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As a small nonprofit, Opening Doors relies on the passion and dedication of many people to successfully carry out the daily operations of our agency. Whether they are interns, volunteers, or community members Opening Doors is proud to have them on our team. The articles you will read below are about just a few of the people working or volunteering within our agency who have done a spectacular job by truly aiding and/or inspiring our clients.
Opening Doors' intern, Cristina Lopez, creates Migrant Outreach Program
An interview on her experiences of raising human trafficking awareness in migrant communities
|Opening Doors interns Cristina Lopez & Ian Benton at a migrant community center.|
This summer, intern Cristina Lopez, a 2011 University of California, Berkeley Human Rights Center Fellowship recipient, has been working under the stewardship of Opening Doors conducting migrant outreach. Her work has focused on increasing awareness of issues and signs of human trafficking and resources for victims among migrant farm workers in the Sacramento area.
Over just five and a half weeks Cristina and other Opening Doors interns have conducted outreach in migrant housing communities in Sacramento, San Joaquin, Napa, Solano, Stanislaus, Yolo, and Sutter counties, covering almost 900 migrant housing units.
"As the granddaughter of farm workers I have an affinity to the community," Lopez said. She explained that the primary purpose of her outreach program was to begin building relationships with members of the migrant community and to increase awareness of human trafficking issues.
"I think people were the most surprised and glad to learn about the T-visas created for survivors of trafficking. One of the common threats by traffickers is that they will report the victim to immigration and have them deported," Lopez said. The T-visas were implemented in 2000 when the U.S. Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act which extends benefits to survivors of trafficking.
"So much of what the farm working community has seen and experienced," Cristina said, "has been the exploitation and even deportation of survivors of trafficking."
Overall, Cristina feels that many within the migrant community were very "responsive and appreciative" of the efforts to increase awareness on human trafficking issues and the resources available to victims.
She remembers one outreach experience in particular where a man was able to identify the experience of migrant workers in a camp called "Las Islitas" as having been victims of trafficking.
"The man had mentioned that he earned about $3 an hour working in the asparagus fields but could not leave the work..., " Lopez said, "I was elated to hear that people in the community knew what human trafficking was and were able to identify it. I only wished someone had told them earlier that protections for survivors of trafficking have existed for the past 10 years."
Next, Cristina will be conducting interviews of migrants she connected with during her outreach. She will be creating a composite of how human trafficking affects the farm working community. She will be studying in Thailand next semester and would like to continue working to combat human trafficking.
REAP Success Story: Haider Shubber
From student to volunteer to chef and inspiration
|Haider Shubber on the last day of REAP's 5-week summer series.|
On the last day of the Refugee Employment Attainment Program's five week summer series, Haider Shubber, a REAP volunteer, received a fitting parting gift. REAP volunteers and students presented Haider with pots of fresh herbs and seasonings.
"Haidar has been invaluable to the program. Not only has he been able to teach the non-English speaking students far more effectively through his ability to translate and explain the grammar in Arabic, he has brought new students to the classes and always provides the most exquisite Iraqi food which he shares with all the students, teachers, and tutors," Emily Feuerherm, the co-director of REAP said.
REAP provides ESL with a focus on job-acquisition skills and knowledge about workplace culture to refugees. It is run on a completely volunteer basis by certified ESL instructors and community members.
Currently a volunteer mentor, Haidar spends his time at REAP classes as an interpretor and encouraging other students. But what makes Haidar a particularly understanding volunteer is that he was once a REAP student, who came from Iraq as a refugee.
By knowing his own culture and people, Haidar increased attendance among REAP students and expanded the REAP program by incorporating a more social element through cooking.
"Iraqis are social people. Whenever they gather they like to chat to each other. So [I cook] in order to make the [class] educational on one hand and joyful on the other," Shubber said.
Haider explains that he spends about three to four hours before each class cooking enough food for all the students and volunteers.
On the menu: Iraqi cuisine, including tapola, lentil soup, fried and grilled fish, and falafels.
As a student Haider said that REAP helped him to understand American culture and that as a volunteer mentor he can now help REAP students do the same.
"I'm always motivating [the students] on attending the class to learn more about the American culture and habits. And also helping the [other volunteers] know more about the Iraqi traditions," Shubber said.
And indeed on the last day of class one could find students and volunteers talking, taking pictures, and of course, eating and sharing home cooked Iraqi dishes.
"I cannot praise [Haider] enough and cannot imagine the class without him," Feuerherm said.
Opening Doors' Inspiring Community Member: Vickie Guanzon
How Apartments Manager, Vickie Guanzon, created an accepting community for Opening Doors' refugee clients.
For many newly arrived refugees, the adaptation to the U.S. culture and daily living skills can be intimidating and challenging. This is why it is so important to have open and understanding community members working alongside Opening Doors' Refugee Resettlement Program.
|Apartments Manager Vickie Guanzon|
One such community member, Villa Capri Apartments Manager, Vickie Guanzon, has gone out of her way to ensure that our refugee clients are both safe and welcome in their new environments.
Vickie, who herself came to the U.S. from the Philippines with her family as a young child, has built a strong and vibrant community for our refugee clients at the Villa Capri Apartments complex. "For me I want to continue seeing all the families be happy. What I strive for every single day is to find ways to keep my families happy and safe," Vickie said.
Before Vickie became Apartments Manager at Villa Capri she was a Side Operations Manager at a large corporation, where her work consisted of overseeing more than 300 employees. However, Vickie found herself unemployed when her former employers decided they needed to downsize. It was then that Vickie went to Villa Capri where she says that "there was a need for leadership."
"Our goal within the last year was to provide affordable housing and a safe environment for all cultures," Vickie said. That goal was accomplished in large part by Vickie who assisted in implementing rules that put in place a "no gun, no drug, and no gangs policy." Additionally, security measures were reinforced with such things as proper gating and cameras. But most importantly, according to Vickie, there are about 90 percent new tenants at Villa Capri. The majority of these new tenants are immigrants from a multitude of backgrounds.
"We have Spanish, Iraqi, and African, and families from Nepal, Bhutan and the Philippines. It's a very diverse complex," Vickie said. Currently fifteen of Opening Doors' refugee clients reside at Villa Capri apartments where Vickie continues to enthusiastically champion the diversity in her complex.
"She's got a big heart...and is always adding those personal touches," Dan Logan, a Program Associate for Opening Doors' Refugee Resettlement Program said. This year Vickie has put together small events at Villa Capri where the diverse families can come together. For example, she put on a Family Day event, which included an Easter egg hunt and pi�atas.
Recently Vickie was a part of a committee that helped in the construction of a community garden, which was featured in Opening Doors' June newsletter. "The garden is a great [resource] for the tenants that come from Nepal because gardening is in their background," Vickie said. She estimates eight to nine tenant families from Nepal are using the community garden, including refugee families from Opening Doors.
Because of her work within the community, Vickie was recently awarded the Molina Healthcare Community Champion award.
"Opening Doors has contributed the most wonderful tenants I could ask for. They are families who appreciate what the U.S. has to offer. If anything I'm the luckiest Apartments Manager," Vickie said.
As part of the Molina Healthcare award Vickie was awarded $1000, all of which she has given to Opening Doors in coordination with creating a Kids Summer Program for our refugee clients and their families at Villa Capri.
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
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