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"Who" Cares ? - Ligia Ryan

ligiaLigia Ryan clearly remembers the day she started work at The Arc Rockland as an assistant in Day Hab. It was a Friday in November 1993. That was almost 25 years ago, and Ms. Ryan has not missed a day of work in all that time.

Many of the individuals she worked with then are still under her care now, as part of the Day Habilitation  Seniors program. She has been by their side–and they by hers—as together they take on new challenges, learn new skills, grow and develop. “The Arc is my second home and my second family,” she declares.

Ms. Ryan arrives at The Arc at 7:00 a.m. each day to drive one of the vans to pick up several people at their homes and transport them to The Arc Headquarters in Congers. Then, she returns to help the 15 individuals in her group begin the activities of the day. “Every day we do something different,” she explains. “We go to Glaze (The Arc’s Pottery and Art Studio in Orangeburg ) where people use their talents to create colorful items. Sometimes we spend time at ShopRite, Dollar Store or Dunkin’ Donuts, interacting with people in the community. We take yoga lessons and cooking classes in the Congers building. We play Bingo, and we have organized a communications group in which we talk about everything from movies and vacations to our families.

“Over the years I have gotten to know their families, and they know mine,” she continues.

Family is very important to Ms. Ryan. A native of the Dominican Republic, she has an astounding number of relatives, including 13 brothers and sisters, 38 nieces and nephews, and 43 grand nieces and nephews. “We are a close family,” she says. She also had a sister with a developmental disability, who has since passed away. “I wish she could have lived long enough to be at The Arc,” she says. “There is so much help here, so many supports and things to do.”

It is from this giant network of relatives that she learned about sharing and caring, about patience and about the value of every human life. In 2015, Ms. Ryan received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from The Arc for her passionate concern for the people she serves.

“Ligia is a resourceful, thoughtful, experienced and committed person,” noted Juliet Asamoah, Director of Day Hab Seniors, in her introductory remarks for the awards ceremony. Ms. Asamoah told of how Ms. Ryan was able to connect with an individual who, until then, had been ‘hard to engage’ in activities and was unable to communicate. Thanks to Ms. Ryan’s efforts, “Today, you can find Ligia and that person purchasing snacks from the vending machine, having coffee together in the cafeteria, and taking walks side by side like old friends.”

Ms. Ryan explains her technique. “I see that everyone can learn and grow,” she says. “You have to be patient. Sometimes someone will be having a bad day, but when you talk to them, when you make eye contact and pay attention to their actions, you will begin to understand them.”

“After so many years of working with people with developmental disabilities, Ligia continues to be enthusiastic, dedicated and highly productive in her responsibilities,” says Ms. Asamoah.

In her quarter century at The Arc, Ms. Ryan has seen many “changes for the better,” she says. “The people have more independence now, more opportunities for going out into the community, for working and learning. The Arc is a wonderful place. They help so many people, in so many ways.”

 

Thank You to The Arc Rockland’s 2019 Corporate Sponsors: