December 2013

Vol. 5 Issue 6  

Happy New Year! 
In This Issue
RHEAP Graduation
MoneyWork$ Graduation
Survivors of Trafficking Graduation
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Five Special Thank You's


Thank you to Comerica for supporting Prosperity Project programs, and for honoring our partnership at an award ceremony. Comerica's support will improve the lives of lo-middle income individuals in Sacramento.

Kelly Foundation

Thank you to the Kelly Foundation for supporting the Hispanic Prosperity Program, including: MoneyWork$, Business Success Academy, and Business Expos.

Westminster Presbyterian

A big "Thank You" to the Westminster Presbyterian church for donating over 100 presents to the children of survivors of trafficking and refugees. Check our Facebook album for pictures.

Assembly Member Roger Dickinson's Office

14 of our clients received turkeys  for Thanksgiving dinner this year thanks to Assembly Member Dickinson and his generous donation.

Our Supporters

Thank you to everyone who has donated or volunteered this holiday season. The last two months of 2013 have been incredibly busy, but rewarding and made possible by donors like you!

2013 Year in Review

Our Year in Review highlights this year's successes which would not have been possible without your generosity and support.

Child Care Grant

Opening Doors is proud to announce it will be partnering with Child Action, Inc. to provide training, licensing assistance, and start-up funding to refugees and asylees who want to start a home-based child care business. More details and updates to come in 2014.

Mentorship Program 


"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."

-Winston Churchill

You can make a difference by becoming a refugee mentor! Learn more about our revamped Mentorship Program  here.

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       Graduation ceremonies are a way for us to celebrate the hard work of our participants and to honor the individuals who make our programs possible. Those who attend these ceremonies - participants, volunteers, and staff - feel a great sense of pride as graduates celebrate their accomplishments.


      As the year comes to a close, we bring you three graduation stories. First we share how the development of RHEAP led its founder to a doctorate degree. Then we celebrate a MoneyWork$ graduate whose educational journey has just begun. And finally, we honor one individual who makes our Survivors of Trafficking Program possible.


      We welcome you to share in their joy - their success would be impossible without your support. We are honored by your contributions which help participants discover greater opportunities, support their families, and give back to their community. Give now.

Creation of RHEAP Leads to 5 Years of Study
"I've been working towards a Ph.D. for 5 years and to be finished is incredible. There were many times when I thought about giving up, but because my research had meaning, I was able to keep going."


RHEAP celebrates Emily's graduation at class.

RHEAP recently congratulated Emily Feuerherm for

earning a doctorate in Linguistics.  Her dissertation

focused on RHEAP, its construction as a community

based research project, the curriculum development, and

the needs of the Iraqi refugee population.


Emily first came to Opening Doors as a

volunteer tutor for survivors of trafficking.  Her curriculum became the basis for ODI tutoring programs and inspired staff members to approach her with the idea of building RHEAP.  Emily's tutoring component meets the Iraqi refugee community's cultural and educational needs by offering bilingual instruction and a children's program.  The English tutoring component, which gives Iraqi refugees and American tutors a chance to interact and learn more about each other's' cultures, is one of the most popular parts of the program.


Emily believes the key to RHEAP curriculum is that it is adaptable.  Program coordinators keep a constant dialogue with RHEAP participants in order to quickly and comprehensively address their growing needs.


Emily said that founding RHEAP and meeting people who had survived and struggled through unmentionable horrors and challenges provided perspective to her work.  "I would not have a Ph.D. right now if it weren't for the support of all those who have participated in RHEAP," she said.


Soon after Emily's graduation it was time to celebrate the completion of the latest RHEAP session.  The 20 participants came together in Rushe Park to eat, play games, and receive certificates of recognition from their teachers.


Emily reflects on the RHEAP graduations as a special time for all of the families to celebrate together. 

Emily and Russul, RHEAP Coordinator, presenting certificates to the students.

"Everyone has a good time socializing without the structure and pressure of a lesson," she said. "Plus the food is always fabulous!"


