Fatima Reyes’ career at Children’s Aid spans more than two decades.
As the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Coordinator for Mirabal Sisters Campus in Washington Heights, she is an invaluable resource for our families.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fatima and the FACE team taught classes such as Interpersonal Skills Development, English as a Second Language, GED Prep, Family Life and Holistic Sexuality, and Yoga/Wellness.
More than 130 people ages 19 to 82 benefit from these classes.
When schools closed on March 16, Fatima and her team had only a few days to transition to online learning. Unlike the citywide effort to ramp up remote learning for students, the FACE program serves mostly adults, many of whom are not familiar with online platforms.
The FACE team realized that WhatsApp was the best way to continue to provide services. Though they no longer meet in person, there has been perfect attendance, illustrating how important these classes are for the community.
“The Interpersonal Skills development class has become a space where we share tragedies and we cope with them in the best way,” Fatima said. “We listen to each one of their stories and experiences, especially mothers who have kids with special needs. That makes me realize how important it is to continue to offer these classes in spite of not having the tools to do this job.”
Fatima has had to learn how to shoot and edit video in a short period and often helps her team do the same. The use of technology has also changed the lives of the program participants.
“We have an 82-year-old woman who has been taking our classes for 15 years,” Fatima said. “She learned how to communicate through WhatsApp and she said, ‘now I can see my grandkids through video in the Dominican Republic.’”
Fatima and her students have personally experienced loss due to COVID-19 and sometimes the grief can feel overwhelming, she said. But her close partnership with her team propels Fatima to continue her work.
“We as a staff from Mirabal, we are so close, and we are empathetic,” she said. “They know they can call me at any time.”