Meet Sarah Sameer/by Yeny Cardona
CHD Perspectives: Sarah Sameer
Sarah Sameer is the newest member of our Immigration & Citizenship Program team to become an Accredited Representative certified by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP). This greatly increases the ability for Sarah to assist Immigration & Citizenship Program clients with broader levels of support. This is a testament to her dedication to service and her desire to create positive change for the communities we serve! Congratulations to Sarah! You can read a short part of her life’s journey below in her own words.
“In January 2020 I came to CHD to update my resume. Before coming I called the office for an appointment and the front desk told me they accept walk-ins. When I walked into the building I felt as if I have been there before. The young lady at the front desk did my intake and then a CHD Youth Case Manager came to help me with my resume. While she updated the resume, the Case Manager asked me what other languages I spoke. I told her I was from Pakistan and spoke Urdu, Pashto, Hindko, Hindi, and Punjabi, to which she said that CHD’s Immigration team needed someone who was fluent in Urdu. That’s when she called Sharon Gillies, a current Immigration and Citizenship team member, over to us. When I saw Sharon, she was smiling at me, I felt warm and welcomed, and Sharon asked me to tell her about myself.
I told Sharon about all the hardships I was facing, one being non-stop domestic abuse, and many other problems.
I told her how I made it to the US in November 2014 with the help of my father and the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and about my first job in the US that I started in August 2015, working as a para-educator at LUSD, I became a US citizen in 2019 by doing all my paperwork by myself and didn’t share any details with anyone even after becoming a US citizen as I would live in constant fear. I told Sharon, that at the time I was a single mother of 4 kids and going through some tough times with no support.
I wanted to start a new job so I could support my kids and myself without facing any problems. I had completed an MBA (Finance) and always wanted to be an Accountant. I was an intern at one of the top banks in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Due to personal reasons, I couldn’t continue working at the same bank after a full-time job offer.
When I walked into the CHD building in 2020, it felt like being home. Meeting Sharon and the team made me not want to leave.
The Urdu-speaking Immigration assistant job was already posted, and I applied for it the same day. In the meantime, I would come to the office daily and help as a volunteer with the English-to-Urdu translations for the Public Charge Law which was worrying to the immigrant population. I was hired after 2 weeks for 6 hours per week, and after one week my hours were increased from 6 to 15. After 7 months I became full-time. After 2 months in my position, I was promoted from being an Immigration Assistant to an Immigration Case Manager, and for that big change, I am thankful to our CEO Thomas Stuebner and our Program Director Theresa Ordonez. I also started my paid training from CHD to become a Department of Justice Partially Accredited Representative.
Coming to CHD, meeting everyone, and working here brought a positive change in my life. The fear of everyone and everything is gone. Working with all the wonderful ladies who are strong, confident, and independent gives me satisfaction and hope for myself too. Now that I have become Partially Accredited, I feel I have more responsibility toward CHD and the community. I want to help more people and bring a positive change in their lives just like I did in mine.
I am very thankful to all my colleagues and especially my Immigration team for their continuous help and support.”
Rising Above: Luis’s Story/by Yeny Cardona
Luis Manuel Ramirez was born and raised in his native country of Mexico where he completed the majority of his education. His parents immigrated to this country when Luis was 15 years old. Luis was having difficulties with the transition especially when he enrolled in school. The language barrier became very challenging for Luis so he opted to drop out of high school, completing only an 11th-grade education.
Luis was no stranger to working and immediately found employment after leaving school. With language continuing to be a barrier for Luis, he found it difficult to obtain employment. He felt he could only work in agriculture. Succumbing to his own barrier Luis remained a farmworker for several years driving tractors and irrigating tomato fields. One day, Luis overheard a conversation between fellow co-workers mentioning “La Casa del Campesino”; this is the name given to California Human Development’s Woodland Office by the local farm workers. Out of curiosity he joined the conversation and learned that our office assisted farm workers with an array of services.
Highly curious, Luis came to our Woodland office and was eligible for our WIOA 167 and Dislocated Worker Programs. He was immediately interested in obtaining truck driving training.
Luis encountered several barriers when deciding to go for his Class A license. Firstly, being the sole provider of his family created a financial struggle. Luis was living paycheck to paycheck on his seasonal employment, and he was unsure if he could obtain and complete training with their financial struggle. Secondly, once again, Luis faced his language barrier. To obtain training Luis was required to successfully pass our CASAS test. Attempt after attempt, Luis failed to pass the test. His case manager, Nelida Sotelo, continued to motivate and encourage Luis to keep pushing toward his goal. Luis was referred to ESL classes to help improve his English skills. As a vendetta with himself, he made it his mission to not let his limited English continue to dominate his life. Every evening for seven months Luis attended ESL classes while also practicing with the Duolingo application on his phone, referred by his case manager.
