August 2012

Vol. 4 Issue 4

Latest news and stories 
In This Issue
Local Community Members Give Back as Refugee Mentors
Professionals Have Great Impact as MoneyWork$ Volunteers
The Volunteer Interns of Opening Doors

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Current Events


Loan Program Continues Growth


We are pleased to report that our Loan Program expansion is going very well.  After a successful launch event in July, we have begun working with new clients.  This month we welcomed Richard Counts to our staff to fill the newly-developed position, Microenterprise Program Manager.  We were also awarded a $100,000 technical assistance grant from the CDFI Fund.  Among other things, this grant will enable our loan staff to become better trained in underwriting.




Farewell, Tanya. Welcome Erika.


Tanya Shannon, the driving force behind the development and success of our Anti-Human Trafficking Program, has passed the torch and moved on to a Master's program at the University of Florida, Tallahassee. We have welcomed former legal intern, Erika Gonzalez, to the new staff position which has two roles. Erika will serve as the Immigration Legal Services Program Director and the Coordinator of our Human Trafficking Outreach Program supported by Elisabet Medina our MSW case manager. Meanwhile we wish Tanya well in her new endeavors and feel gratitude for all the momentum she has left behind.




Refugee Resettlement Changes 


The resettlement program is also seeing a staff change. After helping many refugee families, Resettlement Case Worker Dan Logan is entering a Master's program in Portland, Oregon. We wish Dan success and welcome Diane McCombs to our team. As Resettlement Program Manager, Diane will occupy a newly-created position, taking on many of Dan's duties and also handling the higher-level resettlement program management functions previously carried out by our Executive Director, David Blicker. David will now have more time for his other duties in our growing agency.




New Moneywork$ Cohorts Begin 

New cohorts are beginning for the English-language MoneyWork$. Those wishing to participate should reserve their place prior to Sept. 24th, by contacting Nele or clicking here for more information.  




Congratulations, Graduates!


On Tuesday, August 28th, our English-speaking MoneyWork$ participants finished their six month course. Good luck to them in their future financial endeavors!


Congratulations to the Spanish language group as well on their Sept. 19th graduation date!




Opening Doors' Prosperity Loan Fund in the News!


Our newly-expanded microloan funding program has been generating some excitement in the media. Click to view the Sacramento Bee's coverage & the CBS Channel 13's feature. 




Two months ago, when we began preparing this newsletter to focus on the incredible value of volunteers to our work, we had no idea how appropriate the theme would be. On Friday the 17th, we were deeply saddened with the passing of one of our longest and most dedicated volunteers, Jack Adolphson.


Jack first came to us when we were the Sacramento Refugee Ministry, a project of the Interfaith Service Bureau. He has served on Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors ever since. He has given of his time and resources, assisting newly arrived refugees, Hispanic entrepreneurs, MoneyWork$ participants, and many others. As a leader at Trinity Lutheran Cathedral, he made its resources repeatedly available to our programs and our clients. He was always there when we needed him. It's hard for us to think of never again having our days brightened by his smiles and his Hawaiian shirts.


We dedicate this issue, and its celebration of our volunteers, to Jack.


Jack Adolphson at Opening Doors' World Refugee Day Celebration, June 2007.



mentorsLocal Community Members Give Back as Refugee Mentors


(left) Sarah Jafari, Rosy and her daughter, Krista. (top right) Here, volunteers are shown learning the basics of the program. (bottom right) Craig Orenstein and Udei visit Alcatraz.


"How does such a small staff do so much?" is a question often posed by those who learn that Opening Doors has only 12 full-time equivalents. The answer, in large part, is volunteers. One of the biggest and fasted growing volunteer groups in the organization is under the Refugee Resettlement program. With the staff and interns constantly working to accommodate incoming refugee families, there is a need for people who can take the time to help these new families adapt to everyday life in America. This is where the volunteer mentors step in as guides.


Mentoring is a one-to two-hour a week commitment for a six-month period. Mentors help refugees with becoming oriented to American life. "They show them how to shop for discount groceries, help them with the mail, volunteer to take clients to doctor's appointments and some even just hang out and have coffee together," Refugee Resettlement Program Associate Dan Logan says. Beyond these "basics," volunteers may find that mentorship is more of a relationship than a service, especially in light of helping displaced immigrant families with their highly individualized needs. Sarah Jafari, who was assigned to mentor a newly-arrived Burmese couple last October, not only helped her mentee family, but gained a new friend in the process.


Sarah had her first meeting with Rosy and John the day before Thanksgiving and gave them her phone number. Upon meeting them, she learned about their journey from Burma, where they were persecuted for practicing Christianity. (Read about Rosy & John's story here.) She also discovered that Rosy was pregnant and due in a month, or so they thought. At 10 P.M. that evening, the couple called her with rather shocking news. Rosy was in labor. Not wanting to take any chances, Sarah rushed the couple to the hospital, where Rosy gave birth. Sarah spent the night at the new mother and infant's side. She devoted the next day to shuttling back and forth between Thanksgiving dinner and helping the new parents by bringing them food and other necessities, occasionally communicating with Opening Doors via phone and text messages.


