Jessica Molloy
Jessica Molloy
Dominican Republic 2019 - 2020
I am traveling to La Vega, Dominican Republic and will be working with New Hope Girls! This is a safe house for girls ages 4-17 seeking refuge from dark and difficult places. I will be the certified teacher on site of the safe house! Read More About Jessica →

final report

It’s never fun to be denied. Whenever we put ourselves out there, there’s always a chance that we could be denied. It seems a bit silly that we do this but we do. I did this in 2016, shooting my shot and missing. Denied. Some of us are even sillier and put ourselves out there again. What makes us do that? It’s probably a mix of a lot of things. For me, it was a clear passion the moment I learned about New Hope Girls. It made that Lumos denial smaller and smaller as I listened to the New Hope story. It was time to apply again.   

La Vega, Dominican Republic. A small town that has beautiful views and dark secrets. Light beckons through on a little street just past LaSirena supermercado. A property that opens to a new hope, a new hope for life, a new hope for change, a new hope for girls. New Hope Girls. A year prior, I stepped on the  property for the first time through a study abroad experience. We were really studying the social enterprise of the women’s workshop but I felt connected to the safe house for girls. I wasn’t sure why but it felt right.

Hours of applying, a nerve-racking interview, and a year later, I stepped on the property behind the supermercado again. The property that serves girls from difficult and dark places. I stepped in with the goal of teaching the girls in transitional care that have just arrived at the safe house. With my degree in elementary education, it made sense, I would teach these girls Spanish, Math, English, and Science since they are unable to go to the local school. It made sense to me. The plan was ready for action and I was as ready as I could be! A wide eyed right out of college girl thinking the plan would go smoothly. Oh how I was wrong. 

There are many things that an average college graduate learns the year post-grad. ‘Wide-eyed, thinking she can change the world, feeling prepared’ Jess learned more than she can count. Hard truths were probably the one that stung each time. Hard truths outside my small world. These hard truths resulting in crying over a bucket of socks before giving several pairs to an incoming girl with a story I wasn’t ready to hear. These hard truths resulting in a sense of loss as we take two steps forward and three steps back. These hard truths of a 4 year old teaching me more about myself and finding my core before I could. 


Control. I want it, I need it, I have to have it. Oh, pero, chica! No es asi. One of my hardest truths I learned was to give control away. Away to the process, away to the caretaker, away to time, away to God. Weeks without water, weeks without power, weeks without a day of peaceful learning, weeks without something feeling like it was moving forward. But once again, no es asi. Each moment of waiting, each moment of letting go was a step forward for us all. The girls pushed me to give my control over as they started to trust themselves, trust their new friends and sisters and as they began to trust me. The girls pushed me to see their healing in a not so obvious way. The girls pushed me. 

Although my five to seven girls were not able to go to a local school in the community like the other girls in the house. We were able to provide them a safe transition between the house and school. This was a walk over to my house where I taught them each day. It gave them a safe space as I recognized their need for continued healing and gave space for however that needed to happen. This was also a place to introduce them to what was about to come in the local schools, introducing them to interactions in other students and teachers. A space for beautiful and stepping stone mistakes are welcomed. The days were raw and honest. The days provided the girls with one of many spaces they needed to grow, transform and heal. 

 The community that surrounded me consisted of the girls’ caretakers, the girls, and Joy Reyes. Joy is the founder of New Hope Girls and the one that took me in throughout the time that I was living in the Dominican Republic. Although Joy lived 45 minutes away, she would come to the property about once and week and check in on everything. Often, I would spend the weekends at Joy’s house with her family just soaking up everything she said. Especially toward the end of my time in the country, I found myself becoming closer with Joy. From her start with New Hope Girls to where it is now, it is a true God story and I would always hang onto every word when she told the New Hope story to guests. As I hung onto her every word, a seed was planted in me. I’m not sure what that seed will be and when it will blossom (or if it already is blooming) but I know that Joy and New Hope Girls has inspired me for my future of girl/women empowerment. I’ll keep you updated on that.


To students applying for Lumos, don’t give up. If you get denied, I was. Get back up because it’s worth it, apply again. Passion plus a plan equals a project. Take a seat at 8th & Roast Coffee Co, cozy up, and get to researching the hard questions. 

