odinews

June 2012

Vol. 4 Issue 3

Latest news and stories 
In This Issue
Major Microenterprise Program Expansion Underway
Partnerships with UC Davis and Iraqi Community
Partnering in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

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Current Events

 

Bilingual Job Opportunity  

 

We are seeking a Spanish-speaking associate for our Prosperity Project program. The associate will work closely with the microenterprise and Moneywork$ programs.

 

More information on the position and how to apply can be found on our website.

 

 

 

Summer Donations Needed

 

We would appreciate donations of household furniture for incoming groups of asylees and refugees this summer. We are particularly in need of dressers, dining sets, and baby furniture.

 

For more information on how to help, please visit our website.


 
 

   

 Become a Mentor to a Refugee

 

This Saturday June 30th at 2 p.m., we will have an orientation for our Refugee Resettlement program and all that a mentorship entails. The training will be held at Opening Doors, 2118 K St. and will last approximately one hour. Please RSVP to Donelle Swain, Volunteer Coordinator at:
Donelle@openingdoorsinc.org

 

Greetings! 

 

This edition brings news of a major expansion at Opening Doors, an expansion that we believe will have a serious impact on many families' lives and also on the economy of our region, as it will lead directly to the creation of jobs. This expansion, like essentially all of our work at Opening Doors, is possible because of partners that share our goals and work with us to achieve them. Below are three stories demonstrating how partnerships enable us to make positive impacts in the lives of our underserved community members:

  

 

ExpansionOpening Doors Addresses Sacramento's Small Business Financing Gap 

  

 

 

A small Midtown restaurant has been in operation for a year and business is great, but the owner needs a loan to replace her refrigeration unit. Her bank considers her a start-up and isn't able to help. The owner of a West Sacramento bicycle shop needs $25,000 for inventory to meet an increase in demand. Her business is strong and has a long track record. She visits several banks but they aren't able to help with amounts that small. An expert cabinet maker in Rancho Cordova has long dreamed of opening his own business and now has the perfect opportunity, but can't find any sources of financing for start-ups in the Sacramento area. Last week, all of these business owners had nowhere to turn. This week, the situation is different. In response to a serious gap in financing in the Sacramento area market, Opening Doors has launched its Prosperity Project Loan Fund, providing financing in amounts under $50,000, targeting those who are unable to qualify for traditional loans.

  

Loans will be available to qualified low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs with interest rates of 7.75% or 8.5% depending on loan size, and for terms of three to five years. The loans have been made possible through Opening Doors' participation in the SBA Microloan Intermediary program. We will borrow funds from the SBA and relend them to Sacramento area businesses. During the coming years, we plan to expand our loan fund using other government and private sources. Meanwhile, we will continue providing starter loans to refugee entrepreneurs, in amounts of $15,000 or less and at a 7.25% interest rate.

 

Opening Doors is able to bring this program to our community because of our partners. Wells Fargo and Comerica have provided critical financial support, and US Bank has made significant contributions as well. We are indebted to the local SBA office for all the assistance and support its staff has provided. Moving forward, partnering will be critical to the program's operation.

 

When a loan applicant contacts us, we will have them complete a pre-screening application which will help us identify any financial issues that would prevent them from being loan-ready. In some cases, we will refer applicants to our MoneyWork$ program to deal with excessive debt, resolve credit issues, or build their financial management skills. Those who are financially loan-ready will be referred to the business assistance part of our program. Opening Doors' multi-cultural staff will work with those whose English is limited, but will refer English-speakers to our partners the SBDC and SCORE. These agencies, with their long histories of providing business assistance and training, will assist the entrepreneurs to develop the complete business plans that we will need in order to begin the underwriting process.

 

Opening Doors will also rely on partners for marketing our loans. We are in the process of expanding our partnerships with local banks and credit unions, providing their small business loan officers with an opportunity to refer customers who they aren't able to lend to. We have put into place a referral feedback system that will enable us to track referral sources and keep them updated on loan client progress. Ultimately, we hope to send borrowers back to them, with the business size, skills and capacity to apply for and receive the mainstream business loan products. We will also rely on our many community organization partners, and on our relationships with the Chambers of Commerce and the local faith communities, to help us spread the word about the availability of small business loans at Opening Doors.

 

Working with our partners, we strive to enable underserved community members to realize their potential. We believe the Prosperity Project Loan Fund will be a powerful tool helping us to accomplish this goal. We are also confident that Prosperity Project loans and accompanying business assistance will lead to the development of a significant number of jobs to fuel our economy in the coming year, and many more in the years that follow.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the loans or our partnering relationships, we invite you to visit our website.

 

 

communityresearchResearch Partnerships Address Community Needs

 

Changing political and economic climates, in addition to shifts in population, creates changing needs within the Sacramento community. Opening Doors uses the strengths of both our academic and our community-based partner organizations in order to help us better meet these needs. Thanks to our relationships within the academic community, we are currently partnering in two special community-based participatory action research projects, both involving UC Davis and the Iraqi refugee community. Identifying the need to better understand the health concerns of Sacramento's expanding Iraqi refugee community, we have become research partners in an Iraqi Refugee Health Needs Assessment. Recognizing that many Iraqi refugees were experiencing difficulties in finding jobs and adapting to American life, the development of our Refugee Health Employment Attainment Program (RHEAP) was the result of direct input from the Iraqi refugee community, and from research generated by Emily Feuerherm, a UC Davis PhD candidate in linguistics.  

Emily Feuerherm, a UC Davis PhD candidate in linguistics, has been instrumental in the development of RHEAP. 

 

Community-based participatory action research is different in intention, design, and implementation than standard research methods. In this type of research, community members become research partners, rather than research subjects, and help guide the development and execution of the project. Sometimes this involves organizing focus groups or training community members to be researchers. In this way, a dialogue is created between the general public and researchers as both groups come to understand each other's concerns and interests. In community-based participatory research, the whole community owns the research, rather than researchers alone: For the Iraqi Health Needs Assessment, the research is helping define the major health concerns of the Iraqi refugee community, while for our RHEAP program, the research keeps information being taught relevant to the community's needs.

 

The Iraqi Refugee Health Needs Assessment is an exploratory study which seeks to identify the health issues within the Iraqi community. Our research partners in this project include the Mesopotamia Association, a nonprofit organization comprised of and serving Northern California Iraqi refugees and immigrants, and the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, an interdisciplinary enterprise which fosters health research leading to improved population health. According to the Mesopotamia Association, 1,500 Iraqi refugees and immigrants live in the Sacramento area and the population is continuing to grow. Individual refugee populations have their own specific physical and mental health issues, and it's important to know what these issues are in order to begin exploring larger healthcare concerns. As a growing population within our community, getting a clearer picture on the health needs of this community benefits both the Iraqi community and local health providers as a whole. The outcomes to this study could include more research on this specific issue, more research topics being generated on related issues, identifying which services would be useful to refugee populations, and perhaps generating grounds for advocacy work.

 

Much like the Iraqi Refugee Health Needs Assessment, RHEAP came about in direct response to the needs of our local Iraqi refugee community. In 2008, Emily Feuerherm came to Opening Doors to work as an ESL tutor for human trafficking victims and refugees. Thanks to her research interests and experience, Emily was also quickly drafted to set up vocational English classes for Iraqi refugees who'd been having difficulties finding jobs and adapting to American life. However, other needs were soon identified, and from a few English classes, other components such as tutoring for children and health education classes were added to create the larger RHEAP program. RHEAP is a result of research conducted by Emily as part of her scholarly work, with direct input from the Iraqi community itself. As a community-based participatory action research project, the Iraqi refugee community has a strong impact on what gets taught and how it gets taught. The RHEAP program manager, the health specialist, and many of the tutors and other volunteers come from the Iraqi community.

 

The creation of RHEAP has been an iterative, cyclical process and the program is constantly reevaluating its goals and methods to make it as relevant as possible for the participants and incoming Iraqi refugees. RHEAP began as a vocational ESL-based program thanks to interviews conducted with students who indicated they needed assistance learning business-based communication such as writing resumes and cover letters. The first wave of Iraqi refugees primarily included single men, and the program was tailored to suit their needs. However, the demographic of the incoming populations shifted and more families started coming to the United States, thus creating a need to make the program relevant to the entire family: men, women, and children alike. The teachers and program manager work to ensure that topics covered in classes are relevant to the interests of RHEAP participants. For example, when many parents reported that their children were subjected to bullying at school, discussions on handling bullying were introduced into the curriculum.

 

Linda Ziegahn
Linda Zieghan, Community Engagement Coordinator of the UC Davis Clinical & Translation Science Center.

