March 2012

Vol. 4 Issue 1

Latest news and stories 
In This Issue
Meet Eugene Stepanov: A Microenterprise Success Story
Welcoming New Employee: Elisabet Medina
Read about January Survivors of Human Trafficking Events

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Looking for an Internship? 


Many opportunities offered at Opening Doors!


Opening Doors is always looking for driven individuals who actively seek to better themselves as well as contribute to society. 


Our current openings can be found on our website.  



Want to make a difference in Iraqi refugees' lives?


Volunteer or donate to RHEAP!


Iraqu Refugee


The Refugee Health and Employment Attainment Program (RHEAP) needs volunteers on Tuesday nights, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. In particular we are looking for:

  • Tutors (hours needed: from 7:00 - 8:00 pm)
  • Childcare and Youth Program volunteers (hours needed: from 5:00 - 8:00 pm)
  • ESL Teachers [requires some prior experience] (hours needed: from 5:00 - 6:00 pm)

This opportunity costs nothing but a little of your time, yet the rewards are phenomenal. Don't miss this chance to help!

Donations are greatly appreciated! Help us make our program better with:

  • Utensils: forks, cups, knives, plates, spoons
  • Cleaning supplies: soap, paper or cloth towels, sponges
  • Monetary donations, gift cards
  • Children's supplies: coloring books, crayons, arts and crafts tools, books
For more information on how you can help, please see our website



Enroll in MoneyWork$!



MoneyWork$ helps you get a handle on your finances. With financial coaching, peer support and guest presenters who are experts from the community, you will identify your financial goals, create a budget and get support for developing and sticking with your own action plan.


The English cohort begins in March, and meets on Tuesday evenings at the Sacramento Works Career Center, 5655 Hillsdale Boulevard. 


Call Nele at 916.492.2591 

to register.


For more information, please visit our website





The new year offers a fresh start and with it we bring you stories of new beginnings. In this first newsletter of 2012, you will read about our new employee, Elisabet Medina, who is helping trafficking survivors start their lives anew. You'll also hear about Eugene Stepenov, an asylee whose new start in the US was helped along by Opening Doors' microenterprise program. And you'll learn about National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and the January activities that we helped to sponsor.


Our new year is off to a great start: we are very busy and making lots of exciting accomplishments. We're happy to share these details about a few of them.


Asylee Builds a Business with Opening Doors' Help, and Then Gives Back


Eugene Stepanov


Many of our clients at Opening Doors establish relationships with us and later return to participate in one of our other programs, or to give back as a volunteer. Eugene Stepanov is one client who has done both. To date, he has successfully taken out three loans from our Microenterprise program, steadily growing his notary public and immigrant services business each time. He is also a recent addition to our Prosperity Project Advisory Board. A self-described "socially-active person," Eugene's contributions to both Opening Doors and to Sacramento's immigrant population make him an invaluable member of our community.


Originally born in Russia, Eugene came to the United States with his family in 2006 seeking political asylum. In Russia, Eugene had been persecuted for both his political and his religious views. As part of the Evangelical Christian minority in Russia, Eugene found himself the subject of continual suspicion and harassment for practicing what was perceived to be "American Protestantism." In school his teachers humiliated him for his beliefs, and at work he was paid lower wages than his colleagues. He was continually monitored by the Federal Security Service (FSS), and his congregation was subjected to both political pressure and police harassment. Faced with such persecution, Eugene decided to run for political office, believing that only Christian politicians could be counted on to protect the rights of fellow Christians and prevent the return of Communism to Russia. Eugene's political activities, particularly because they inspired other Evangelical Christians to turn to politics themselves, brought him under increased scrutiny from the FSS and made continuing to stay in Russia dangerous for Eugene and his family.


As an Evangelical minister, Eugene had visited the United States in 2004 and 2006 on a number of speaking engagements. Already having seen a good portion of the United States, he decided that California was the place to come in order to be successful. So in 2006, Eugene brought his family directly to California in the hopes of gaining asylum and finally securing a future free from persecution. While in Russia, Eugene had studied English as a member of the International Christian Interpreters Association, and he had also worked in immigration services, primarily assisting clients who wanted to immigrate to Israel. With this background, in October of 2007, Eugene was hired as a Employment Specialist case manager at the nonprofit, Asian Resources, where he worked with refugees. Through his job, Eugene was brought into contact with partner agencies, such as the Sacramento Employment Training Agency (SETA), and Opening Doors.


A year later, in October 2008, when Eugene was laid off, he made the decision to start his own business. However, the process was not an easy one as Eugene found himself unable to get loans from traditional banks because of his lack of a credit history in the United States. Already knowing about the work we do, Eugene instead turned to Opening Doors in the hopes that we could help him start his own immigration services business. Thus, Eugene's business, called the "Center of Immigration Notary Public and Translation Services," was born.


As a client of Opening Doors, Eugene initially applied for a $3,000.00 loan for a term of 3 years. Thanks to the success of his business, he paid this loan back after only a year. In order to expand his business, Eugene then applied for a $5,000.00 loan, also for a term of 3 years, which he again paid back in a year. In September of 2011, Eugene applied for another loan, this time for $15,000.00, which he was able to use to move his business from his home and into an office. Through his business, Eugene provides all kinds of immigration, notary public, and translation services. His most profitable service is assisting clients who are seeking political asylum; however, Eugene also helps with visas, immigration, power of attorney letters, and translation services.


Currently, most of Eugene's clients are Russian speakers; however, he is interested in working with clients from other ethnic communities. As he continues to improve his business and increase his clients' confidence in his abilities, Eugene is studying to become a certified court translator. He hopes to eventually return to law school and become an attorney specializing in immigration law who works specifically with the Slavic community.


Now a successful businessman himself, Eugene is a recent addition to our Prosperity Project Advisory Board. He is a socially-active person and was happy to join the Board when asked. The Prosperity Project Advisory Board assists Opening Doors in maintaining accountability to Sacramento's low-income and ethnic communities and better understanding how to serve these communities with our financial programs. The members of the Prosperity Project Advisory Board are from the various ethnic communities and geographic regions of the Sacramento area, and through their assistance, Opening Doors is able to help maintain strong ties with the community and their needs, desires, and preferences. The board also assists with outreach, providing community members with information about Prosperity Project programs and loan products, a job Eugene takes to heart. As a client of Opening Doors himself, Eugene in turn recommends us to his clients as well, particularly those interested in job opportunities and in being successful. Eugene believes "no one can limit you but yourself," an attitude and a life's philosophy we are sure will continue to bring him success in the future.

Elisabet Medina: Opening Doors' Survivors of Human Trafficking Program Associate


Elisabet Medina


Here at Opening Doors, we are lucky to have a strong team of dedicated individuals who seek to help people neglected by society. Elisabet Medina, the new Program Associate for our Survivors of Human Trafficking program, is one such individual who has continually committed herself to challenging the institutionalized forces that marginalize and make people vulnerable. According to Elisabet, "You can help people who are drowning in the river by jumping in and saving them, but you can also go up-river and see who's throwing them in." By helping individuals with their own unique needs and circumstances, while also focusing on the root causes of their exploitation, Elisabet believes she can best serve those who have been victims of modern day slavery.


As an undergraduate, Elisabet took a position as a case management intern at the House of Ruth, a domestic violence center that helps battered women and their children find safety. This experience helped her to begin understanding the complexities involved in working with individuals. Later on, as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, where Elisabet got her Masters in Social Work (MSW), she worked with Michigan's Program on Intergroup Relations, a social justice education program which promoted positive relationships across groups that have historical differences, and which currently experience friction. There she learned not only the importance of understanding how to work with individuals, but also how to negotiate tensions between groups and affect social change.


Both of these experiences inform Elisabet's own social work practices. While people can be marginalized by their affiliation or alliance to a social group or class, Elisabet stresses that it is also important to take people as individuals with their own emotions and needs and their own ways of coping with difficult situations.


For Elisabet, the Program Associate job opening at Opening Doors seemed like the perfect fit for the knowledge and experience she had gained throughout her college career. As a bilingual English and Spanish-speaker who had previously worked with undocumented immigrants at the House of Ruth, and as a Sacramento native who looked forward to the chance to give back to the community she grew up in, Elisabet knew she could bring both experience and an investment in the local community to our team at Opening Doors.


As a Program Associate at Opening Doors, Elisabet focuses her attention on client needs ranging from finding public benefits and religious organizations, to addressing health and housing necessities. She conducts outreach in areas and industries where victims of human trafficking typically appear, and networks with other service providers in order to maximize Opening Doors' resources to meet the needs of clients. As part of this work, Elisabet notes that it is important to partner with other agencies to find those resources.


In her work with clients, Elisabet sees her role as helping clients learn how to navigate the system. As Program Associate, Elisabet states she "removes the roadblocks so at the end of the day the client can do it on their own." The most gratifying part of her job, she says, is seeing the actual difference she makes in someone's life, and watching the progression from victim to survivor. Often, clients are unfamiliar with the concept of human trafficking, hearing the term only when they are identified as trafficking victims while seeking assistance with some other need. Learning their experience has a name is empowering for victims and helps them recognize their traffickers "shouldn't have done this."


In the future, Elisabet hopes to expand the Survivors of Human Trafficking program here at Opening Doors to help as many people as we can. She plans to organize more outreach opportunities in order to spread general awareness about human trafficking. She has plans to conduct outreach in Spanish-speaking and faith-based communities, in addition to conducting outreach in rural areas. By helping clients and community members learn about human trafficking, its causes and consequences, and what can be done to help its victims, Elisabet hopes as a community we can come together to stop modern day slavery in Sacramento. To learn more about human trafficking in Sacramento and how you can help, please visit our website.

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month Provides Outreach Opportunities


Outreach Campaign at CSU Sacramento


January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Opening Doors' Survivors of Human Trafficking Program, in conjunction with other members of Sacramento's Rescue and Restore Coalition, spent the month engaged in special outreach and public awareness campaigns. These activities strived to help community members better understand how the issues surrounding modern slavery affect the Sacramento area, and what can be done to help its victims. By connecting with the general public at these events, we help to educate them on recognizing the signs of human trafficking so they can report suspicious behavior to law enforcement, resulting in freeing victims. Thanks to both fun and informative events featuring documentary film screenings and spoken word poetry, and direct public outreach on CSU, Sacramento's main university campus, Opening Doors had a busy month educating the public about the work we do and how they can help.


First observed in 2010, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month was established first by an act of Congress, and later by Presidential Proclamation, in the hopes that January would permanently become Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The event lasts from January 1st through February 1st of each year in order to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863, and the celebration of National Freedom Day on February 1, which also marks the date the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was sent to the states for ratification in 1865. National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month both commemorates these events and helps raise awareness of, and opposition to, global and domestic human trafficking.


The Sacramento area is particularly affected by these issues as Sacramento is among the top U.S. cities experiencing an epidemic of child prostitution, and among 18 medium-sized U.S. cities identified by the FBI as a hub for human trafficking. Sacramento's location along several major interstate highways, its large immigrant population, and its economic reliance on the agriculture industry all make this an especially appealing place for human traffickers.


Opening Doors kicked off January Human Trafficking Prevention Month with "Voices of Hope" on January 11, an event jointly put on by Opening Doors, My Sister's House, SETA, WEAVE, and the members of Sacramento's Rescue and Restore Coalition. "Voices of Hope" took place at the Mondo Bizarro caf´┐Ż in Sacramento and featured music, spoken word poetry, a comedian, and "abolitionist" art. Each of the sponsoring agencies read a survivor's story and audience members got the opportunity to ask questions and find out more about human trafficking in Sacramento and the organizations working together to fight it.


The success of "Voices of Hope" was followed by "Coffee + Chocolate" on January 17, an event which specifically focused on local and international issues in child labor trafficking. Equally successful, "Coffee + Chocolate" took place at Sol Collective in Midtown Sacramento and was again jointly sponsored by Opening Doors and our partner organizations. The event featured a screening of the 2010 documentary film, The Dark Side of Chocolate which investigates how the use of child labor on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast fuels the chocolate industry worldwide. The film focuses on how major chocolate distributors profit from child slavery, and also calls for accountability from major corporations. "Coffee + Chocolate" also featured artwork on display inspired by Fair Trade, along with a retailer for Fair Trade coffee. Additionally, lobbyist Barry Broad spoke at the event about his work on The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (SB 657), which encouraged California business owners to adopt, and publicly display, child labor policies on their corporate websites.


Opening Doors rounded out the month with an outreach campaign at CSU, Sacramento, where we spent three days, from January 23-January 25, in the Lobby Suite at CSUS' University Union. The CSUS Women's Resource Center sponsored the event as representatives from Opening Doors, My Sister's House, and WEAVE held banners, passed out fliers, and spoke to students and community members about human trafficking. Quite a few people stopped by our table to find out more.


We are excited to have participated in National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month because of the opportunity it gave us to collaborate with other organizations in our field as we collectively strive to better help victims of human trafficking. We look forward to continuing to work with these organizations. And we are grateful for the platform this event provided us to continue educating the local community about these issues. Many trafficking victims are freed when alert citizens notice suspicious activities and notify the authorities, especially those most likely to come into contact with victims of modern day slavery such as court personnel, members of the labor movement, and medical and health professionals. With the support of our partner agencies, and with your continued support and vigilance, we can continue to make inroads against human trafficking in Sacramento, not just in the month of January, but beyond.

Thank you for following our work. Together we can make a difference in the lives of refugees, survivors of human trafficking  and other underserved residents in the Greater Sacramento region. If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please click here



David Blicker

Executive Director
Opening Doors, Inc.