To students heading out on their Lumos adventure, you have the tools. You might not know it yet, but you have the tools. Before my journey, I ambitiously prayed for God to bring me to the end of my rope just so I could see what only He could do. Not sure if that was a really dumb prayer or a genius prayer. Nevertheless, I was stretched. I was stretched to trust the people I worked with, trust the girls, trust God, and trust myself because tools from my toolbox would always show up. The Lumos Committee chose you. YOU! And they chose YOU for a reason, don’t let yourself forget when you start to doubt, because you will. You’re human. 


Con amor, 


something familiar

You know in life people say that they are starting a new chapter. Although I am in a new chapter of my life, there will be many things brought up in this chapter from the previous chapter. 

I’m ready for that previous chapter to show up a lot in this chapter. I’m ready for the lessons of facing my fears, using my patience, and the sweet love that the Dominican showed me to enter this chapter. Now what is that chapter? 

When I decided to go to the Dominican Republic, I thought getting the furthest away was the best option for me. I thought it would push me, grow me, and unveil the real me. That it did. I wouldn’t change my time in the Dominican for the world, that time was special and incredibly important. But I did learn during this time that I need family. I never thought I would think that way, I thought I wanted to be far from anything familiar to stretch my horizons but at least for a little while, I need family. With that, I moved to Annapolis, Maryland where my parents live for six months out of the year and the entirety of my dad’s side lives. Since I moved around a lot when I was little, Maryland was always a constant for our family. Maryland was always on the agenda for Christmas time or summer time. Maryland feels like home to me. 

As I make this transition back to life in the states, I’m nervous but excited. The transition hasn’t been the easiest but that is a work in progress….aren’t we all just a work in progress?? Among the needed self care and reflection, I started applying for teaching jobs in the area. I landed on a Spanish Immersion program in Prince George’s County, MD and they offered me a Kindergarten position! It truly is the dream. 

it’s ok

Two days ago, I turned 23 years old. My birthday looked a little different this year, as did many others’ birthdays, I’m sure. This virus has felt like a pause, a reset, a time to reflect. This is not a time for productivity, it is a pandemic. I have tried to remind myself of this. 

Coming from teaching several hours a day, to quarantined and not able to do anything has been challenging to me. But as I go through each day of reflection and what living in the Dominican has taught me, is that where I am, with people that love me, with a roof above my head and food on the table is not how everyone is quarantining. 

My situation is not the case of everyone and I am fully aware of this. Not just in the Dominican, but here in the US. But the closest to my heart goes to the ones quarantined in abusive homes. Young girls and boys, they depend on schools, on relatives, on friends, on communities to help them. Once all of those places are taken away, they are left with the abuse. As a teacher that has worked with students in several places that had been through trauma, these children are waiting on their rescue. To some, like myself, this might feel like a time to restart, to reflect, but to others this is a time that they are stuck with no place to go. 

Leaving those sweet New Hope girls was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do, but to know that they are quarantined in a place that gives them love everyday in multiple forms, that is enough for me. New Hope isn’t stopping the rescues, there are still rescues to be done, girls to be taken out of the darkest of places. A pandemic goes on, but with all the precautions taken, the rescues continue. That is what I love about New Hope. The girls are the priority, not just the girls in their care already but those in the campos, in the cuidades, awaiting their rescue. 

Getting on a plane after saying a short and unexpected goodbye to 20 girls that I had watched grow for 9 and a half months was something I will never forget. I have sat here with my laptop ready to write several times this week and last trying to put it all into words. My processing leaving the DR, my processing of COVID-19, my processing of next steps and as hard as I try, I get frustrated trying to put it all into words. Maybe I’m not ready. Maybe it’s a bit of an overload in my brain with too much going on. Maybe it’s like that for each of you. And that is ok. It takes time. This is a weird moment in life, a scary moment in life. This could be the lesson that God is trying to teach me, slow down and it’s ok that I don’t have it all figured out right now. This will take time, let yourself feel the emotions, let yourself have writer’s blocks, let yourself be ok with not fully understanding everything at the moment. 

It’s ok. 

It’s ok. 

It’s ok. 

