Meet Kari Moore, Director of Self-Sufficiency Programs. Kari oversees many of the services at Exodus, including our LCORE and Employment programs. To celebrate Kari’s 10-year anniversary working at Exodus, we asked her a few questions about herself! Kari has helped Exodus grow in her time with us, and we are so grateful for her dedication!
I’m married with one son who is about to start kindergarten. I have my MA in Teaching English as a Second Language, and my first job at Exodus was coordinating our English language program. Before joining the team here, I taught in a variety of contexts, including working with university students in Thailand, teaching at a community college, and working with business professionals. I love to read all kinds of books – my ideal vacation would be to go to the beach or a cabin in the woods with a big stack of books and read for a couple of weeks. I also love to run and enjoy taking hikes and going on other adventures with my family.
Other than English, I speak some Spanish, though I need work on verb tenses and objects. I can count to 20 in Kinyarwanda and know how to say “Good morning, teacher” and “fish” in Burmese. Being an English teacher is a great way to learn vocabulary in other languages because you can have your students teach you some of the things in their languages that you’re teaching them in English.
When I relocated to Indianapolis almost 15 years ago, I was working in publishing. As I thought about next steps, I knew I wanted to get back to teaching English. I did a little bit of research and ran across Exodus. I had interned with a resettlement agency in grad school, so the work was a bit familiar. When a friend of a friend reached out to let me know that Exodus was looking for someone to teach some English classes, I emailed my resume within the hour. I was hired on to teach a few classes, and that grew into a full-time job. I’ve been here ever since!
When I first started, our ESL curriculum was in need of an overhaul. I worked with a fellow teacher to write a new curriculum for our English classes. It took about 2 years and was a huge investment of time and brain power. I’m really proud that we were able to create something that was responsive to the needs of our students here in Indianapolis and that has continued to be the basis of our English program for the past decade.
The other thing that I’m proud of is starting a literacy program at our agency. One of the most underserved populations in the ESL profession is adults who enter ESL classes without prior schooling or first language literacy. They are at a huge disadvantage compared to their peers who can read and write and who understand how school works. When I began to meet students like this at Exodus, many of whom were also elderly, I knew we had to come up with a better way to serve them. It’s taken a long time, but we now have a robust literacy program that is helping many adult refugees take their first steps toward literacy. Other than being a mom, it’s hands down the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
The great thing about working at Exodus is getting to meet so many amazing people. Our staff is the most compassionate, dedicated, selfless, and funny group of people I’ve ever known. I would never survive without the support of my colleagues, and I have lots of great memories with them over the years – late-night airport pickups, setting up 5 apartments in a day, solving crises together, and laughing over Google Translate mishaps are some of the memories with our staff that I treasure.
Ultimately, our clients are the reason that any of us do the work we do, and it’s been a real joy over the years to share important moments with them. I’ve been able to attend the citizenship ceremonies of several students who faithfully attended our English classes over the years, and it’s amazing to see them come full circle from arriving at the airport to registering to vote. I’ve witnessed family reunions at the airport that had everyone in tears. I’ve tried to train clients on how to use public transportation only to find myself chasing down the IndyGo bus with 5 Karen ladies in tow. I’ve crammed clients into the back of my 2-door Civic to drive them home from English class (they gave me a big thumbs up and a “thank you, teacher” when I bought a bigger car). I’ve watched grandfathers get into a friendly snowball fight, and I’ve been given cup after cup of tea in clients’ homes. The work we do is hard, but these moments keep me going and keep my faith in humanity strong.
To me, Exodus represents a place where we are really striving to uphold the ideals of human rights – to create a place where all people are valued, where all people have a home, all people are welcomed and respected, all people are treated equitably and have access to the things they need, and where we do our best to provide excellent support to every client as they start life in a new country. Exodus is a place where I know every one of my colleagues is doing their best to make our community more welcoming in their own concrete way. It’s a place where we laugh, cry, struggle, and grow together, both as a staff and with our clients. Exodus is home.