Recipient starting off 2015 by providing support to refugees and asylum-seekers in Cyprus.
The InterExchange Foundation is pleased to award a Christianson Grant in the amount of $7,400 to its latest recipient, Maryann Ford, a resident of Woburn, Massachusetts. Maryann will spend eight months in Nicosia, Cyprus, providing legal, social and psychological support to refugees and asylum-seekers for the Strengthening Asylum project, a program funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Christianson Grant is making it possible for Maryann to contribute to Strengthening Asylum's parent organization, the Future Worlds Center (FWC), which aims to foster regional peace, promote the UN's Millennium Development Goals and support vulnerable groups.
"Different regions and countries receive refugees differently, and I will bring to Nicosia my knowledge and experience from the U.S. to contribute new ideas and approaches," Maryann says. "In my time at the U.S. embassy in Dublin, I produced State Department cables regarding human trafficking in Europe. As for the promotion of vulnerable groups, I have three months of experience with the refugee community in Boston, in which time I have developed the skills to communicate effectively with speakers of another language. I am familiar with how to handle myself in various situations with clients, and I know how to gain a client's trust and understanding. Most importantly, I bring with me a willingness to learn."
Maryann will use her skills with refugee services to help spearhead the Strengthening Asylum project and provide services to those in need, while also expanding her future career opportunities. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where she studied Environmental Health and Peace and Conflict Studies. She has also worked with the International Institute of Boston (IIB) and the Department of State's embassy in Dublin, Ireland, filling roles where she refined her ability to interact successfully with international people.
"Refugees who have been through more than I can imagine remain hopeful and motivated and resilient," Maryann says. "Many clients utilize IIB's services for the five-year maximum, and as their English improves, so do their job chances. Some outstanding clients are referred to career-training programs, in which they receive funding to pursue their field of interest. I have seen the tears of joy when a long-term client who came to the U.S. with no knowledge of English and who struggled for years in a minimum-wage job graduated from our Hospitality Training Program and landed a job at a luxury hotel. Those clients inspire me with their strength and determination, and their victories are my victories."
"FWC is highly regarded in the fields of peace and humanitarian work, and there is much to learn from my coworkers about effectively serving a clientele that is often emotionally and financially strained," she says. "I have always been an ambitious learner, a dedicated worker and a passionate fighter for fair treatment in all areas of life."
Moving forward into 2015, The InterExchange Foundation is accepting applications from U.S. citizens who are pursuing humanitarian work in other countries. "We're thrilled to be able to support individuals like Maryann as they contribute to projects that have measurable, sustainable impact overseas," said President and CEO of InterExchange, Christine La Monica-Lunn. "As our next deadline approaches, we're looking forward to seeing more applications from prospective grantees who are motivated to make meaningful changes throughout the world."