Rolanda Pyle and Katie Hine

Recorded April 28, 2015 Archived May 12, 2015 32:57 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk001057


Rolanda Pyle (59) talks about how her childhood being raised by a grandmother turned into a career as a social worker supporting families, especially grandparents raising grandchildren.

Subject Log / Time Code

R talks about how she has liked helping people since a young age.
R studied Sociology in college and interned at an alcohol rehab center for women whose children were in foster care. Their complaints about the system influenced her desire to work as a social worker.
One of R’s colleagues reached out to her about a grandparents program for grandparents who raise their grandchildren. This resonated with R because her grandmother raised her.
R talks about how her mother abandoned her family and her paternal grandmother stepped in to raise her. R was embarrassed by her mother not being around; traumatized.
R realizes that what she went through had a purpose and has provided insight for her career with grandparents.
R talks about cases she worked on that have stuck with her throughout the years.
R talks about her interest in learning about different cultures and traveling.
R talks about the importance of religion in her life and her grandmother’s influence on her religious life.
R talks about her illnesses, being hit by a car, and being held up at gunpoint and how these events have made her more cautious.
Lessons learned: “Everyone’s life has a purpose.” “Look for the positive.”


  • Rolanda Pyle
  • Katie Hine

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type




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00:02 Hello, my name is Katie Hein. I'm a social worker here at Sunnyside community services and I'm here with Rolanda and Rolanda. Please introduce yourself it so it's April 28th 2015 and I'm currently doing consultant work with the New York City Department for the Aging and I've been working in the field of Aging for maybe the last fifteen or so years. I love working with seniors.

00:41 What brought you into social work?

00:46 I don't know what I was younger. I always like helping people and I was always the one in school. Like if nobody like somebody's picking on kids or they didn't like the kids out of OSB like the one who helped them and feel like if you know one of my classmates had a problem, I would try to help them at the Moda somebody cares. So I always said when I was younger when people say what do you want to do when you grow up I will say what I want to help people. So I ended up deciding to become a social worker. I think I first awoke wouldn't want to be a teacher until I got to Junior High School when I saw how bad we treated our teachers in junior high school to know so I can order one through this so that I just decided to help others.

01:37 So you knew that right away coming out of school and you when I basically

01:45 Without your fruit Courier. I basically when I came out of school while I went to college I was taking a sociology and I did this like internship at alcohol and alcohol rehab that was working with these women who had their children in foster care and they were you in rehab and she has so many complaints about the system in things that were happening with them and their children. So I had this dream, you know, some college that is why I'm going to go into the system and I want to fix this system because something has to be done. So after I graduated from college with you don't have to be a in sociology. I went to work started working in the alcohol alcohol detox.

02:36 Rehab and then after that I started working foster care, so and I was working with you. What's the parents and parents and children?

02:46 And was that all it here in New York City New York City was in Brooklyn was a agency that could close now close to st. Joseph's children services, but it closed years ago and I work there for number of years and I was

03:01 Emotionally I didn't I don't think I handled it that well, so I left foster care when it supposed to get prevention but I felt like was better because I was preventing family from being broken up and preventing the kids are going at the Foster Care Network the prevention for I don't know maybe quite a number of years.

03:22 And I was all in Brooklyn to Sweetie Pie's agencies in Brooklyn.

03:28 And you found that satisfying I did and actually been working some of the families because you always trying to help the mothers to keep the children, but I think he noticed a lot of the parents lot of the mothers did the most it was mostly mothers but a lot of them didn't have the parenting skills. So we started this program where we were bring volunteers into their holes to help them get the station basic skills. And I was a volunteer coordinator don't want to think that I found was that the senior volunteers work better, you know, they seem to become like the mother to the mother so they weren't nurturing the mother is so it became like a very huge program and it helped a lot a lot of the families. So what happened was one of my colleagues went on to work in another agency.

04:23 And I did agency they got funding to start a grandparent program, which is for grandparents raising grandchildren. And so it was a child welfare agency. And so he thought of me because he working with seniors how well I got along with seeing if I will be connected and he brought me up off of that program. I work that Miracle makers for number of years. I started a grandparent program their child welfare agency and you know, I work for grandparents raising grandchildren.

