Two days after the World Trade Center tragedy, Alianza Dominicana’s staff began working seven days a week to provide crises intervention, day care services, and emotional support to the families of Washington Heights and Inwood who were affected. Alianza’s response, offering the concern and services each individual family needs, typifies this organization’s approach to strengthening the neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood at the northern tip of Manhattan, which together contain one of the country’s oldest and largest Dominican communities. Also typical was Alianza’s ability to draw on the neighborhood’s other resources – whether neighbors, local businesses, or government agencies – to help affected families.
Founder and executive director, Moises Perez, founded Alianza in 1989. Connection and collaboration have characterized Alianza Dominica from its earliest days. Responding to community needs, Alianza started the area’s first drug treatment program and first community-based mental health program. In 1991, Alianza opened La Plaza, a school-based community center that was one of the first Beacon Schools in New York City. Today, La Plaza offerings include after-school programs, adult education classes, and a cable television production facility. Alianza also played a key role in rebuilding the community following riots in 1992 by convening families and working with local health care, education, and business organizations to fill service gaps.
Alianza’s initiatives help families build the emotional, educational, and economic resources to thrive. Alianza offers day-care services coupled with job training for low-income women; a family assistance program that includes alternatives to traditional foster care for families troubled by domestic violence; and a “Family Center” that helps those newly arrived from the Dominican Republic adjust to a new country. Another initiative, Best Beginnings, is a home visitation primary prevention program that provides prenatal care and health information to expectant mothers. Best Beginnings continues supporting them and their families until the children are of school age. “My Best Beginnings family service worker taught me the importance of watching my weight when I was pregnant and breastfeeding after my son was born,” says Juana Pereyda.
A collaboration with Columbia University and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Best Beginnings exemplifies Alianza’s commitment to working with local institutions to address neighborhood needs more effectively. Best Beginnings arranged child care when Pereyda had health problems and provided translation services for a dispute with a landlord who didn’t speak Spanish. When Pereyda’s young son began having difficulties speaking, Best Beginnings worked with Pereyda to enroll him in speech therapy. “I learned how to work with my son at home,” says Pereyda. “But when I felt depressed or overwhelmed, I knew someone from Alianza would be there for me.”
Alianza Dominicana, Inc. is a 2002 Honoree of Families Count, the national honors program that recognizes organizations that are making a difference in the lives of families struggling to survive in tough neighborhoods.