Meet the Team
Founder and Director
Vickee is an English as a Second Language professor at a community college in Sacramento. She launched Starting Point in June 2017 after being deeply touched by her refugee students’ stories about their lives in their native countries and about their new lives in the U.S. Starting Point is one way she hopes to honor and remember their incredible stories and beautiful lessons about perseverance, strength, hope, and humanity.
As a child of immigrants, Vickee feels a connection with new arrivals and is passionate about helping them begin successful lives in their new country. Along with her husband and three sons, she is excited to reach out to this growing community of newcomers.
Diane has been an educator for over 30 years, serving in various capacities including classroom teacher, intervention counselor, Drop Out Prevention coordinator, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports coach and currently as a district level administrator for Educational Equity.
Through DS Consulting, Diane is helping organizations envision positive change to create a welcoming and equitable environment where all people have the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential. Being a part of Starting Point is an opportunity to extend her reach and passion as we help meet the needs of refugee children.
Diane is grateful to be a mother of two wonderful daughters and wife to an amazing husband who support her passion for this work!
Molly has lived and worked in Sacramento since 2015. She started volunteering in earnest with refugees and SIV holders in 2017, collaborating on projects, connecting with local agencies, and helping her new neighbors adapt to life in the U.S. A language-learning enthusiast, she is fluent in Latin American Spanish, conversational in Dari and Pashto, (re-) learning standard Italian and European French, and picking up German and Levantine Arabic. She has a master’s in library and information studies and is currently working towards a paralegal certificate to more effectively assist her community.
The co-founder of Multi-Cultural Family Matters, Inc. has long been a fitness enthusiast and advocate for healthy living. Rene is a CSUS graduate with over 30 years of experience as a dance instructor, community servant, and activist. Some of her devoted contributions include Sacramento Convoy of Hope organizer of volunteers, High Heels Society board member, Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary for the Homeless board member, Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Team mentor, California Disaster Relief Chaplain, and missions work to Mexico, Guinea, Nigeria, and Ghana.
Krista has been an educator for 31 years and currently teaches a newcomer program for refugees who have recently arrived to the U.S. She is an English Language Specialist with training in reading intervention as well as a trained Mindfulness practitioner. Krista is also a volunteer at the satellite location of the River City Food Bank that serves many refugee families. Krista’s strong bonds and relationships with refugee families have fueled her passion and commitment to serve this growing community. She is honored and proud to support the efforts of Starting Point for Refugee Children.
Allen’s career in finance spans over two decades and includes positions such as finance analyst to assistant controller. He recently retired from Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) as a budget and planning manager and now spends his time serving and volunteering on various boards in the Sacramento and Northern California region and dedicates his time helping in the refugee community through Starting Point.
Shahpoor Ali Benawa
Community Engagement Manager
Originally from Afghanistan, Shahpoor has been an integral part of Starting Point from the very beginning and has served in different capacities to welcome and assist newcomers. He arrived as a refugee himself in 2016 and is now making a difference in the community as he tirelessly works to support recent arrivals.
Sayed Jamil Hamdard
Interpreter, Translator, Cultural Advisor
Sayed is a professional interpreter, translator, and cultural advisor with more than five years of experience. He worked as an interpreter and translator with the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan before becoming a part of our organization. He is always ready and willing to help Starting Point communicate with the newcomer community.
Partners & Sponsors
Thank you to the foundations, companies, and organizations that have supported our work in
aiding refugee children from around the world!