Con Amor,



i could have

I could have…I could have… I could have… 

This has been the line that goes through my head several times a day. This line comes in many forms. Some forms of regret and others of gratefulness. 

I could have sat with her the day before and helped her with that assignment. 

I could have held her for a longer embrace so she knows I’m for her and not against her. 

I could have spent fifteen more minutes walking with her around that small circle at the park. 

I could have helped her poke at one more carambola fruit from the tree. 

I could have danced with her one more time. 

I could have 

I could have 

I could have 


I could have not been able to get on a plane to my family in emergency because of closed borders. 

I could have prolonged the anxiety of my parents, the two people that love me the most in my life. 

I could have not been able to be considered for the next step of my career. 

I could have 

I could have 

I could have 

I am most likely not the only one saying ‘I could have’. We probably all are saying it. 

It was much like any other Sunday, hanging out in Santiago in the comfort of my boss’ family home enjoying each other’s company and looking forward to meeting new interns for the summer. As we planned summer activities for the girls, my phone was buzzing every couple minutes with a new update on the world’s state. New COVID-19 numbers released and more countries starting to close their borders making it difficult for flights to come in to get anyone already in country. I was set until June 2020 and felt like it was all going to be fine until a pretty frantic phone call from my parents. They laid out the facts going on in the U.S. and allowed me to make a decision. My bus ride back to La Vega consisted of prayer, tears, people on the bus staring at me, and a call to a former New Hope intern, Lauren. I didn’t want to leave the girls. That was my only thing holding me back from getting on a plane. The girls. The little girls, the big girls and the sweet trying to find their place middle girls. Every single one of them. I took all my homesick feelings and desire to normalcy again away and focused on the facts. I kept this conversation between me, the Lord, and a friend that has been in the same space as me before. To make a decision out of fear was never an option for me. When I feel afraid of something, I tend to face it head on ever since I was a little girl. I was afraid of this virus, I was afraid of it getting to the DR, I was afraid of my parents getting it and me not being there, I was afraid of time. But the fear that was the greatest of all these fears was being afraid that the girls saw me and knew me as another person that walked in and then back out of their life. As I pushed through those fears with Lauren, she talked me through the fears that I have and the contradicting truths. She reminded me that my relationship with New Hope is not over. It might look different, but it is not over. My relationship with each girl is not over. It might look different, but it is not over. It was a time to hang onto the facts and push away the fears. It was not a decision made out of fear but a decision made out of future. That night, I wrote in my journal “Lord, show me. Give me clarity that I am making the right decision.” And the next day I woke up to an email from Lumos informing me that I needed to come home as soon as possible. 

“I love you” – Miss Jessica

It was a Tuesday. We had a meeting at the house with the girls informing them my reason of leaving. I then spent the next few hours with the older girls going to get ice cream and jumping on the trampoline with the little ones. Around 5pm, I rolled my suitcases to the girls house and it then became real for everyone. I wanted to hold on and not let go. Each girl, each hug, I weakened in their arms more. These girls holding me up as each of us tears streaming down our faces. 

It wasn’t the goodbye I imagined but it was what we had. Until they are in my arms again, I see their little faces on video chat and write them often. We are still working on English pronunciation as my parents say hey to them and ask them how they are doing and that is enough for me. They are enough, their sweet and sassy personalities are enough. 

I write this from my parents’ home in Annapolis, Maryland. I have had to force myself to sit down and process and reflect. I am one to distract myself from feeling hard emotions so I have stayed busy creating workout plans, decorating my room, applying for jobs, etc etc but I am ready to process. I am ready to see what comes up as I look back at that beautiful, raw, difficult, wonderful, imperfect, unexpected season of my life.

con amor, 



our Hope rocks


upside down

Life feels upside down right now. A week and a half ago, I was evacuated from the Dominican because of COVID-19 and the closure of the Dominican border. The borders were starting to close but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. This post specifically is something that I put off, waiting for myself to process what was happening quickly realizing that that was going to be a long process and one that I would need to give myself time for. I thought I would start my process of processing and reflecting on my last 9 months starting with why I choose New Hope and to live abroad in the first place. 

