June’s API Next Generation Blog


API Next Generation

June 2016

The family mentioned in this passage fled from a Domestic Violence incident and was referred to our Safe House Program by Valley Crisis Center (VCC) for safety reasons. They have received support from Mariposa Crisis Services (MCS) since early 2016. This is an API family made up of a Mom and several Children. Mom is considered a young adult and her husband was much older than her. Due to years of abuse and isolation, Mom had no extended family or community support.

During their stay at our Safe House Program VCC Advocates continued to support the family by shopping at local API stores, so the family could continue with familiar foods from their community. Every Wednesday night the Safe House residents would cook and have dinner together. Mom enjoyed cooking and sharing food from her cultural background. She would often introduce roommates and Safe House staffs to home-made API dishes. She gladly taught others who were interested, how to prepare their delightful dishes.

During the families stay the oldest daughter who was a teenager took over complete care of the children’s needs. She was very patient, empathetic and practiced a lot of conflict resolution. Her responsibility is indicative of the API culture, which some staff was not accustomed to.

Even though they were hiding in Mariposa, Mom was able to work with Merced’s Human Services Agency to find housing. This task was sometimes difficult with a $30 charge for background checks (sometimes four in a day). She also worked with Victim Witness in Mariposa County who collaborated with their sister agency in Merced County with the clients best interest at heart.

When Mom needed to see her Doctor (of over 10 years) in Merced County, the Doctor did not want to see her. Her Doctor was afraid of the repercussions from her extended family, as the API community in Merced is relatively small and well connected. She told her Doctor that refusing service was against the law; she had been referred to an attorney and was given that information. The Doctor made accommodations to see her privately and provided her with the care she needed.

The Human Services Agency (HSA) wanted to ensure the family to have a house that fit their needs. Mom found a house to rent in and HSA assisted with the security deposit, first month’s rent and PG&E. Moving forward this HSA program will then continue ongoing through a special grant.

To accommodate the family’s search for housing, their stay with us was extended to 3 months.

This family’s experience showcased the prospect of how community accountability works in bridging partnership, especially between two different counties with several social agencies—whose common goal is to assist those suffering from violence. This also has given both MCS and VCC an opportunity to help bring domestic violence and sexual assault awareness to local health care and social services providers, in providing more culturally sensitive services.

Valley Crisis Center’s Peace for Families Event 2018

Merced Peace for Family’s Mach and Community Gathering Oct 4th 2018

This was my first time helping officially with the Peace for Families March and I wanted to feature a new location to start the March.  We normally started at the County Courthouse Park and March to a venue downtown.  I felt that it was a bit short and wanted to stretch out the distance a bit plus the fountain is one of my favorite photo ops in town.  I wanted to invite people to a new spot they might have only drove past rushing down M St.  Today they took the time to see Merced and spread awareness about Domestic Violence.

The march participants arrived at the city hall at 6:00 Pm, where they were met by community resources and refreshments.

Man, I worked up a sweat trying to capture the video and photos of our March.  They were loud from the very start with the chant. “There is no excuse for domestic abuse, Stop the violence. “  We had around 50 participants in the march and about 100 total people at the community gathering held at the Civic Center.  The Mayor and a survivor spoke to the crowd.  Hotdogs were sponsored from the Merced Breakfast Lions.

Los Banos Peace for Family’s Mach and Community Gathering Oct 16th 2018

This was my first time working with Los Banos Chief of police Gary Breeze.   The Police department was a huge partner in this event.  The Chief started up the march with opening remarks and then we proceeded to march to the community Center where the Mayor opened up the evening with heartfelt words of encouragement followed by testimony from a survivor of Domestic Violence.   District Attorney Kimberly Helms Lewis also spoke on the DA’s trust and support for Valley Crisis Center and the work we provide to Merced County.  Hotdogs were sponsored from Los Banos Soroptimist.

I want to thank those who attended and support either event and I hope to see you next year!

~Robert, Volunteer Specialist


10 Year Anniversary

On Thursday, July 19th, 2018 Valley Crisis Center held their 10 year anniversary.  The event was held at the Multicultural Art Center located at 645 W. Main Street, Merced, CA 95340.  We were pleased the turn-out of over 100 participants.  Among these participants, we had several Alliance Board Members, local dignitaries, survivors and their families, community partners, Valley Crisis Center staff, families, friends, and supporters. At the event Valley Crisis Center honored two people, Candy O’Donel-Brown, who has supported the efforts to help open Valley Crisis Center, as well as, Tamica Ingram, an Advocate who has been with the organization since July 2008. Tamica mentioned how she appreciated all of the support she has received from all that showed up for the event and all the work that she does to help the victims that have come in for services.  She also feels that there is a need for change for all and hope with the help of others it will come. Valley Crisis Center is greatly appreciative of all those that showed up and even those thought about showing up, but could not make it.  Most of all, we want to thank the community for all the support that has been given to help our survivors and their families.  We hope to grow and make a change in our communities and continue to receive the help and support from neighboring partners and those that want to participate in educating on Valley Crisis Services and social change.  We value the all support and again want to thank you all for attending our special event.

Pacific Coast Day of Refreshing


It is believed that the ocean speaks to the soul……

Sit back, relax, and breathe; close your eyes and think back to when you were a child at the beach… the beauty of innocence of things unseen; the joy and excitement of running away from the waves on the shore…the discovery of seashells, and of the things you could make out of the sand! The freedom from chaos and of not watching the clock; the freedom of losing yourself in the awesome wonder of nature and of all that surrounds you!

On May 25 of this year, I had the pleasure of accompanying some of the beautiful ladies of my DV support group to a special day of wonder and renewal. Not only did the ladies enjoy themselves, I did as well; with them, I experienced (and witnessed) the splendid and magical remembrance of childhood freedom; the healing of nature, and of the joy, peace, and celebration of life that is experienced when we get away from “our every day”, and wonder away to another place….

Empowerment, healing, recovery, and positive support are what I try to do my best to provide to clients, and it is my belief that the awesome power and wonders of nature and its healing elements are exceptionally strong “tools” in emotional healing and recovery as well. It is these kinds of experiences with nature that can be empowering, inspiring, calming, and transforming.

I’m very grateful to the management team of VCC for giving the opportunity to support these clients in this way, and I hope these kinds of “retreats” will be possible in the future not only for clients but staff members as well; to let ourselves be surrounded by nature at its best, to calm ourselves, to focus, and to let its power do the rest…

Thank you.



Valley Crisis Center’s First Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Event

Valley Crisis Center had its first Free Yourself from Human Trafficking (F.Y.H.T.) Event in Merced on January 5th, 2017 and in Los Baños on January 19th, 2017.  We brought awareness to our community in hopes of reaching out to victims and survivors of Human Trafficking.  Our mission is to serve men, woman, and children of all ages to overcome this tragic ordeal, and create positive and healthy life choices.

21 million people are affected by Human Trafficking each year, and we are here to ensure that all lives that are affected by this criminal act are supported, and not blamed for what they have gone through.  Many community members were present at our events in hopes of change, for a better Merced County.  We want to thank everyone who took the time to come out and support us in our first event.  This is the first step to changing our mindset and ensure that no one else becomes a victim of Human Trafficking.  We were very fortunate to have a great guest speaker that is not only a Founder and CEO of Breaking the Chains in Fresno, but also a survivor of Human Trafficking, Debra Woods.  She brought with her a powerful life story in hopes of shedding light on the subject.  We also want to extend our gratitude towards the mayor of Merced Mike Murphy, and the mayor of Los Baños Mike Villalta for attending and speaking at the events of their respective city. By having the support of the mayors of both Merced and Los Baños shows the impact Human Trafficking has on our community and the dedication they have to spreading awareness to end this inhumane practice.

We are all very dedicated to stopping these traffickers and putting an end to modern day slavery and the suffering of victims.  Human Trafficking does not only affect foreign countries, but in fact, it is here in our small community of Merced County.  We must unite and open our eyes to the realities of exploitation in our own back yards.  We hope to continue this event and bring awareness every year with the support of our community and our community leaders.


Reflections on A Gathering of Asian and Pacific Islander Voices

On September 7, 2016 Valley Crisis Center (VCC) and Mountain Crisis Services (MCS) hosted their fostering cultural competency panel titled A Gathering of Asian and Pacific Islander Voices. This event was a partnership and project of My Sister’s House that was funded by Blue Shield of California. The purpose of this event was to learn how VCC/MCS and other agencies can effectively serve and support the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.

The panelists consisted of three individuals representing different API communities. Participants were Mimi Xiong, member of Hmong Women Today and Alliance for Community Transformations Board Member, Sam Malaythong, Senior Advisor of the Merced Lao Association and Fresno Watlao Buddist Temple, and Reema Singh, University of California Merced student who represented the Punjabi community.  Each Panelist was asked a series of questions to help others learn more about the Hmong, Lao, and Punjabi community as well as gain new ideas on how to better serve these communities. During this event, staff and community members were able to explore and understand more about API communities. Of those who attended, Lara stated, “I enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the panel sharing their experiences from different cultures as well as representing different age groups. Their perspectives were enlightening in assisting me to work effectively with my clients.”  For Sophie this panel “was an eye opening opportunity to learn more about cultures and communities within the Merced community, which we do not normally get to see. I learned a lot about the struggle between 1st, 2nd and 3rd generations – a struggle of tradition and pride, against acceptance and respect.”  Berta reflected on her experience and stated, “I think what I took back from the panel is that there were more people that attended the panel who were in support of seeking change, giving the woman a chance to not experience the emotional/physical abuse that I have heard occurs.  Advocating for change is good, but I think it will be a long process with the leaders from past tradition to reconcile on the education that these panels present.  The panels present a positive means of education and advocating.” Lastly, Laura learned that “it can be very difficult to change the perspective of older generations in every culture, but it doesn’t hurt to inform them of our services. Once we give the information to someone who is seen as a leader within the community and accepts it, others will follow.” The event ended with dinner and discussion. Indian cuisine was available and for some, it was their first time trying this type of food.  Cesilie stated “I have never had it before, but the smell was enticing. However I’m allergic to several things so I wasn’t able to taste any of it apart from the Naan Bread, which was very delicious.” Pana commented that “The food was great!  I’m used to eating curry so I love it.” Valara ended the night by stating that she thought that “the Indian food was Bomb.” At the end of this event, VCC/MCS reflected on this learning experience. We began to strategize new ways to reach out to these communities while being culturally sensitive.  We’re very excited to continue to emerge ourselves in these different cultures so that we can learn more and evolve our services to serve these communities.

Merced’s 2016 Peace for Families: Thank You

Valley Crisis Center put on its annual Peace for Families march in Merced on October 5th 2016. A lot was put into the event, from getting donations, getting volunteers, getting the community involved and finding someone brave enough to share their story at the event.

As you may or may not know Valley Crisis Center prides itself on our confidentiality policy and never do we share any information on anyone unless asked and releases signed by the survivor. Well folks it is your lucky day, not only were we fortunate enough to get all the donations and volunteers for the event, but we also found a very brave survivor who not only shared her story at the event, but she wants us to continue sharing her success here today. I would like to say thank you to our survivor Raquel Calva, as she was beautiful and brave last week while she stood in front of many people and shared her story. Raquel successfully completed all 14 weeks of our Domestic Violence Support group and is a continuing client with VCC. She rarely ever missed an appointment and always gave great advice to other survivors within the group. Raquel had a beautiful message to share, but one thing that really stood out was when she said, “Ask for help, even if your family will not help you, look around at all these beautiful faces willing to lend a helping hand.” Raquel now knows she is not alone and wants to be sure battered women everywhere know there is help out there.

I would also like to send out a special Thank You to a woman who helped Raquel feel even more beautiful than she is by donating a makeover to her for this event. Thank you Gabriella Benedict (Beauty by Gabriella B) from Los Banos for donating your time and services to Raquel. Gabriella provided full service to Raquel; she gave her a pedicure and dyed and cut her hair on one day, then on the day of the event she came from Los Banos to Merced to do her makeup and style her hair. Gabriella says she has always wanted to help survivors of Domestic Violence and what a better way than with a makeover! Thank You to everyone who attended the event weather you are an employee, donor, volunteer or survivor. Together we CAN make a difference!


Healthy Relationships and Economic Pathways (HREP)

Merced County young adults are underserved. Our county has a large proportion of mothers ages 15-19, making up 9% of births in 2013 according to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. Along with an increasing nationwide visibility in teen dating violence, there’s no denying that there is a rising need to provide comprehensive sexual education and healthy relationship skills. Hoping to nurture the growth and well-being of Merced’s adolescents, Valley Crisis Center and the Public Health Institute have partnered to expand services beyond intervention and into education and prevention.
The California Adolescent Health Collaborative (a program of the Public Health Institute) and Valley Crisis Center staff provide workshops to Merced County’s opportunity youth — formerly known as “at-risk” youth — between the ages of 16 and 24. These workshops are meant to strengthen communication, self-reflection, and relationship skills, based on the fundamental principle that healthy behaviors can be learned and strengthened through practice. Valley Crisis Center Health Educators have already graduated two cohorts of students through Merced County Office of Education’s Empower U program since starting in August, and will begin working with incarcerated youth at Valley Community School at the start of the next calendar year. Matriculated students receive a stipend and a Chromebook upon completion of the healthy relationships program and a web design course. Healthy Relationships and Economic Pathways is a new program and has already seen some success:
“One of our students works at a not-for-profit charity organization, where he stocks donations and takes inventory of donated items. On his first official day of work, he was in the supply room with two co-workers who made no attempt to hide that they were stealing items to sell for their own profit, explicitly counting up how much money they would make and how they’d use the money towards a new car and Vicodin pills. When they were unable to close their boxes and bags, they asked our student if he’d be willing to help them close some boxes and bags. Our student felt uncomfortable with the request, and feeling like he wasn’t able to say no without consequence, remembered and utilized the delay response, telling his co-workers that he had something to attend to at the front of the store. He eventually told his supervisor and prevented the store from any further losses. Our student found it to be a funny coincidence that shortly after attending our classes, he was able to put into practice something he had learned to get out of a situation he was uncomfortable with.” ~José Martínez, former Healthy Relationships Educator
Valley Crisis Center seeks to prevent violence by advocating for positive changes through community education. Our hope is to serve Merced County adolescents, prepare them to identify and navigate unhealthy relationships, and to nurture their growth into healthy relationships.

Honoring Diversity in the Safe House

Mountain Crisis Services received a hotline call from Merced area asking to assist a victim of Sexual Assault.  A MCS advocate met a VCC advocate and the client half way and transported her to our Safe House in Mariposa.  This client arrived here in crisis.  She had been sexual assaulted by a stranger.

She was referred to us through a Merced Wellness Center.  When our client arrived and was filling out our paperwork she identified herself as a transgender female.  Her ethnicity was stated as Irish and Spanish.

She was welcomed into our Safe House and as advocates we were able to familiarize our client with the resources that we could offer her in Mariposa.  She came with minimal belongings and got to utilize our Safe House resources such as clothing and basic necessities.  If she needed to have an advocate to accompany her, we were available to assist.  She rested for 2 – 3 days before she wanted to even go outside.

Having been a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual violence we encouraged her to access our SA Peer counselor and to get assistance from Social Services for benefits. With her past ordeal, her wallet was stolen and her first personal need was to get her California ID Card.  She was able to attend our art program A Window Between Worlds (art therapy), as well as weekly discussion groups with the house residents.


Before coming to Mariposa, She was homeless for 8 months and had just had a break up with her boyfriend.  She wanted to remain in Mariposa and after staying for a month with us she left the Safe house.  There were challenges because Mariposa is so small the community members do not share a great deal of acceptance with our transgendered community.  There were difficulties and our client did end up leaving Mariposa.  When she exited our Safe House the one thing she did say is “I have so much appreciation for the experience and mostly that you accepted me for who I am.”



Valley Crisis Center’s Groups

Valley Crisis Center is continuing to grow its support groups for both domestic violence and its children’s group as well. We are hoping to also grow our sexual assault support groups and teen group. All the groups are offered weekly and provide information on how to stay safe when dealing with abusive relationships. The DV and SA groups are offered in both English and Spanish and are offered in Los Banos and Merced. Children’s group is also offered in both Los Banos and Merced but only in English. Teen group is offered in Merced at our office and also at Golden Valley High school for their students while school is in session, but also only in English. These groups are very helpful for survivors of DV and SA as they offer support from other survivors and can be beneficial in learning about healthy relationships. Each group has a 14 week curriculum and once completed each participant will receive a certificate of completion. Children’s group is for children ages 5-12 and we do many different activities like art, reading, and games, all surrounding healthy attitudes and non-violent environments.  If you have any questions on time and dates for the groups please contact our office and we will be happy to assist you.

–          VCC Counselor