04:53 And it's amazing because in working with them one day it struck me that this is this was my life that I actually was raised by my grandmother and it struck me that the reason why I did so well at it it's cuz I really understood that only with the grandparents felt for what the grand also the feelings of the grandchildren how to help them. So it was amazing to program went very well. Actually it would you know grew went well and actually win the department for the Aging thought of a grandparent Resource Center. They actually contacted me to come on board to run that program. So I went on board their department for the Aging and I was there for 10 years. I started to Center development developed into a full-blown program after 10 years of Brookdale Foundation asked me to come on board and Brookdale Foundation. They actually funded grandparent program.

05:53 The country left the park before the age of black felt like I'm going to get to do nationally, but I was doing locally. So I was there for a number of years until they had enough people will definitely my history of what I did but as I was saying that when I told him I can do grandparents. It was like, you know, wow, this is what happened. My mother abandon us when I was three my siblings for 2 in 1 year old.

06:22 And she left us with my father and my father he didn't know what to do for his mother said his mother my paternal grandmother. She told him that she would help him and that she would help him raise us and she did and so it was just amazing to me how like what I thought was the worst thing in my life because I really thought it was the worst day of my life when I was a child. Let's have a mother in the whole thing of my life because even when I was at the department for the Aging I got so many I got awards at the Sloan public service award Isaiah. Leave them in the ward The Daily News name me one of the a hundred women that makes New York for wow. So it was like thank you. It was like, you know, this thing that I thought was so horrible turn out to be like a blessing and that's like what I think I always try to tell people going through a rough situation when you are a child that you said it was one of them.

07:25 For me, it was horrible because I felt like

07:30 I couldn't understand why.

07:33 I didn't have a mother everybody else. I know how to mother. I mean years later you realize that not everybody really has a mother but you think it's that way, you know why everybody had a bunch of my grandmother used to take me to school in the kids use this why is a grandmother bringing you to school? Where's your mother? You know, and since I could come up with anything

07:53 Really good, I was started lying and say my mother was dead because how could I just say how who could say Your mother just left you you know, and so it was like a traumatic kind of situation and I don't think back in those days, especially in my culture that they really understood that maybe counselor have been a good thing or you know, it's just like you just don't what life whatever happened you just deal with it. So it was traumatic for me. You know, I always wanted a mother I think I think I spent my whole life, you know, childhood life looking for a mother mother Little Sugar Hill retirement age and you know, she didn't understand a lot of different things fashion or any of you know,

08:40 Was your father involved my grandmother was more than my father was more the provider cuz he worked York to post office. He works night. So they time you sleep a lot and then he was like a disciplinarian. He was kind of tough. So looking like that you really want us to go to but my father did things like stuff like that, but it feels for me. It didn't replace not having a mother. So that was like I spent my whole childhood like in English about it, really?

09:16 And I don't think anyone understood that.

09:18 Your grandmother and your father didn't understand that either.

09:25 I think my grandmother about it and is understood a little bit more. I think my father was a what type of person like, you know, whatever Life deals you just deal with it. You just go on and I was like his lots of me like, you know life isn't fair to anyone. So I don't think know if he really, you know, understood it to the way that I need it. My grandmother. I think she understood it because like my aunts were telling me how you know, she would tell them certain things for my grandma the end up that she died when we were when I was 11.

09:55 So, you know that was that was a huge loss to so so it was like a rough childhood, but it was so, you know it was you know, I had to hold my have food. I had all that so it wasn't like some people didn't even have that but the emotional part.

10:17 And so and your career, you've been given you've been giving that Counseling in that support two families that you didn't get when you were an amazing. Was that even working with the grandparent program that a lot of times the grand prize for complaints me about the grandchildren or whatever and you know, and like I got it I understood it and I felt like wow, you know.

10:42 What I went through really had a purpose, you know, I felt like it was a purpose to the whole thing was a purpose to the whole thing. So that was like really like really like awesome to me.

