A Special Note from ALWAYS CEO & Founder, January Contreras
It has been a busy summer here at ALWAYS. One of our highlights was a gathering for ALWAYS clients and their families. While I was looking forward to seeing all of them in a social setting, I was not prepared for the sentiments they would share.
One by one, our clients shared a deep sense of gratitude for our help and the opportunities they created for themselves as a result. A former client who already received a promotion at his new jobsite shared, “You guys changed my life. I won’t ever forget that.” His words have stayed with me as a reminder of the power of putting legal services within reach of vulnerable young people.
In this issue of ALWAYS NEWS, you'll meet Viktor*, a young Eastern European immigrant who escaped to the United States only to end up living in his car by the time we stepped in to help. ALWAYS helped him to get his work permit when he had no money or help.
Today, he is no longer homeless and can work legally in the United States.
You'll also meet two new members of the ALWAYS family. Erin Goeman joined our team as a Staff Attorney earlier this month, and Katherine Kouvelas is an incredible volunteer who truly gives her all to support vulnerable youth.
Each of these people is an important part of ALWAYS. The young people who share their stories of success, our dedicated Board and staff, our volunteers and supporters - it takes every one of us to balance the scales of justice for vulnerable youth in Arizona. Thank you for being a part of the ALWAYS family. Please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know how you can do more to help the young women and men we serve.
ALWAYS Youth and Volunteers Celebrate Christmas in August
On August 6, 2015; ALWAYS volunteers hosted Christmas in August - a special gathering for the youth at ALWAYS and their children. Our clients spent the evening sharing updates on successes in their lives, reflecting on the impact ALWAYS has made for them, and celebrating summer with special gifts, dinner, clothing for their children, and stockings donated by ALWAYS volunteers, Katherine Kouvelas and her family.
A very special thank you to Katherine for making this such a special evening for our youth and their families.
ALWAYS Honored by Sandra Day O'Connor Institute
ALWAYS was honored by the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute alongside several incredible organizations working to fight sex trafficking in Arizona at last month's "More Than A Survivor: More Than A Story" photo exhibit.
The photo exhibit featured the images and life stories of 22 sex trafficking survivors including local survivor and social worker, Savannah Sanders. During the exhibit's opening reception, at which ALWAYS was honored, Ms. Sanders told the audience about a survivor she knows who was locked in a low paying job and unable to get a promotion until ALWAYS helped her to address her criminal history and obtain a fingerprint clearance card.
"We don't think of legal services most of the time," Ms. Sanders said, "but the difference they make is incredible. The legal help she got at ALWAYS will impact her for the rest of her life." ALWAYS thanks the O'Connor Institute's Safe Action Project for honoring us and our co-honorees. Together, we will keep working to end trafficking in Arizona and support survivors on their journeys.
Viktor Has a Home, Ready for Work!
When Viktor* fled from his Eastern European hometown, he never imagined that he'd be attacked by his roommate and end up homeless. When he came to ALWAYS, he was sleeping in a car and was unable to work legally. He has since secured stable housing and, with the help of Marissa Florio, his ALWAYS attorney, Viktor received his work permit earlier this week.
"This happens often," Marissa said. "Young people like Viktor are eligible for legal pathways in the immigration system but lack the financial resources or information they need to access those remedies. At ALWAYS, we open the doors to justice for them."
ALWAYS Welcomes New Staff Attorney, Erin Goeman
ALWAYS is thrilled to announce the newest member of our legal team, Erin Goeman. Erin joins ALWAYS as a full-time staff attorney, providing legal counsel related to family and immigration law. Erin’s legal career began more than a decade ago when she worked as a paralegal for the Office of Public Defender in her home state of Minnesota. That position launched her interest in providing legal services to those in need, and helped her realize a law degree could put her in a position that would allow her to be of service to others.
During law school, Erin worked in the immigration legal services department at Journey’s End Refugee Services, a refugee resettlement agency in Buffalo, NY. She also clerked for a Family Court Judge and spent time working with Attorneys for the Child representing children in child custody matters. Prior to attending law school, Erin lived in Costa Rica for eight years and considers Costa Rica her family’s second home. Erin received her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth and her Juris Doctor from SUNY Buffalo Law School.
AFW Grant Supports Pro Bono Network at ALWAYS
A grant through the Arizona Foundation for Women will allow ALWAYS to expand its network of volunteer attorneys providing pro bono representation for vulnerable youth.
"Volunteer attorneys expand our reach and often provide legal services in specialty areas outside of our practice expertise. Our pro bono network is vital to our work at ALWAYS. We're grateful to the Arizona Foundation for Women for supporting free legal services for our clients - 75% of whom are young women," said January Contreras, ALWAYS CEO.
ALWAYS will be holding our 2015 Pro Bono Attorney Training on September 18-19 in partnership with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). For more information, please email us.
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