The past eight and a half months, I have lived in La Vega, Dominican Republic working at a safe house for girls. Working to protect them, care for them, educate them, and empower them. Through those months, I often would pause and sit in a moment wondering how the heck I got there. Wondering what got me there, how I got there, and why I got there. It is always important to remember what we have been through and what God has done in our lives to see what God is currently doing. He goes before us and He goes after us. He knew that that house in a same town of the DR was were I was supposed to be this year. 

Through middle school and high school, I was always a bit hard on myself. I bet we all were a bit hard on ourselves for many things. As I grew up into my later high school years, that frustration with who I was and insecurity of who I had become weighed on me. This turned extreme as I had struggled with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I wanted to be better but I wasn’t sure how. I had hit rock bottom, ready to reach out for something or someone bigger than myself. I surrendered. The fall of my senior year of high school, I went to a treatment center where I learned to love who I am. I talked to Jesus everyday asking Him to show me why He made me the way He did and what I am supposed to do with this. I felt like the Lord said to me “it doesn’t end here”. God taught me that He made me perfect in His image, that whatever “flaw” I might see must be used to talk and connect with other girls and boys feeling what I felt. I surrendered and God healed me.

I knew what happened to me was important but what was more important was other girls and other women out there were going through similar situations and I knew that that was not their destiny just how it wasn’t mine. A lack of empowerment and confidence in oneself, comes from a past of hatred or a certain event that can make one to feel this way. 

I found out about New Hope Girls on a study abroad for social entrepreneurship. Although the organization has a workshop providing jobs for women, I fell in love with the safe house side of the organization. The stories that each girl has are important to her but important to also understand that what happened to them does not define them. My view on life aligned with the organization’s mission of being created for more. I am created for more, these girls are created for more, we all are created for more. To be created for more is having confidence in who you are and whose you are as you move forward to what He has created us to do. I know that as a worldly perspective, to be created for me, we need education. This is what I provided to the girls at the safe house. With a degree in Elementary Education, I taught the girls that were in transitional care, meaning those who have just arrived the house and have just received their rescue. These girls are raw. Repetition of their true identity was essential in my everyday work. We would shout before each class “SOY IMPORTANTE (I am important) SOY AMADA (I am loved) SOY PODEROSA (I am powerful) SOY HERMOSA (I am beautiful”. 

Con Amor,



outside looking in

The first week of March, I had the opportunity to step outside of the space of the safe house, La Vega, and the DR. I stepped back into college life at Belmont. Joy, the founder of New Hope and I were able to travel to Nashville at Belmont and speak about the organization in relation to the prompt ‘Who do I want to become?”. 

I realized quickly when listening to Joy speak and even when I spoke about New Hope myself, I found that it is so much bigger and so much grander than I could have ever expected. When you are in the thick of it with the girls day in and day out, yes, it feels big but not when talking to people about why New Hope exists. 

This trip gave me the fire to come back and go after it for my last three months. Each girl, each story, each step forward will be celebrated because I knew the bigness of it now. 

the greatest of these

I love you, 

Miss Jessica 

I write this at the end of my morning message each day for my four girls in class. Everyday, they say it with me as we end the message. Well…’saying it’ is a stretch…we shout it. We shout “I LOVE YOU” so loud that we wake up the dog next door that had been barking at 3am each night. (not that I’m irritated about that dog or anything) 

This is the most important part of my morning message. To have them know before anything else in class that I love them just the way they are. I want to carry this with me into all the classes that I teach. All my favorite teachers made it known that they loved us the way we were no matter how difficult, how frustrating, how loud we would be. 

It starts with L O V E 

As I start my ninth month here in La Vega with these girls, I am starting to think about what my life is going to look like post-New Hope. This emotion of love is a tough one to get over. My heart is split. My heart knows what it wants and that is a desire to be near family, familiarity, friends. I have been running from a ‘normal’ for a long time thinking that that just ‘isn’t me’. This year is teaching me that I am craving ‘normalcy’. This normalcy for me looks like moving back home and diving deeper into my relationships there. But that means that this emotion of LOVE that is so strong here will need a bit of processing and healing. My next steps with my girls here are presenting the idea that I am not just one that will come into their life and walk away when my ‘job’ is done. That is not the case and nor has it really ever been in my life. This process looks like listening to them and their anger towards me for leaving in June. It is a valid anger, but one that can be talked about and worked through. 

