Alison Gardy '88 (bottom right) and the Yale volunteers at El Nido de Esperanza

On a stormy Saturday morning, Nido de Esperanza in Washington Heights, New York, welcomed 11 Yale Day of Service volunteers spanning three generations out of the rain and into its uplifting space for new mothers and their babies, ages 0 to 3 years. 

We came with our children, our mothers, and other family members. The Nido de Esperanza team had efficiently organized streamlined tasks for us to fulfill. We cleaned shelves, labeled educational toys, sorted and hung clothing, and built a coat rack. We saw colorful, beautifully designed educational spaces that would make any new mother and child feel welcome and excited to learn. 

We also heard the inspiring story of Ramona Nivar, one of the pioneer moms when Nido de Esperanza – which translates as Nest of Hope in English and is familiarly known as El Nido or The Nest for short – first opened its doors six years ago. A passionate volunteer, Ramona became a part-time employee and is now the distribution coordinator. She said Nido de Esperanza made all the difference in her being able to support her son. 

Nido de Esperanza provides not only material necessities, but also wisdom and guidance during a child’s first crucial three years of development. Ramona explained that many of the mothers who gather at Nido de Esperanza come from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Ecuador among other Latin American countries. Far from their extended families and support systems, new mothers have found a lifeline at Nido de Esperanza.

Ramona referred to her volunteer days at Nido de Esperanza as her “me time.” Though she was caring for others and the premises, she considered it “me time” to nurture a space that made a vital difference in her own well-being. When an opportunity to work at Nido de Esperanza arose, she leaped at the offer to work for the place she loved.

Ramona reminded us that volunteering, at its best, feels “selfish” in a self-nurturing way. Before our visit had ended, many of us were already strategizing how to build support for Nido de Esperanza. We requested their link for making donations and discussed the possibility of volunteering regularly throughout the year through Yale Community Connect

Yale Day of Service enables thousands of volunteers across the globe to connect with community organizations in meaningful ways. Our hope is that YDoS is a springboard to ongoing community engagement year-round. Thanks to Nido de Esperanza, which welcomed us out of the rain and into its uplifting premises of warmth and support, we felt close to the heartbeat of Washington Heights and looked forward to our next visit.

I told my two older children, who accompanied me, that their volunteering with me was the best Mother’s Day gift they could have given. We’ll make it a tradition.


Alison Gardy is a regular Yale Day of Service volunteer. She is also a member of the Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA) and director of Yale Community Connect.