December 2012

Vol. 4 Issue 6

Latest news and stories 
In This Issue
2012 Year in Review
Business Expo
Iraqi Health Assessment

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Current Events

Debra DeBondt Assumes Executive Director Role

Debra DeBondt has now fully assumed the Executive Director role. We are confident in her ability to lead Opening Doors as we continue to grow as an organization and change lives in our community.

Borchard Foundation Supports ILS Capacity-Building


The Borchard Foundation has provided Opening Doors' Immigration Legal Services Program with funding which will enable it to develop much-needed infrastructure. The ILS program is growing as it becomes better known in our community as a much-needed resource for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. Borchard support will enable us to grow smoothly, work more efficiently, and to serve ever-increasing numbers with "low-bono" legal assistance.




RHEAP Kids Gain Support from the MAXIMUS Foundation


MAXIMUS Foundation funding will support our Refugee Health and Employment Attainment Program's efforts to include educational components for its children and youth. New program curriculum will help Iraqi refugee children to gain financial management and healthy living skills in the context of their new US home.



Now Accepting Men's Clothing for Eritrean Refugees


The refugee resettlement program is experiencing an influx of Eritrean refugees who fled their homes to neighboring Djibouti. However, the Djibouti government does not allow them to stay freely and forces them to live in prisons with incredibly poor living conditions, leaving these refugees with deficient access to food and no preventive healthcare. Eritrean refugees have been coming to us straight from these prisons with nothing but a small bag of possessions and the clothing they are wearing.   


We are now accepting donations of gently used men's clothing, especially clothing that is ideal for Sacramento's cold weather, and in sizes for men with a slender build.  

To donate, please contact us by email at info@openingdoorsinc.org. 




Job Opportunity- Survivors of Human Trafficking Program Associate  


Follow this link to learn more about this career opportunity and how to apply.

Deadline - Jan. 7, 2013




RHEAP Winter Volunteers Needed  


As our RHEAP winter session begins for the new year, Opening Doors will need more volunteers. RHEAP assists Iraqi refugees with  ESL tutoring and health education.  

Winter Classes are held from Jan. 15 to Feb. 19, Tuesdays 6-8 P.M.  


To learn more about the program and how to volunteer, visit the RHEAP page or contact Donelle. 




Spotting and Stopping Human Trafficking Event 


Spotting and Stopping Human Trafficking: A Victim-Centered Approach is a free community awareness event being held on Jan 20th at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Please join us to learn about how human trafficking can be stopped in your communities.  

Details in this link.  




Sacramento API Massage Parlor Forum


ODI's SASSMP campaign team will be attending the SAC API MP Forum at the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department on Jan. 23rd, 5:30-7:30 P.M.  


This is an opportunity for community leaders to meet with local law enforcement to discuss human trafficking in local massage parlors.  

Follow this link to the flyer for more details and  information on how to RSVP.




  Take Action with SASSMP


In our last newsletter we introduced SASSMP, Sacramento Against Sex Slavery in Massage Parlors, and the campaign's mission to make victim-centered investigation of sex trafficking in massage parlor a top priority in Sacramento County.  

There is still time to take action and spread awareness by signing the petition to end sex trafficking here. To learn more, visit the SASSMP website.

  Special Thank You 

Thank you to the Friendship Force of Sacramento for their generous support of Opening Doors this holiday season.

Thank you also to those who donated in honor of David Blicker and Annabelle Markoff. 



As 2012 draws to a close, we look back with pride at a year of growth, increased agency capacity, and many lives of underserved Sacramento area residents changed for the better.  In this issue, we bring you a summary of some of the outcomes of this year's work.  We also provide the story of new business owner clients who had the opportunity to publicly showcase their products and services, some of them for the very first time.  And finally, we share the preliminary results of our Iraqi Refugee Health Needs Assessment research study. 


Our work is possible because of you, our donors, sponsors, and volunteers.  Please help us continue this important work in 2013.  Donate now.  







YIROpening Doors' 2012 Year in Review 


Here is a brief summary of our successes in 2012:  


Stopping human trafficking in our community. Many Sacramento area residents are shocked when they learn that our community is a hub for human trafficking. Awareness and ability to recognize the signs of trafficking are key to ending the abominable practice. Opening Doors has served as a leader in building public understanding -- conducting trainings with law enforcement personnel, hospital emergency room and public transportation staff, and other professionals who are likely to come in contact with trafficking. Our staff and volunteers have conducted educational sessions at churches, civic groups and educational institutions; they have begun a campaign to encourage the enforcement of massage parlor inspections in order to uncover trafficking when it exists in these establishments.