Anger has come up a good amount during my time here. I have learned that this anger is not one acted towards me…but one that has developed over time. It is not to take personal but to talk through it and always let them know that I love them. 

Conflict and confrontation is never fun. Growing up and facing this conflict and using confrontation again is never fun, but that is something huge that I am learning this year. Whether it be with the teenage girls, or co-workers, the wifi company, or the ‘frescos’ that cat call me when I walk to the grocery store. There are appropriate ways to confront and there are inappropriate ways and I have done both. But have I learned a lot? Absolutely. Have I learned that the anger that some of the girls have is deep within and rooted in something completely different than me simply asking them to be on time? Yes, yes and yes. If you know me, you know that I HATE it when people a  re mad at me, but I have learned to give a bit of space and watch healing happen within that space. I have learned to forgive myself for my frustration and I have learned how to ask for forgiveness. But at the end of the day it comes back down to love. The emotion that we all desire to have. Whether it takes a few minutes or a few days or a few weeks to come back to that word, we always come back. And that is why I write: 

I love you, 

Miss Jessica




I was asked the other day what I had learned from this year and of course I was on camera and totally froze because there is just too much. Like the past blog, there are many things that I have learned about myself but it is taking more time to process what I have learned about the world. 

We’ve had lots of tours of the place here recently with Americans visiting and that puts me in a place to translate and talk about the start of the organization and where it is now. Sometimes its a routine and I just go through the motions and not even thinking about what I am translating. But when I went running (where I process most of my thoughts) I was hit with the magnitude of the work New Hope does. The generations that are shifting. The doors being opened.

Not until the other day when I found myself just digesting it all. Giving life to the words that I translate almost each week. Sitting in it all. I then took a trip to the original house on the hill to remind myself of who these girls are and the magnitude of it all. There’s something about going back to the beginning to see what all you have been through and where you are today. I love to see that in these girls. Even the time that I have been here, I have watched attitudes change, newness for life happen, fullness in who they are come about. It is one thing to look back at how far you have come yourself but to look back at someone’s life that means so much to you and show them how far they have come and their identity remaining that beautiful soul throughout it all is something else. Some of these girls feel like my little nieces, some of them feel like my daughters, some my sisters.


The other day I was placed as a translator in a healing session with one of the girls. I was asked to read who she was in God’s eyes off of verses given to me. I read one by one the verses. One after another, my voice becoming softer as I looked into her eyes…knowing her story took me back to the beginning with her and each word read over her, she took and walked with it. She does it better than anyone I know, she believes in herself. She is a leader, not a follower. She paves her way but she paves her way with her story knowing her true identity within it. As I read these truths over her, tears dripped onto our knees. She is not afraid, she is bold. New Hope didn’t make   her these things, those were already in her, but what New Hope does is help her see it and help her believe it. 

The magnitude of where I work is something that I will always be processing and will always struggle to fully articulate but I am forever better for it. 





Well here we are again after a bit of a break. 

A restful, yet chaotic break back home. 

While at home, I was able to step outside what is actually going on in my day to day here. It was bizarre to step out of it and back into the American culture and not see my girls each day. I missed them so much, I talked about them each day and hoped they were practicing their numbers and letters to start right back when I got back. Facetime helped with that reminder when I would see their cute, little faces about every other day. 

A past intern here said once that she wasn’t able to process her time here until a few months or even a few years after she had left. That felt so real. Although I was stepping back for two weeks, I haven’t be able to touch the surface of processing everything that has happened in the past six months, the good, the beautiful and the raw. So, now that I am a little more than halfway with my DR journey, I thought I could dedicate a blog to the things that I have learned about myself, these girls, and the world since living in La Vega to get a little head start on the processing process :

( if you really know me, you’ll have fun reading these things that I’ve learned about myself, get excited) 

I love walking but also hate it 

I’m an extroverted introvert 

Going with the flow is stressful at times for me

Dreaming in Spanish is exhausting 

I want to be near family when before I wanted to live far away

Motorcycles are fun (don’t tell my Dad)

Empanadas are the real deal 

When I get to the end of my rope, God always shows up even when I haven’t asked Him to 

 I used to hate rain, now I see it as a new baptism and a fresh start, it’s beautiful 

Empanadas delivered to my door by moto is the best thing ever (only downfall with that is the delivery guy is in love with me and I had to tell him off) 

Self care is IMPORTANT 

Soda tastes better here

Chinola is actually passion fruit

I’m definitely a dark roast coffee gal 

I have a lot more patience than I thought I had 

I didn’t realize how much love I have for girls that aren’t related to me 

Now here are some awesome new updates about my second half here!!!