10:58 Yeah, and then you said that you've been you let you your back with the department for the Aging now who have cases and housing court unfortunate lot of seniors just dealing with figuring the housing cost for different reasons. So what I do is try to help prevent them being evicted. So before I provide whatever Social Service needs, they might have whether if it's like a non-payment case out trying to help them to get the funds to pay what they owe and also help them get on track with your bill payments for the future. Sometimes it's hotter during or cluttering so you don't have to get services for that involves getting family of all because of Valentine's seniors have family, but this family doesn't even if they don't have a clue what's going on because of seeing this, you know, they camouflage and they hide it.

11:58 And then getting dementia, so they don't even remember to pay their bills and self-help with those kind of things. Do you get to your clients is at something that is ongoing or you connect them with something and your shorts and then I will refer them for long-term Services if there's need it in your previous jobs or where their clients that you got to know very very very attached to

12:44 Were there any particular ones that stayed with you that?

12:50 That really you connected with a lot.

12:54 Well, there was one in Harlem. She is a part of a grandparent group of all of them and she was like such an advocate.

13:04 Espresso machine no, like every elected official that there wasn't all of them. They knew her like my name, but she had such an advocate for children. Her children should have had issues. That's why she has the grandchildren advocate for them and she stays you know, she stays with me and then it's a few like

13:27 There's quite a few of

13:31 What color shoes when I worked in Brooklyn of the grandparents who from the Caribbean and what happened was they you know, they would come here and like leave their children back in the Caribbean because they would try to do a better life and then they should have children and so the relationship design at Family Dynamics was like not the best so they were a few of them that really sick with him because I didn't really understand what they did wrong per se because they really came over here to help make a better life and they didn't understand why they let you know that shoulder Ortho angry or the grandchildren was so angry with them until like a lot of work trying to help them to see you know, what separation does and how people perceive abandon Anton and I bet there's a lot of different cultural expectations are right that were part of it.

14:30 Different cultures

14:38 Do you want to talk about any travels that you enjoy?

14:44 I guess my favorite places that I've been.

14:49 Hawaii map says they repair a beautiful it's just so beautiful. I mean I watch I will hook you up I said if I didn't know like the Bible like I do I would think that Hawaii is the Garden of Eden but I know de guatavita has to be geographically someplace else but why is just so beautiful but I think the most interesting places that I've been is what Barbados because of a Barbados is because my paternal family from Barbados my father's parents. So as soon as I stepped off the plane, it was like such an emotional thing and I was getting to go to where my ancestors were from and it's a beautiful country, but I also love Grease

15:38 Chris is very pretty and you know all the architecture in everything in Greece was fascinating to me and Israel, but it's all because of my religious beliefs of my you know, it was like this a lot of places and some that I read about in the Bible. So I liked Israel a lot and where else

15:59 I enjoy like a Dominican Republic but I would just woke up because I had fun. I had to go like a nice bodies. I've there I've traveled in 38 of the 50 states. I've been to 32565 twelve more to go go with that. Is it to learn about them or to learn about different places different states? Because it's amazing how different he stated. He stayed his self and it's just I just said I always felt like

16:38 It's good to travel outside the US, but I want to know my own country. So just to know it is.

16:46 Define the thought that you need that vacation time to as a balance to, you know, just concentrate on yourself and not to take.

17:05 Your clients all your cases home with you. So I think you know vacation is needed. Definitely. I think it's like therapy.

17:14 So you make a point of setting that time aside for yourself and every year even if it's just to visit family. Family different parts of the states. Are you close with that family then is that my mother's side of the family. They have like family reunions like every 5 years or whatever and that's always fascinating to me to

17:48 Actually one of my goals when the things I would love to do is to do one of those studies where you go back and you find out about your ancestors so tree and I would love to do that. I would love to find a fascinating.

18:15 You've mentioned the importance of religion a couple of times. How did that come into your life? Was that something that your grandmother grandmother was over she was a Streamlight really just for my grandma and her religion was a very strict religion. She didn't even watch TV. I remember as a young girl coming home from school and seeing my grandmother in front of the television and I knew that something had to happen and it was when President Kennedy got shot. I knew just my thing heard from the TV that I don't know. This is not the norm something is you know, but so I think that she didn't pack.

