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Cer Ree Moo was born in a refugee camp in Thailand before her family fled to Myanmar to escape conflict in the country. After losing her parents at just 11-years-old, she moved to the United States a few years later with the remaining members of her family.

In 2018, Cer Ree became an emergency placement in one of The Arc Madison Cortland’s homes and Guardianship program after Surrogate's Court suspended the authority of her current guardian. At the time, she did not have an advocate to assist with school transitions or making informed decisions about her quality of life. Without the placement and support, Cer Ree’s future was in jeopardy.


“After hearing what this young lady had gone through in her life, I think we did exactly what the founding parents of the local Arc chapters would have done 60 years prior,” says Aaron Hammond, Guardianship & Compliance Coordinator for The Arc Madison Cortland.


The court hearing was one task, but making Cer Ree feel safe and secure was altogether different. When she first entered the program, she had difficulty making eye contact, displayed anxiety and fear, wore several layers of clothing, and hoarded food – methods she had developed from years of simply trying to survive. It took all of the agency staff, her teachers, and therapists to work with Cer Ree to build effective communication skills, trust, and ultimately help her flourish.


Today, Cer Ree is a typical teenager. Though her expressive language skills are limited, she finds success using an iPad to facilitate her communication needs. She has a very empathetic side, and enjoys helping housemates and peers who may be sad or struggling. She has also grown more independent, recently graduating with an IEP diploma and is now pursuing US citizenship.


“The more and more she can unwrap and peel back the hardened layers she acquired out of her need to survive, the further she will go,” says Aaron. “It has always been my hope that one day she will no longer need a guardian.”

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