Sarah's involvement with Rosy's abrupt labor was just one example of mentors going above and beyond for their mentees. Although mentors must only pledge one or two hours a week, Sarah disregarded the minimum requirement and encouraged Rosy and John to call whenever needed. "I knew what it was like being a new mom," Sarah said, "I thought it must be even harder being in a new country as a new mom. I just wanted to help with the baby." But her mentorship was a lot more than just dealing with unforeseen circumstances and an early arrival.


Sarah helped set up much of the couple's living situation. She introduced them to daily American life, augmenting the work Refugee Resettlement staff did in the office. She sat down with the clients and assisted them with their finances, devising sheets to help keep up with their bills and explaining how credit works. Besides that, she helped with the additional post-delivery doctor's appointments Rosy and her premature baby girl needed. She also donated a lot of her extra resources. "When I went to their house, they just didn't have anything yet. I went to mine and realized we had a lot of things we don't even use, like bathmats, flyswatters, and things like that. I just helped them set up."


Sarah also served as a friendly presence, a firm link for the weary couple in new surroundings. Whenever Rosy called with issues about the baby, Sarah was willing to help in any way she could. They began talking on the phone almost every other day. This helped create a relationship that continues now. "I feel like I'm so blessed. When I see Rosy and John, they're always so happy and grateful for what they've been given. As an American, I don't live a lavish lifestyle, but simple things like running the A/C all day seems like a necessity. I'd go over there, and it would be so hot. It helped me become more grateful and happy. I'd think of my problems, and knowing where they came from, I'd realize, 'Wow, I don't even need all the stuff I have.'"


Since Sarah's mentorship, the Refugee Resettlement program has increased the size of the volunteer force and the mentorship training practice. Opening Doors recently hosted a mentorship orientation and training as part of its efforts to find mentors for eighteen new families. At the orientation, our staff members explained the basics of the Refugee Resettlement program, the refugee situation in Sacramento, and what the mentors should expect. They invited Sarah, as a former mentor, to talk about her experiences. "Dan and I can talk on and on about abstract concepts, but there's nothing like having an actual mentor come in and share their experience. The highlight of the session was when Sarah spoke. It was worth a thousand of mine and Dan's words," Volunteer Coordinator Donelle Swain said.


These orientations continue yielding promising rewards. Craig Orenstein, a new mentor has created a successful connection with his mentee, Udei. "Helping Udei has been very rewarding. Seeing his optimism for the future gives me a good feeling about the immigrant culture," Craig said.


To learn more about the program, please visit our website.



moneyworksProfessionals Have Great Impact as MoneyWork$ Volunteers


Lucia Rodriguez was incurring overdraft fees, but she didn't know how to avoid them and didn't have anyone to talk to about it. As a Spanish-speaker, she felt uncomfortable in banks where English rattled off of everyone's tongues. That changed when she joined MoneyWork$ and met guest presenter and U.S. Bank Branch Manager, Veronica Silva-Gil. In her native Spanish, Veronica assisted MoneyWork$ participants in understanding many aspects of banking, and she provided them with her contact information. Lucia took the opportunity to follow up, and Veronica became a mentor to her. With Veronica's help, Lucia opened bank accounts that suited her needs much better than those she'd had before. She created a savings plan. Now, with the help of her mentor, Lucia is about to apply for a home loan.


MoneyWork$--Opening Doors' six month financial makeover program--offers financial education, support groups, skills building, and individual coaching to Spanish-speaking as well as English-speaking cohorts. Program staff invites a volunteer guest presenter to teach the financial education portion of each evening session. Presenters are from banks and credit unions; from debt management, social work, business counseling, home-buying, and legal nonprofits; from insurance companies and the IRS. They bring their wealth of expertise with them, providing a richness to the MoneyWork$ experience that helps distinguish the program. As in Lucia's case they also provide participants with a direct connection to the financial and nonprofit worlds they come from, and they give them the opportunity to pose questions to and build relationships with experts in our community.


Tim Angello, RCB
Tim Angello, Compliance Manager at River City Bank, and returning guest facilitator at MoneyWork$

These instructors volunteer their evening time to give back to the community. Tim Angello, Compliance Manager for River City Bank, is one of the English-speaking cohort's returning presenters. "Volunteering is something that is very important to me. River City Bank also supports its employees volunteering in the community." Besides presenting on his own, Tim has enlisted colleagues from River City Bank. Several of them have worked together to facilitate credit report reading workshops where participants gain a greater understanding of their complicated-looking reports and use the information to populate worksheets to better inform them about their financial state and future plans. Tim is enthusiastic about the program's impact in participants' lives. "MoneyWork$ can help a person steer clear of financial land mines or give participants the tools to recover from them. The program is excellent because it is interactive. Participants get to experience a mix of different topics, presenters, and activities which keeps things interesting."