19:00 I guess putting that some kind of weight in my mind in my heart and that she used to sing hymns all the time when she cooked and selfish enough to cook but I think that's a teenager. I have friends across the street from where the charger they invited me and my siblings are going to charge with them and we got involved and ever since then I loved it at night. You know, I've been very involved in Ministry in church in

19:27 So yeah, and I'm totally totally believe in God and don't trust in what he says.

19:36 Is that something that you bring into your work with people too or do you have do you keep that separate if I come across is who you know, they seem like they are spiritual and they talk about it out. You don't I'll talk about it too, but I don't really like try to force it on anyone at any that try to keep it separate. You know, I did tell people sometimes you know, I'll pray for you if they're going through something like today when I was getting off the train and we were in the elevator coming up the stairs in train this woman. She was bawling and everybody says it what's wrong what's wrong and then you know, she just said she didn't want to talk about it, but I'll pray for you and so I do that but I don't really with work only if they talk about it talk about it.

20:33 Do you want to talk more about your siblings? Cuz you mentioned them are they part of the family that lives?

20:41 Elsewhere that you visit or are they here? And you're both of my siblings are here and we're like 10 months apart. So they live here. I'm the oldest and my sister Diane.

20:58 Is next and she has a daughter 90 and 90 is in her early 20s, and she wants to be an actress and so she's pursuing that and she sold and she models and she has all those kind of things. He's really beautiful and then my brother Kenneth is the youngest of my parents children and Kenneth he lives in Brooklyn, so he has four children and if he's married to a nice and he has to want to Danielle Kinney insurance and

21:32 Daniel was like an Earl. I think she's like 31 and and Cherise is the youngest and she's like 25 and they're all working and doing pursuing their careers and their life or really close and do different things throughout the years together.

21:52 And then I have one other brother who is this is my mother's childhood. She had after she left, but he lives in

22:01 Oregon so he has three children so I don't see him as often.

22:06 And they was poor.

22:10 So I'm I wanted to ask you how how do you feel that your life has been different than what you expected.

22:22 You mean my phone when I was younger, I think my life is been is different because when I was younger I had the dream of that I would get married and have children and grandchildren and that didn't happen. So I think my life is different in that way. I don't know if I could see that I would have such a like flourishing Korea.

22:47 I mean, I don't know if I really I mean I don't want it to work, but I don't know if I really, you know, my career has gone places that I never really thought it would have gone so

22:58 That that's different and I also think that I never really thought that I would have liked the illnesses that I have that and that's like taking a toll on me per se.

23:10 So I don't I don't know if I was you know, if I could see that before when I was younger that would happen. Can you talk about your illness?

23:21 Oh, yeah, I've been I've had several things. First of all, I all I felt I feel like if there's anything that was going around I would catch it. That's how I used to feel but it happened to me I am.

23:33 When I was younger when I was 20 in my early twenties, like 2223, they found a cyst on my ovary so they had to remove the cyst in the ovary.

23:45 So that was like traumatic for me really? Like, you know, you don't we don't know if you can really be able to pick that was like really difficult and then after that I used to get a lot of fibroids and stuff and so that was a continuous problem with the women woman stuff. But then after that I started getting like a lot of sinus infections and every time I turned around I would had an infection or bronchitis or you know sinusitis. I was constantly constantly sick as I kept constantly like I was in the hospital and I got asthma so I can asthma attacks was going to hospital quite a bit.

24:31 And you know, they couldn't really figure it out until Father's Day One doctor decided that she's going to text me for sarcoidosis and when she has and the test came back positive the closest and so after that I think my health is maintained a little bit better, but I still get like constant like infections and stuff like that to me. I know that people who have liked more symptoms. So, you know, I just didn't anticipate that part of my life. I guess. I got hit by a car and I was I'm okay from that I got held up at gunpoint. Oh my gosh, but do you want to talk about that or is that not something? I was just crossing Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Monday.

25:26 This car he just came out of nowhere. He said he didn't see me. I got hit by a car and had to go to emergency stuff like that. I didn't know my knees have never really been quite the same since then, but I didn't really, you know, I was like I'd have to like stay in the hospital a little prayer to tell me anything like that.