  • 3,749 Sacramento area residents have learned how to identify and report human trafficking


Starting fresh after being trafficked. Those who escape from trafficking situations find that the joy of freedom is quickly replaced by the demands of beginning a new life. For immigrant trafficking victims this often means starting fresh in a country where they don't speak the language, and don't understand the customs and institutions. The trauma from their years as captives creates additional layers of challenges for most. Through comprehensive case management, Opening Doors assists survivors through this difficult transition period. During 2012, through our Survivors of Human Trafficking program:

  • 36 survivors of human trafficking were able to start new lives in freedom and safety


Being able to stay and fight back against their abusers. At the end of 2011, Opening Doors launched its Immigration Legal Services Program which focuses on assisting foreign-born survivors of human trafficking and domestic abuse. While special visas are available so that these survivors of violence can stay in the US and assist law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those who hurt them, the legal assistance they needed to obtain the visas was not previously available. Opening Doors has changed that. We are also now able to help young immigrants through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and assist citizens to bring immigrant family members. The visa process is slow, so most of our clients who we've helped to file for visas are still waiting, however the first results are beginning to come through. Through Opening Doors' Immigration Legal Assistance Program in 2012:

  • 16 clients are waiting to hear the results of visa applications filed this year
  • 2 clients received visas enabling them to legally stay, work, and assist law enforcement


Starting all over in a safe place.

Intern volunteer, Jacklyn, works with Iraqi children on primary health education.  

Some of the world's refugees from Iraq, Eritrea, Burma, Iran and other troubled areas came to Sacramento in 2012 to begin new lives. Many have suffered the trauma of war, imprisonment, and flight to countries where they are unable to remain, as well as countless deprivations. Opening Doors assisted them in beginning anew, with help from volunteers, donors of furniture and household goods, and generous congregations.   Through our Refugee Resettlement Program, in 2012:

  • 124 refugees were assisted in obtaining housing, healthcare, education for their kids and ESL or jobs for themselves.
  • 7 additional refugees are scheduled to arrive and begin receiving services before the year-end


Learning skills to become employed and stay healthy. Many Iraqis come with years of professional skills and experience, but finding a job in the US context is different from doing so in Iraq. Most must learn English, yet budget cuts have eliminated adult ESL schools. Health issues are also a prime area of concern for the new arrivals who come with medical problems exacerbated by the stress of war and migration. Opening Doors' RHEAP program addresses these issues. Using volunteers from the community, RHEAP provides Iraqi families with ESL training and one-on-one tutoring, as well as healthy living education and skills-building. Through our RHEAP program, in 2012:

  • 52 Iraqi refugee adults and 50 children gained English language, healthy living and/or job attainment skills, and 9 Iraqi refugee youth assisted their community as program volunteers.
  • 5 Iraqi refugees obtained employment
  • 8 Iraqi refugees made significant lifestyle changes to improve their health


Reaching dreams despite limited income. During its second year, our financial capability program, MoneyWork$, matured and expanded. Partly due to referrals from past graduates, numbers of participants swelled.

MoneyWork$ Graduates in Spring 2012

Program managers' constant efforts to improve the MoneyWork$ experience led to continually improving participant outcomes. Through the MoneyWork$ program, during 2012: 

  • 60 lower-income Sacramento area residents increased their savings
  • 70 residents improved their income/expense ratio; 41 residents decreased their debt
  • 95 demonstrably improved their financial management skills
  • 53 made increased or wiser use of financial institutions


Self-sufficiency and jobs through small business. This year Opening Doors stepped up to fill a dire need in our community for business microloans. Building upon our years of experience lending to refugee entrepreneurs, we have made it possible for the broad cross-spectrum of Sacramento area small-business owners to obtain needed financing in amounts under $50,000. Meanwhile, we have continued assisting refugees to start or grow their businesses. As a result of our microenterprise assistance and loans, during 2012:

  • Entrepreneurs created 13 jobs and retained 10 jobs through business stabilization
  • Entrepreneurs started 8 businesses and stabilized or improved 4 businesses
  • 163 entrepreneurs improved their business skills through business technical assistance


Ukrainian refugee Artur Ryabtsev was able to expand his carpentry business and open a new workshop in Sacramento this year, with the help of ODI's microloans.

Transformed lives through volunteerism.
All of these positive changes in the lives of our community members were possible because of our many dedicated volunteers and generous donors.
  • 39 interns increased their marketable skills and are better prepared for careers
  • 26 ESL tutors learned about Iraqi culture and benefited by assisting students of RHEAP
  • 8 volunteers' lives were changed by mentoring newly arrived refugees.



businessexpoBusiness Expo Showcases MoneyWork$ Graduates  


Roxana Calderon, our Spanish language MoneyWork$ coordinator, with her graduates at the Business Expo


For the new business owners who participated in Opening Doors' Business Expo at the Mexican Consulate on December 3- 5, the idea of owning a business would have seemed like a distant dream just a few years ago. Because of Opening Doors' microenterprise and personal finance assistance programs, it is now a reality. All of the 14 participants at the three-day event are graduates of the MoneyWork$ program and recipients of many other services we offer through the Prosperity Project.


The purpose of the Expo was two-fold. For the participants, the event was a great opportunity to display their business to the public, network with other start-up owners, and do some advertisement. For Opening Doors, it was a chance to inform others about our services.  


The participating businesses ranged from decorating services to photography and video studios. The majority of the business owners were women, and for most, building a first business was an amazing feat and the attainment of an empowering personal goal. Through MoneyWork$, all have seen positive transformations in their lives. With focus and hard work, they have gone from struggling with issues like personal credit to starting a business from scratch in just a couple of years. 

A recent graduate of MoneyWork$ shows off her new business products at the Expo. 


Since this is the first time Opening Doors has facilitated an Expo like this, the process began with interested persons attending a brain-storming session. The group shared ideas about how to make the event successful, and worked together to plan its details. The participants also began getting to know each other during the planning process and continued to network at the event. While there was no direct selling at the Expo, all were able to make contact with new customers. For example, the Expo helped one business owner meet her sales quota for the year. For another, attending a public marketing event like this was a first, and felt daunting. But she conquered her fears and enjoyed participating as a professional. In the end she felt very empowered by the experience.


The Business Expo was also a tremendous success for Opening Doors, highlighting our services such as MoneyWork$, Bank on Sacramento, and the newer City of West Sacramento Microenterprise Assistance Program. What better way to promote the services we offer than through glowing testimonials from business owners who are grateful of our role in their success? With the pro bono support of three radio stations from Adelante Media Group, 94.3, 93.9 and 97.9, the event also got some great media coverage. Our strong relationship with the Mexican Consulate enabled the facilitation of the event in their gallery, which was open to the public. The Consulate also promoted it on their website. The turnout reached 300 guests, with about 25 people who signed up on-site for Opening Doors' programs. The event continues to generate buzz, with Roxana, our Spanish MoneyWork$ director, receiving calls from interested parties since.


Participants found the event a great success. Since most were immigrants from Mexico, the fact that the Expo took place at the Mexican Consulate provided them with a strong sense of support. All agreed that they would like to see more Expos in the future, involving additional Opening Doors' graduates who were unable to attend this event. A planning meeting is being scheduled for January.



iraqihaResearch Partnership of Iraqi Needs Health Assessment Yields Results 

Iraqi Health
Some members of the Iraqi Health Needs Assessment team: (back) Linda Ziegahn, Ellen Maynes, Nooran Hassan, (front) Russul Tawffeq, Basil Al-Ansari, Karen Taranto.

A father describes how his son was kidnapped, imprisoned and beaten before his captors let him go several days later. A mother describes how her husband was shot and killed in front of herself and her children. The terrors of war have left their mark on the Iraqi refugees resettling in the Sacramento region.


Over these past few years the number of Iraqi refugees in Sacramento has risen dramatically and currently stands at 2,000 individuals, which continues to grow. Due to this increased number, it becomes more important that we understand the health needs of this community, and how they view our health system in order to best serve them. The Iraqi Health Needs Assessment is a community-based research project that sought to find the physical and mental health needs of Iraqi refugees arriving to the Sacramento region since 2008. We worked with the Mesopotamia Organization, a fellow nonprofit agency serving the local Iraqi population, and the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, which focuses on translating medical health discoveries into everyday practice in local communities.


Together we found that the health needs of the 34 adults interviewed for the study, all recent immigrants, were greater than the help they were receiving from the current United States health system in general, and from local Sacramento health providers. These refugees received limited insurance coverage to see the specialists they asked for, and many struggled to find a voice in the system because of language barriers. The study participants faced additional challenges due to the traumatic experiences most suffered living in Iraq during Saddam's presidency and the subsequent war.


From our interviews we found our study participants' mental health needs required more attention by health care providers: 91% of those interviewed said they or a family member suffered from mental health issues related to the war in Iraq, and almost as many -- 79% -- said they had directly experienced traumatic experiences related to the fighting. Either they or someone close to them endured torture, kidnapping, or witnessed killings or bombings that continue to affect them mentally. This trauma showed itself in several ways. As many as 59% said they suffered from insomnia, 44% suffered from depression, and 38% from constant fear. To get through these difficult times, most of those interviewed said they coped by talking to friends and family members, exercising or relying on their religious faith.


Overall, those interviewed from this community were not satisfied with the healthcare they received in the United States compared to their home country and other asylum countries before arriving to Sacramento. Above all, the financial cost of care was not affordable for 97% of those interviewed. Many said it was very hard for them to schedule appointments, which led many to rely on Emergency room treatment for their primary care. No dental or vision coverage left many without very basic health services. As many as 26% of our participants said they traveled abroad or sent for medications from other countries where everything from doctor visits to surgeries came at a more affordable price.


With these results, it is our hope that this research will help us to work with local physical and mental health care providers to find real solutions to the Iraqi community's greatest health needs. One participant said directly, "All Iraqis have witnessed cases of maltreatment and killing." Some of this community's health needs were unique to those from Iraq, while other struggles, such as the cost of health care, are a burden for all immigrants. One participant expressed his desire for "this research to focus on all refugees from all around the globe coming to the U.S..." so that all refugees who come here can "receive [a] better standard of living." With the findings from this research partnership, we will continue to work to find solutions for the local Iraqi community that will translate into health solutions for all those in need.

Thank you for following our work. Our staff, interns and volunteers wish you happy holidays and a wonderful new year. 



Debra DeBondt 

Executive Director
Opening Doors, Inc.