Spanish-speaking presenters bring another dimension to their volunteer work, opening doors through language that were previously closed. MoneyWork$ Hispanic Director, Roxana Calderon says of the Spanish-speaking volunteers, "It's very important because participants feel like they can finally have a relationship with representatives of the financial system that speak their language. They then gain a better understanding of finance and are more comfortable with it."


The volunteer facilitators have proved to be a tremendous resource for program participants. Many have cited the guest presenters as one of the more useful parts of MoneyWork$. Presenters gain for the experience as well. Tim speaks of his great respect for the participants who have stepped away from the easy road of ignoring financial issues, and who are taking action and confronting the problems. "I have found the participants extremely engaged and appreciative of the time and energy our volunteer groups have provided," he says. As for volunteering, he sees it as a two-way street. "It helps me remember how blessed I am and that helping others with my time is often the best gift I can give them, or myself."


For more information on MoneyWork$, visit our website.



internsThe Volunteer Interns of Opening Doors


The interns of Opening Doors hard at work!


Opening Doors currently has 25 interns and a staff of 8 fulltime and 6 part-time workers. We didn't start out with more interns than staff members. But the intern program has proven extremely valuable to the staff, who have added new internship positions as they've discovered they can greatly increase work and client outcomes with intern help. As we've expanded into diverse areas of service to the community, the growing array of internship positions have attracted increasing applicants, and the amount of responsibility entrusted to interns has made the program more and more popular. New interns are introduced almost every week to replace graduating interns in different departments. Today, interns sign up to a 15-hour-a-week, 6-month requirement for a grand total of 360 hours and exchange time for work experience. Due to the varied services we provide to the community, from financial capability training to immigration legal services, interns come with a wide range of interests and specialties. Not only do they augment the different sorts of work we do here, many of them also contribute to the cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity or our office. This expands the staff's ability to work with culturally-varied clients.


Each intern fulfills a specific role in a particular department. "From human trafficking to microfinance, to immigration to refugee resettlement, interns have the opportunities to get grass roots, hands-on experience and attain marketable skills," Donelle Swain, Intern and Volunteer Coordinator said. After a month training with the Survivors of Human Trafficking program, recent social work graduate Yuvi Diaz was given clients of her own under the supervision of a social worker. Her responsibilities consisted of creating an initial assessment profile of her clients' needs and safety issues, and drafting plans for the services Opening Doors can offer or direct to. This involved creating and maintaining networks with counselors, lawyers, and foster parent agencies. She has even had a hand in contributing to the administrative practices of her department, drafting many of the current case forms herself. Although Yuvi joins the ranks of several interns in the Survivors of Human Trafficking program, not all of them do the same job. She is a special case management intern, while others may work specifically with research or campaigns.


Chelsea Sachau, as a Refugee Resettlement program intern, has her hand in many tasks that take her out of the office as she assists refugees to become settled in the community. This includes finding and furnishing apartments for the clients before they arrive, welcoming them at the airport upon their arrival, helping them apply for necessary assistance, medical or otherwise. This leads to close relationships with the people she helps. "While I transport our clients to and from their many appointments during the first few weeks after their arrival, I really get to know them better and attempt to establish myself as a friendly, helpful presence," she said. "My work in Refugee Resettlement has really had a great impact on my life. While I like to think of myself as a person who has always welcomed others of different backgrounds and cultures, this internship has really allowed me to come in contact with different people, cultures, languages, and customs. Coupled with some recent college classes, my past year has been very eye-opening."


Those who aren't involved in directly working with clients, like the interns in the grant writing, communications, and administrative positions, are still privy to many of the unique experiences to be had while working at Opening Doors. Either drafting newsletters, website updates, or assisting with grant writing, these interns are still exposed to the social aid and economic development work being done around them. Most of these interns are interested in similar fields of work or are scholars in the social theories and issues that Opening Doors addresses on a day-to-day basis. Becky Kogos, who has just completed her communications internship, has found her time here to be academically fulfilling. "As a communications intern, I didn't get to work with people as often. But I did interviews and met people around the office." As a PhD candidate, she has found much of what she's seen at this organization to be formative and influential. "It's interesting seeing the success of an individual with their foot in the door of the American system. It dovetails into my studies on globalization and immigrant literature. Seeing the things I'm reading taking place on a ground level is really helpful."


Most of the college students and recent graduates that make up the intern staff are initially surprised with the amount of responsibility entrusted to them. Yuvi Diaz says that her experience has been incredibly comprehensive. "It's a nonprofit, so they have to rely on interns. That's why they are so successful, because they trust their interns. And interns usually want to do a good job here. It might be stressful now, but in the long run, it will help us." Chelsea found this characteristic level of trust to be refreshing. "Our interns aren't simply fetching coffee or doing menial tasks for superiors like I've heard from peers about their internships."


"So many interns are looking for something that will give them an edge in the job market," said Hannah Kirshner, who recently finished her internship in volunteer coordination. She said of her experiences here, "You can leave feeling confident that you can do that, because you've been given the responsibility to actually handle things during your internship. You can leave confident that you did something, created something, and left an imprint."


If you or anyone you know is interested in interning with Opening Doors, click here to view opportunities.


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.