  • I HAVE A NEW HOUSE (my last house, I went 5 week without water there and that taught me a bunch of thing so I am happy to let it go but also sad because it definitely is where got wanted me to learn some patience and waiting) 
  • I HAVE A NEW CLASSROOM (this new classroom is INCREDIBLE, it has a separate entrance from the house part so the girls really feel like it is a school and not home)
  • Really not much else has changed but I am excited to dive even deeper with these girls as I finish my time here and remind that I will for sure be visiting because since leaving for Christmas, I have realized that I will miss them way to much to not visit

Some of my favorites moments the past two weeks back in Annapolis, Maryland: 

  • the Baltimore Ravens game with my family, my boyfriend and my best friend!
  • Lots of hugs 
  • Cousin and brother time!
  • More hugs
  • Running six miles in the rain with Nicholes, mi amor
  • Hugs from mom 
  • Cream of Crab Soup
  • Hugsssss
  • Charcuterie boards galore 
  • meeting my furry nephew, Cooper the Pooper
  • time with my best friend, Leah Lion

I’ll let the pictures to tell you the rest!



cooper the pooper

cousins and brother time

spent some time with this handsome one

mom & dad <3

stop and go

Took the bus to the capitol today. 

For those who have been in Santo Domingo know that the traffic is the absolute worst here. 

The bus is cold (not used to this air conditioning), I’m wearing the ear muffs that I bought for my Christmas trip back to the states. The seats are comfy and I’m falling asleep but the stop and go traffic keeps me awake. Stop, go, stop, go. To move an inch or two, the bus uses sudden jolts of energy. Taking an hour and 15 minutes to go about a mile truly frustrates me. I started thinking about the engine and how that must be just as frustrating for the engine (I tend to give inanimate objects personalities and emotions) but think of yourself as that engine, probably exhausted from the stop and go, the energy jolts thinking you are getting somewhere only to stop again, wait, feel stuck and blocked in. 

Aren’t we all the engine? Moving forward through life holding onto each jolt forward and waiting for the next one until it’s smooth sailing? 

We are all in this process. Our girls are in this process. All at different moments, all at different jolts, extending that hope for herself and those around her each time. A girl’s jolt forward even pushes me forward. When I see a victory, I hold onto that victory, I ride that victory for that day or that week. There are so many victories in each day, but there is also a lot of traffic with a lot of waiting for those victories. 


Each jolt of the bus, no matter how slow we were moving, I felt progress being made and at least told myself that we are moving forward and that’s all that matters right now. At the beginning of this year, I would not be telling myself that in reference to my everyday, I would be frustrated that there weren’t more victories or academic successes. This taught me to just hold on, stay awhile, learn each girl and watch the small victories happen before my eyes. The energy jolts of a girl apologizing to another or a walk home from school with good behavior. These are the jolts that keep her going and what keep us all going, truly. 

Hold tight. We are moving, even in the traffic. 

Short & sweet post for you on this Tuesday. 



brought thanksgiving to the DR

green bean casserole was difficult to explain

thanksgiving for 28!

Christmas has arrived in the DR


went to Las Terrenas with some incredible friends from Mercy Workshop in San Pedro to hike to a waterfall!

Salto de Limon

the girls have started to get Christmas presents, their favorite has been this notebook from the wonderful Birmingham artist, Tricia Robinson


past intern and new best friend, Becca came to visit with the girls and be the photographer for the week



Becca captured this wonderful photo, the title of this portrait is ‘Tired Teacher’

Sofia caught taking a nap

we figured out Group FaceTime!

just some fresh avocado and cilantro to end the blog today