Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Molly Ammons: Bridging Divides Towards Refugee Resettlement

February 19, 2010

Before pursuing a graduate degree, Molly Ammons (MPA '09) worked for a refugee resettlement agency, helping displaced families adapt to life in the United States:

I used to feel like an overworked mother, because I had a caseload of families who depended on me. One night, I went to the airport with my co-workers to pick up a refugee family from Sierra Leone, who had a Brady Bunch story. The mother and her children had been resettled a year or two earlier, and the husband and his children were finally joining them. Together for the first time in years, they had an emotional, joyous reunion.

I was always emotional at the airport, because you're watching people's first moments in America. If they've never seen an escalator before, you watch them fiddle with one. And all the challenges that they will face in their new life flash before my eyes as they come down that escalator.

That night, as I kept watching, I was surprised to see my own cousins appear on the escalator, returning from their family vacation in Disney World. They were tan and grumpy, exhausted from a week of adventure.

My family will probably never have contact with recently arrived refugees or hear the stories they could tell. They will live in the same city, but they will probably never see each other. One family will be on welfare for two years minimum, and one family will prepare their children for college. I want them to know one another - I want to be a conduit between them - because that's what makes the world a better place.

Molly chose our Public Administration program to gain the non-profit management experience necessary to implement ideas and solutions. For her capstone project, she created Resettlement Wire, a collaborative platform where US resettlement caseworkers can share best practices.

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