Women Making History: Nilda Valmores, My Sister’s House
By Erica Root
It takes twenty seconds of courage to change a life.
Earlier this month I sat down with Nilda Valmores, Executive Director for My Sister’s House, a local non-profit here in Sacramento that helps women and children impacted by domestic violence. She told me a story – which she admitted was not her own, but that stuck with her – about an Indian man who overheard a violent screaming match next door. He breathed deep and remained courageous for twenty seconds, long enough for him to ring his neighbor’s doorbell. Long enough to distract the screaming couple from their fight.
It’s these little acts of courage that could make the difference in cases of domestic violence. In twenty seconds the scales can tip: It can make the difference in saving a neighbor, a family member, a friend, or a co-worker.
Fortunately, I didn’t need twenty seconds of courage to sit down with Nilda Valmores to discuss the amazing work that My Sister’s House has done in establishing My Sister’s Cafe; a volunteer-based program to help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet financially.
I’ve been a frequent visitor of My Sister’s Cafe since it opened in March of last year. The cafe offers both good food and a good mission statement. So it was only fitting that Nilda and I meet there to discuss the My Sister’s House and it’s new fundraising venture.
Erica: Nilda, let’s begin with you telling me a little bit about who you are and how you came to be the Executive Director of My Sister’s House.
Nilda: First of all, I’ve been with My Sisters House for over 10 years now. I’ve always been in the non-profit world: teaching low income children, tackling domestic violence. I’m also a bit of a policy wonk and studied political science in college.
Erica: What brought you to Sacramento?
Nilda: I’ve been in Sacramento for the past 27 years. Sacramento is a beautiful community and I’ve always appreciated it; even though I had relatives in SF, went to school in LA. Sacramento was big enough and diverse enough, and ultimately a great place to raise a family.
Erica: What is the mission My Sister’s House? And why was it founded?
Nilda: About fifteen years ago there was a story on the news about Asian women who were victims of domestic violence. This confused community leaders who didn’t understand why these women weren’t getting the help they needed. But the truth is, the women didn’t know where to go, or didn’t feel comfortable asking for help. So the community leaders came together and realized there was a real unmet need in the community that needed to be addressed. It began with education and outreach efforts to let the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community know that the resources were available to them. And while My Sister’s House serves all ethnicities, it was the first organization to uniquely address issues specific to the API community, which make up 15-20 percent of the local population. We’ve now being doing this work for 14 years. We have a thousand square feet of space in our office and we maximize it to ensure that we reach out to as many people as possible
Erica: How did My Sister’s Cafe come to be?
Nilda: The Cafe is a great way to reach out to people in a safe way. The idea of a business venture to help supplement our fundraising was percolating for several years before it came to fruition. It went from idea to reality thanks to a Blue Shield Foundation grant. We engaged the community members and leaders who donated their time, energy, and knowledge to make sure this was a successful enterprise for us. For example, Liz Mischler from Bella Bru sat on the committee to get a crash course on how to get a cafe up and running. With help from her and others, we were able to get up and running just a few months after getting the green light on the grant.
Erica: What’s the 5 year plan for the cafe and My Sister’s House?
Nilda: To maintain the success of the Cafe. This is an opportunity for us to gain additional funding for the programs that we have at my Sister’s House; such as our shelter, our women to work program, and our community outreach and education.
Erica: What piece of advice would you give to a young professional trying to navigate their career in Sacramento?
Nilda: Wherever you are you can make that positive difference. My second piece of advice would be: make sure you really know what your priorities are. If you want to have a family, figure out how you are going to make that happen.
Erica: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
Nilda: I hope people will come to My Sister’s Cafe often. The Cafe is available for private receptions and meetings. And of course, everyone should know that we have a 24 hour helpline. If you, a friend, or co-worker need to call us (My Sister’s House), call us. We will be there.
- 24-Hour Multilingual Help Line: 916-428-3271
- For more information visit the website: http://www.my-sisters-house.org/
- 1 Year Anniversary of My Sister’s Cafe Celebration – March 20, 2015
- 14th Anniversary Gala – May 18, 2015