Just as with the Iraqi Refugee Health Needs Assessment, RHEAP has been designed to understand the concerns of the Iraqi population living in Sacramento in order to best address their needs. According to Linda Ziegahn of the UC Davis Clinical and Translation Science Center, the researchers who participate in community-based research projects are interested in "getting the science out there so it can be used. They don't want [the science] to stay within the confines of the university." By participating in these types of research projects, Opening Doors is able to use our partners' resources in order to help address the needs of our community as it continues to change and grow.

 

 

humantraffickingPartnering in the Fight against Human Trafficking

 

In 2007, Opening Doors assisted its first victim of human trafficking, a crime which had grown steadily in the region. However, few community members were talking about human trafficking in Sacramento, or even aware of its existence. Defined as modern slavery and as a crime of exploitation, victims are manipulated into the commercial sex industry, involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery through force, fraud, or coercion. Statistically, the FBI has identified Sacramento as a hub for human trafficking, and among the top cities experiencing an epidemic of child prostitution. Our location along the I-5 corridor at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Highway 50, and as the gateway to the Central Valley makes Sacramento a convenient location for traffickers looking to take advantage of our large immigrant population, reliance on the agriculture industry, and California's international border, major harbors, and airports.

 

However, despite the increasing local prevalence of this issue, the closest agencies that worked with human trafficking victims were located in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and no agencies existed in Northeastern California. Recognizing this as a critical gap in Sacramento's ability to address the needs of our community members, Opening Doors received a contract to provide case management to victims of human trafficking in 2008. Our initial cases were referrals from law enforcement, and we worked with only two to three clients at a time. Knowing more victims existed than were being reported to law enforcement, Opening Doors sought a way to increase public knowledge of human trafficking. Thus, in 2009, the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA) and Opening Doors partnered to apply for the Office of Refugee Resettlement's Rescue and Restore Outreach Program grant. We were awarded the grant and were joined by partners WEAVE and My Sister's House, each of which makes unique and invaluable contributions to the group's work.

 

Since then, Opening Doors has trained between 1,000-2,000 community members annually on how to recognize and report human trafficking crimes, and our case management load has grown steadily. We currently work with at least 10 victims at a time as the lead agency in Northeastern California providing comprehensive case management to foreign-born human trafficking victims. While our formal position as members of Sacramento's Rescue and Restore Program enables us to conduct outreach, relationships forged with Rescue and Restore partner agencies enable us to provide effective case management for each of our clients. In addition to relying on greater Sacramento-area resources, Opening Doors and the partner agencies utilize each other's strengths in order to address our clients' diverse needs.

 

During the case management process, Opening Doors can get into contact with upwards of 22 different agencies and service providers, depending upon the individual needs of the client. According to Tanya Shannon, Director for our Survivors of Human Trafficking program, "other agencies provide the pieces, and we bring the puzzle together." We ensure that our clients have access to emergency housing, and basic necessities such as food, clothing, and household goods. Also, on a client's behalf, we coordinate with law enforcement officials, medical and mental health professionals, job and career counselors, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and other refugee programs, education counselors, local schools, attorneys, volunteer mentors, and faith-based organizations, in addition to providing assistance with whatever other needs a victim may have.

 

This process is often overwhelming to clients; however, as a victim-centered agency, Opening Doors ensures that our clients always feel safe and comfortable. This can mean accompanying clients during appointments with social service agencies or providing a meeting space for interviews between victims and law enforcement so that clients can feel comfortable in a familiar environment. As part of this process, Opening Doors coordinates with many of our partners, such as WEAVE and Wind Youth Services to provide emergency housing to adult and child victims, and our law enforcement partners in the FBI Civil Rights Division.

 

Just as our ability to provide effective case management has been strengthened by relationships with local agencies, our outreach efforts have also felt the benefit of these partnerships. By working with victims of human trafficking, Opening Doors is able to learn about specific indicators of trafficking. However, by utilizing the individual strengths, resources, and experiences of our partners, we are able to make use of this knowledge and communicate it to the public. Thanks to the support of our partners, Opening Doors has been able to develop presentations and conduct trainings with community members who are most likely to come into contact with victims of human trafficking, such as law enforcement, medical and health professionals, and health inspectors. These partnerships will continue to play an integral role as we look to the future, working toward abolishing human trafficking in our region, and ensuring the liberation, dignity, and well-being of trafficked persons.

 

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

Sincerely,

 


David Blicker

Executive Director
Opening Doors, Inc.