Photo: Senior Vice President of Community Impact, Chief Impact & Strategy Officer, Ms. Amy Sananman
By Linda Nwoke
There are over 90,000 nonprofit organizations in New York. The majority work to deliver incredible support and impact on varying communities and economies. One organization is working to assist New Yorkers who are low-income earners. The organization that is helping them to meet their needs and lead self-sufficient lives is the United Way of New York City (UWNYC). They run programs to support people from marginalized communities, especially blacks and other immigrant groups.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Pearl Phillip, interviewed the Senior Vice President of Community Impact, Chief Impact & Strategy Officer, Ms. Amy Sananman, about the nonprofit and various programs they are implementing. She shared information on how they support the poorest families and communities. It includes ensuring that their children are not limited but can aspire to dream and build a future for themselves. She also talked about the role of collaborating with other partners to provide the infrastructure and resources to support community needs.
Listen to an interview with Ms. Amy Sananman below:
Key Objective of UWNYC
The central goal of the nonprofit is supporting communities. The United Way of New York City imagines the creation of caring communities where all individuals and families have access to the necessities of life. Such as quality education, the opportunity to lead healthy lives, and financial independence. They aim to achieve this by changing the thinking pattern, practices, and policies based on learnings, specifically in impoverished neighborhoods and generally across the city. They render services in seven key areas – Education, Health, Small Business & Workforce Development, Criminal Justice Reform, and Food and Benefits Advocacy.
The organization is implementing over seven programs in partnership with other nonprofits and supporting entities. However, three significant programs directly benefit the marginalized black and brown communities – Choose Healthy Life, ReadNYC, and WorkNYC.
Choose Health Life
The COVID pandemic highlighted the age-long health disparities among various communities within the United States, providing additional evidence of its disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities. Many people with underlying chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, coupled with a lack of proper health services, led to the traumatic devastation following the virus. The Choose Healthy Life Program is one intervention by the organization aimed at fighting some disparities and effecting real change.
According to Ms. Sananman, it is an awareness and advocacy campaign designed to increase vaccination rates in Black communities. She explained that through Choose Healthy Life, they work with over 100 churches nationwide to combat COVID.
Impact Over the Years
In 2021, some of the program’s impact included reaching over 800,000 community members through CHL outreach and engagement efforts. Secondly, conducting more than 270 testing events and administering more than 9,800 and 38,000 Covid-19 tests and vaccines, respectively, at Choose Healthy Life sites. Progressively, the organization, through the program, intends to concentrate efforts towards combating various health disparities throughout the NYC metropolitan area.
“We believe that knowledge is power. And the more accurate and up-to-date information available within communities and brought to them via trusted sources – the farther we will go toward establishing greater trust in the medical community and ultimately improving health outcomes,” says Ms. Sananman.
One of the success stories from UWNYC’s Choose Healthy Life (CHL) program involves the case of Pastor Crawford, First Corinthian Baptist Church leader. He and his doctor believes that Choose Healthy Life and the Blueprint for Wellness Screening provide an invaluable resource for patient well-being and information. In this case study, Pastor Fredrick Crawford attended the Blueprint for Wellness Screening pilot program launched in early June 2022. He learned more about the program and took part in the screening experience.
At the end of the short and straightforward screening, he was given a printed health report that he shared with his doctor at his next appointment. Interestingly, the Blueprint for Wellness Screening identified health issues that his doctor still needed to check in previous visits. It prompted ordering more tests and proactive conversations about his health with his doctor than ever.
In another case, one family, the Hernández family, attended church service after the pandemic. They heard about UWNYC and the Choose Healthy Life initiative, whose pastor attended one of the initial meetings with the Choose Healthy Life team. They decided to enroll his congregation to receive additional support.
The Hernández family worked with a Health Navigator and learned about safe vaccines. They received their first round of shots at a CHL event hosted at their church. Maria, the grandmother of the household, also brought the Blueprint for Wellness Screening tool to her next appointment with her practitioner. She was surprised that the report identified health issues that her doctor had not yet checked in previous visits, prompting a similar reaction to Pastor Crawford’s.
One of the significant problems within NYC is the segregated school system that has resulted in less literate students who become disadvantaged in life. The Read NYC is a critical program that helps improve New York City’s schoolchildren’s literacy skills, contributing to the nation-leading test scores.
Impact Over the Years
In 2021, some of the program’s impact included providing more than 820 students with programmatic support to increase their reading proficiency during summertime. They mailed over 69,000 books through Books from Birth and reached over 600 students engaged through literacy and career readiness opportunities and events. Over 3,300 students also received learning kits, technology, PPE, and books through corporate partners to support learning.
Other impact includes having 39 educators use the Equity Ed Rubric to inform their instructional strategies and 133 caregivers. They received coaching and wraparound services to increase self-sufficiency.
Ms. Sananman stated that the program started in 2013 as a pilot program in Mott Haven, South Bronx. One of the country’s poorest congressional districts, with household income averaging $16,000. She explained that Families in the community struggle to make ends meet, schools are under-resourced, and more than 90% of the students were not reading on grade level. Thus, in partnership with New York City schools, UWNYC designed a program that created a fully-rounded approach to support students, families, and educators. An example of a success story from the program dates back to 2015 when a Parent enrolled her kindergartener and second grader in their school’s ReadNYC program.
“The program connected the Parent to the school’s Parent Collective, which empowers parents in children’s education and influences the school’s community. Many years later, the same Parent was hired as the school’s Parent Coordinator and worked with all the parents at her school to help keep parents informed,” says Ms. Sananman. Presently, she serves as a member of UWNYC’s Education Equity Cabinet, representing the parent level on the cabinet.
Generally, Black and Brown communities have the highest rate of unemployment. Therefore, there is a need for supporting programs that will contribute to balancing the scales and creating opportunities for people to live the American Dream—owning a home and venturing into businesses to build generational wealth. It is a known fact that people of color comprise less than two-thirds of NYC’s households. Yet, they account for nearly four out of five families with inadequate income to cover their basic needs.
The senior vice president explained that the UWNYC workforce development program creates career pathways, develops training curricula, and provides social services for sustainable career success. She explained that in 2021, they launched the ‘Together We Thrive: Black Business Network,’ an initiative that offers help in accessing financial resources, coaching, digital marketing, technical assistance, and more. Some businesses include restaurants, salons, wellness centers, and goods and services providers. They also have entrepreneurial start-ups aligned to become the city’s next generation of Black businesses.
The senior vice president explained that UWNYC had worked closely with other nonprofits and community-based organizations across New York to support the new immigrants. She explained that they work closely to bridge the gaps in resources and funding. Some of their achievements include working with the New York Immigration Coalition to get Lyft tickets to help transport asylum seekers to family members across the region.
Furthermore, over the year, the organization has funded soup kitchens and pantries in various communities across the city as emergency food providers continue to address higher demand. She explained that they created the United Way of New York City Emergency Assistance and Community Needs (EACN) Fund due to the overwhelming demand for more assistance. “The EACN Fund was designed to meet emergencies that arise in New York City. It allows UWNYC to grant organizations at the community level to ensure they have the resources they need to serve clients effectively,” Ms. Sananmam.
Furthermore, the EACN fund has raised over $660,000 thus far. It has also funded four organizations working to respond to the migrant crisis directly. Some of the teams include TLC NYC, Artists-Athletes-Activists, Gambian Youth Organization, and El Puente. For more information on United Way of New York, please visit www. unitedwaynyc.org.