At the graduations Emily expresses how proud she is of each participant.  "Accomplishments in language learning can go slowly, but slow and steady improvements should be recognized and a graduation is the perfect time for this."


With her doctorate degree, Emily can do work she loves and believes in.  She plans to pursue meaningful teaching and research, with the knowledge she gained from working with Iraqi refugees guiding her future endeavors.

Making it Count
A MoneyWork$ Graduate's Educational Journey


Spanish MoneyWork$ hosts stunning graduation ceremonies where current participants get to share their inspirational stories with family, friends and community partners.  Graduates receive a certificate and earn a sense of pride for their accomplishments.  It is a special moment for participants to share their successes and encourage each other to achieve their goals.


For many MoneyWork$ participants, their education does not end at graduation.  One MoneyWork$ graduate named Blanca has become a regular ambassador for the program.


Blanca is both an independent distributor for a skincare line and also owns a photography and videography business.  She enrolled in MoneyWork$ one year ago after a friend referred her to the program and she has not stopped since.

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MoneyWork$ taught Blanca how to be more conscious of her personal finances and she now saves an additional $300 per month by reducing expenses.  At her graduation, Blanca  felt very important to receive special recognition for this great achievement in front of her friends and family.  Many friends and family members of participants have enrolled themselves in MoneyWork$ after attending these graduations.  Blanca often refers people in her community to participate in Prosperity Project programs and contributed two recruits to the current MoneyWork$ cohort.


Blanca's education continues as she participates in a second MoneyWork$ cohort to reinforce existing habits and to learn new material.  She also serves on the Business Expo Committee where she puts her entrepreneurial goals into action.


While steadily improving her business acumen, Blanca uses the Business Expos as a platform through which she can network with other small business owners, reach new clientele and increase sales for both of her small businesses.  


Blanca's career is an inspiration for the community and proof that with a little education and support, a person can achieve goals with unprecedented success. 

Welcome Home
"All obstacles can be overcome
with the help of people."
- SOT graduate, during his speech


Debra, CEO, and Elisabet, Program Manager, speak during the graduation.

Many of the human trafficking survivors who come to Opening Doors are alone, without friends or family to turn to. They do not have employment, credit or rental history, which leaves them with no place to live. Our partnerships in the community are vital to ensuring these survivors find safe and healthy homes.


Vicky is a longtime Opening Doors partner who is always willing to help. She manages properties in Sacramento and often goes out of her way to make apartments in her complex available for our participants, both trafficking victims and refugees alike.


She accommodates survivors by offering them half off their first month's rent and a reduced deposit. She sets apartments up with very short notice and donates any household goods or furniture she has available. Her generosity makes it possible for these survivors to have their first safe home after trafficking. More than just the services she offers, Vicky's friendly and welcoming demeanor provides comfort to survivors.


At this year's Survivors of Trafficking graduation ceremony, Vicky heard the compelling stories of several survivors who live in her complex and she received special recognition for her support. Carolina Estrada, Case Manager for the program, commended Vicky's willingness to help: "[Vicky] enjoys having families in her complex - the clients are always doing something communal, like playing soccer together. She really embraces them, and for refugees and survivors, having someplace welcoming and safe to live means a lot."


The supportive relationship between Vicky and the survivors who live in her complex epitomizes the type of connections our program provides. At the graduation, current and graduated trafficking clients are encouraged to network with each other and other partners who can connect them to resources in the community. For many survivors, building relationships is a process that often takes time, and the graduation serves as a place for them to meet people they can relate to and network with.


Without people like Vicky, the obstacles survivors must overcome would seem impervious. However, with people to help them, survivors see that the road ahead of them is passable.  


Thank you for following our work. You can forward our newsletter to family, friends, and colleagues by clicking the "Forward email" link just below my signature. 
Our staff, interns and volunteers wish you a Happy New Year. 


Debra DeBondt 

Chief Executive Officer

Opening Doors, Inc.