After several months, Luis returned and successfully passed his CASAS test and was able to obtain training. The team was so proud of Luis and all his hard work to reach his goal. Luis completed truck driving training with a breeze, learning all pre-trip skills easily and driving behind the wheel like a natural. Luis officially obtained his Class A license and he had assistance from his case manager to enroll him online to obtain his Hazmat endorsement; he wanted to have a wider range of employment options.
Luis is employed by Clearlake Lava, Inc. He is very thankful to his case manager and our office for helping him overcome his barriers. He is extremely happy that he did not succumb to his language barrier a second time, as he is thriving at work and financially.
Rest in Peace: Louis Fernando Flores/by Yeny Cardona
CHD would like to give our condolences to the Flores family. One of the CHD Founders, Louis Fernando Flores, passed away on September 13, 2022, surrounded by his family. Louis had a lifelong passion for justice and advocacy for farmworkers, their families, and others in need. Louis, along with others, founded North Bay Human Development Corp which became California Human Development. Louis’ primary focus within CHDC was to promote quality affordable housing for farmworkers and their families. With Louis’ leadership, CHDC developed three farmworker family housing complexes in Northern California and three farmworker migrant housing centers in Napa Valley. Louis along with other community members recognized the need for medical care in Napa Valley for farmworkers and their families, which led to the creation of Clinic OLE. Initially staffed by volunteers, Clinic OLE, now known as OLE Health, today operates seven clinics, serving annually over 40,000 patients in Napa and Solano counties. Louis’ work on behalf of farmworkers has been celebrated by the City of Napa, with his likeness appearing in a mural in downtown Napa, and by the City of Santa Rosa, where he is featured in a mural in the library of Elsie Allen High School. CHD is thankful for all the work Louis did and we will continue to serve and represent our clients.
Please see the full obituary for Louis Flores below. Courtesy of the Flores Family.
Louis Fernando Flores, 91, peacefully passed away on September 13, 2022, surrounded by his family in his Napa home of 61 years. Born February 2, 1931, to Inez and Ricardo Flores in Lincoln, New Mexico and was named Fernando Luis Flores. At the onset of World War II, Louis and his family moved to San Francisco in search of an improved quality of life.
After graduating high school, in 1948, Louis enlisted in the US Navy, serving as an Electrician Technician 2 aboard a destroyer class ship during the Korean Conflict. It was the US Navy who changed Louis’ name, from Fernando Luis to Louis Fernando.
After the end of his naval service, Louis attended Fresno State University, where he met his wife-to-be, Joyce Carlotta Savala. In 1958 Louis and Joyce were married and made their home in Napa while raising five children. Louis continued his education at UC Berkeley and by 1964 had been awarded a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in electrical engineering. During and beyond his time studying at UC Berkeley, Louis worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (the ‘RadLab’) under Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Professor Luis Walter Alvarez.
Louis developed a lifelong passion for justice and maintained a continuous life of advocacy for farmworkers, their families and others in need. His passion led to him to organize and participate in multiple community organizations such as the Napa Council for Economic Opportunity; serving as the Vice-President of the Mexican American Political Association; assisting in the establishment of a center for Chicano Studies at the UC Davis, and the establishment of Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University (DQU) in Davis.
In 1967, Louis, along with others, founded the North Bay Human Development Corp, which became California Human Development Corp (CHDC). CHDC, a private non-profit, provides opportunities of promoting employment, housing and citizenship to farm workers and other low-income individuals. Louis’ primary focus within CHDC was to promote quality affordable housing to farmworkers and their families. With Louis’ effort, CHDC built or partnered in the creation of three farmworker family housing complexes in Northern California and three farmworker migrant housing centers in the Napa Valley.
In 1972, Louis along with other community members, recognized the need for comprehensive and personalized medical care, in the Napa Valley, for farmworkers and their families, which led to the creation of Clinic OLE. From a medical clinic, staffed by volunteers, Clinic OLE, now known as OLE Health, today operates seven clinics, serving annually over 40,000 patients in Napa and Solano counties.
To continue his pursuit of justice, in 1974, Louis received his juris doctor from UC Hastings College of Law and opened a private law practice in Napa.
Louis’ work on behalf on the farmworker community has been celebrated by the City of Napa, with his likeness appearing in a mural in downtown Napa, and by the City of Santa Rosa, where he is featured in a mural in the library of Elsie Allen High School.
As Louis aged he found time to enjoy simpler things in life. Such as a day on the golf course, working on his El Camino, gardening with Joyce, eating ice cream, and spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Louis was a great story teller and ensured the younger generations were aware of their family roots and understood the value of a quality education. As a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Louis’ influence on our family and our community will continue to be felt strongly for many years to come.
Louis is survived by five children Miguel Flores (Bea), Kevin Flores, Kelly Flores-Nixon (Kurtis), Kimura Flores (David); Luis Flores Jr (Bridget), 12 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren.