Yajaira Valle’s career in social service began when she earned a BS in Psychology, as well as a degree in Music from the CUNY BA Program. There, she focused extensively on the emotional and behavioral benefits that music has on individuals with a dementia diagnosis. However, her interest in the arts eventually drew her to the culinary field, where she worked for various well known dessert purveyors in NYC. Concurrently, she volunteered for a mobile soup kitchen creating simple yet elegant desserts to accompany meals to those in need.
It was through this experience that Yajaira decided to incorporate her interest in social services and food. This new found pursuit would transform into full-time study and culminate in her earning a MSW from Fordham University. She went on to work at the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation where she designed and implemented programs that used food as a therapeutic outlet. In this setting, food was used as a commodity to tap into long term memories and enabled individuals to share their experiences in a group that fostered a sense of safety and inclusivity.
As a clinical social worker at Goddard Riverside’s Home Delivered Meals Program, Yajaira continued incorporating the arts and mindfulness-based practices to her work with homebound seniors. This form of empathic care was balanced by the provision of concrete services that enabled seniors to continue to age in a place with dignity and respect. On some of the most enriching days at Goddard, she found herself in the kitchen preparing meals and desserts that would help feed the vast number of clients the program serves.
Yajaira’s passion for working with the elderly community transcends her educational training and work experience. She volunteers her time at PAWS NY, where she assists in caring for a number of fur-babies in the community, all the while fostering relationship with their pet owners. She spends most of her downtime donating her voice to the Human VoiceBank, baking and learning American Sign Language.