dance in the main hall of the Sunnyside Center. India Home’s seniors, Chandrakant Sheth and Hasmukhbhai, explained the socio-cultural and spiritual significance of Diwali to the members of Sunnyside Community Center.
Hasmukhbai explains the significance of Diwali
Seniors from various other cultural backgrounds like Hispanic, Chinese and Eastern European listened avidly as India Home’s members talked about Ram’s defeat of Ravana and his triumphant return to Ayodhya. The speakers drew connections between all cultures and the significance of light vanquishing darkness. India Home’s seniors distributed platters of homemade Diwali sweets to their American friends, enjoyed a wonderful vegetarian Diwali meal and ended the day with music and dancing.
Dancing the Ras Garba for Diwali
Kew Gardens Center: Parallels drawn between Hanukkah and Diwali
Usha Mehta, one of our most active members, took the lead to bring the bright lights of Diwali to a multicultural crowd at India Home’s Kew Gardens Center. It was interesting to hear the comparisons drawn between the Hindu festival and the Jewish festival of Hannukah, and the significance that light holds in both these ancient cultures.
- “We strive to bring light into the lives of our seniors with the support of all our elected and government officials.” Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi said at the City Hall Diwali celebrations.
City Hall Honors India Home
The celebrations ended with an invitation to City Hall. Councilman for District 24, Borough of Queens, Rory Lancman (dressed up in an Indian kurta for the occasion) presided over a program of Indian dances. India Home’s Executive Director, Dr. Vasundhara Kalasapudi, was awarded a citation from the city for outstanding service to the senior community in Queens. The celebration and India Home was featured in the Indian Panorama.
India Home in the media
In this regular feature we interview our seniors for insights into the life they’ve lived. This month we talked to Mr. Benjamin Samson.
Benjamin Samson, 72, likes to make people laugh. A Jewish member of India Home’s center at Queens Community House at Kew Gardens, Benjamin likes to tease people and crack jokes. He was born in Mumbai, India, and came to New York after living for 18 years in Israel. India Home chatted with him about his adventurous life, it’s unexpected twists and turns, and his many avatars–as army man, railway man, and occasional repairman.
On being in the Israeli army in the 1970’s: In the Israeli Army my job was to fix the tanks and the airplanes. The tanks would go in front and we would follow behind them. If there was something that broke down then I would get the parts and fix it. One time, I remember there were bushes on the side of the road. They were moving. There were enemy fighters hiding in them, shooting at us. But the aircraft would land and we would have to find the parts and fix them, no matter what.
On striving: When I got to America there was an exam I needed to take. When I got there I realized I had missed it – I was late. But I went up to the them and said, I missed the exam, but can I still take it? And they said yes, okay. I took it and I passed. I got a job as a technician with the MTA. Fixing the trains. I worked for Metro North. It was dangerous work because you had to be on the tracks. I would work at night, come home and sleep, then go right back. I worked a lot of overtime. I wanted to work and they paid well, very well.
On being retired: I like to repair things. Radios, computers, electronic things. People bring their broken down things to my house and I repair them. I don’t charge them–it’s more like a hobby. Whenever I go to repair radios, I don’t take money. But you know how Indians are. Their wives will say, “You have to eat something, Mr. Samson. I’m not going to let you go without eating.” That kind of Indian hospitality you won’t find anywhere else. My son bought a flat and there were so many thing that needed to be fixed. So I went over and fixed the door knobs, the flush. I like all that engineering stuff.
- “When I was in the Israeli Army my job was to fix the tanks and airplanes. The tanks would go in front and we would follow behind them. If there was something that broke down then I would get the parts and fix it. One time, I remember there were bushes on the side of the road. They were moving. There were enemy fighters hiding in them, shooting at us.”
A favorite memory of his life in America: I was working for security at LaGuardia airport. When the bags were going through the machine I saw that a man was carrying a knife in his bag. It was a big knife. I told my supervisor-stop the machine. She didn’t listen so I stopped the machine. She said, Why did you stop the machine? I said look, There’s a knife. She said, No, there’s no knife. That’s not a knife. I said there is a knife. Explosives look green. A knife looks green. She said, go inside and don’t do anything. I came out and said, no you have to check- this guy is taking a knife on board. Then she opened the bag and she found the knife. Then she said, how did you know? I’m a supervisor and I didn’t know. I said, in Israel, they have very good security–because they have a lot of experience of terrorists. After 9/11 I met my supervisor on the platform — I was working for the MTA. She said. “You are a very good person.” I have got experience, I’m Indian but I lived in Israel 18 years. My brothers are still there. I travel there all the time.