25:43 And I will see no conscious and everything. So I was fine with that and then getting held up at gunpoint. I was just walking this was like doing the

25:54 Don't know if it was like the late eighties when it was like such a crack epidemic in New York city. So I was walking down the street and these two guys are walking towards me and it was like 8 in the evening was like eight or nine. It wasn't like night night, but it was it was thought they were walking towards me and as I got to a certain point they split and I knew it I knew you know how you get the sense that you know something I don't like, but there was no place for me to go. So I just kept walking and around give me your wallet.

26:31 So I had a pocketbook. I just gave my pocket but I kept walking and he was like no no no come back next day this late some people down the street cuz it was like two box of my house has people down the street. They brought the they found the pocketbook and stuff everything but the wallet. So did you call the police call the police and everything so that I never found them in so that was a time. We was like so much going on. I don't think they would find them for that. They didn't really put the gun to my head. I just immediately gave him. How did were you terrified? So you felt safe and where you how you walked around the city after that? I became more weird.

27:27 And I tried to be more we're I try and even after this. I try not to be out too late and you know, what places that's isolated. So I think it made me more aware but I don't think you can live in New York be scared of him because if you do you'll never go anywhere. So I think you have to you know, what 1 cast whatever. So do you feel a lot safer now and done rule that or you still have that awareness all the time even with but I still have that awareness because her face is completely safe. But yeah.

28:09 What about when you're working, do you ever feel that you have?

28:15 And that you bring that awareness of danger in to visit and you know to me how this is there is a

28:32 You have to be aware because you know, there's a sense of danger sometimes so you don't really know the buildings are going into a lot of the buildings to have elevators. You don't want to really get on the elevator with anyone and if they don't have all the way you don't want to walk up the stairs sometimes and think a lot of times now my clients a senior so they're not hostile. But when I work the Child Welfare a lot of clients Erika costell together, they would have parents that their children taken away from them and they made it perfectly clear to me and also other workers that we don't like you you took my child away from me. So it wasn't, you know, it was some of the places where it really safe to go to to me, but

29:13 So yeah over been aware of any incidents with work.

29:21 I know that's good.

29:28 Is there anything that you wanted to say about?

29:33 Lessons that you've learned that you would want to share with.

29:37 Your clients are your family things that you would like to think that the way there's a purpose. I think everyone's life has a purpose and every purpose is different.

29:55 And I think sometimes we look for something like a big purpose like President going to be the president or something like that. But sometimes your purpose could just be helping or touching somebody's like down the street from you and I think for me I learned so well and as I mentioned before that what I thought was the worst thing in my life turned out to be the best thing in my life and I always tell that because I know how I felt as a child how horrible I felt as a child about the whole situation and it turned out to be at all because of that situation. I knew what to do when I got that, you know those jobson I was able to not only make the programs better and flourish, but also to help the client that I work with because of my when I know so if I have to leave anything with you, I will see that you know, no matter what you're going through now, you don't know how it's going to

30:54 You know what? I was going to turn out and what's going to happen in the future and always look for the positive.

31:02 Inspire Hank, oh thank you. I just wanted to say is that what are the things? I've always done because of the situation demands our powers and I wrote I like so I have written a lot of poetry and short stories and I hope I self-publish to books. What is a poetry book and one is a like an inspirational devotional kind of book. So, you know, sometimes you have to lose to

31:36 Let out whatever is in you and like I said back in the day when I was growing up, you know people that really believe in therapy. I didn't know anything about therapy, you know, so I think my therapy was writing.

31:48 And it's really helped me.

31:50 So you discover that even when you were younger, that was my eighth grade teacher Miss. She told me you have a creative writing ability, and I took it to heart and so I just continued to I didn't know where it was going to take me away, whatever, but I just continue to write and I love to keep Diaries and then journals as I got older.

32:14 So you still do that today if the drill? Yeah. Yeah, and even though I had died because of my siblings you search I ain't no going to read them and sneak and read them at all of that, but I still kept doing it if we kept doing it just catch either find a safer place to hide it.

32:34 Was there anything else that you wanted to talk about or share?

32:40 I just know just wanted to see your fault of my life, which I just think God has blessed me with it during your story. Thank you for the opportunity.