How a Small Post in Africa Gets Lost in the Shuffle

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This is a story about a small post in Africa forgotten by the time lords of Foggy Bottom. Not too long ago, this post quietly lost its top two officials at the same time. The State Department made no official announcement of their  departures from post. A retired ambassador was eventually sent down to take care of the far away shop.  Embassy life continued. The retired ambassador’s temporary assignment eventually ended.
An Acting Chargé d´Affaires (A/CDA) soon assumed charge, we were told. Shortly after the death of RBG in September 2020, the A/CDA complained that the flag at the official residence was not flown at half staff in her memory.  It turned out the domestic help who would have been tasked to do this had been fired and there was no replacement hired.
Dangit!
The newly designated Acting Charge d’affaires did not remember that he previously fired the live-in house manager of the ambassador’s official residence? The employee who had been in that residence for almost three decades was given a two-weeks warning. The local employee reportedly claimed no reason was given for his/her dismissal nor did said employee received any counseling.
There was also reportedly no financial settlement after the firing but this small post did have a small farewell ceremony.
“It’s not every day the head of an ancient African tribe comes to the Embassy to rebuke the acting Chargé d ́Affaires,” we learned.

The house manager’s pastor spoke, echoing the same themes, then praying for everyone present to get their hearts’ desire. Then, turning to the official responsible for the house managers’ predicament, the pastor prayed that the A/CDA would receive extra wisdom.

The chief of the ancient African tribe to which the embassy house manager belonged to, also came to gave a speech. He said it was unusual for him to speak at an event like this, but he had to come to stand with his brother, such a good and well-respected man who has been so unfairly treated.  

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the A/CDA was reportedly pleased with the ceremony not recognizing the rebuke from the visitors.
We understand that the top two senior officials at the embassy then subsequently went on R&R at the same time for a month plus two weeks of quarantine. Post was left with no trained management official except for the embassy’s computer support specialists working at the Management section. The incoming Regional Security Officer’s residence could not be  ready for occupancy and MED was reportedly acting as part Facilities Manager!
Then there were the vacant positions:
  • HRO/FMO — vacant. Incumbent transferred in summer, no replacement identified
  • GSO — vacant. Incumbent transferred summer, replacement due fall + 2 weeks quarantine
  • FMO — vacant Incumbent transferred summer, replacement due fall + 2 weeks quarantine
  • IMO — dual-hatted as Acting Management Officer
  • IMO Deputy — dual-hatted as Acting GSO
  • MED — partially acting as Facilities Manager
  • CONS — vacant. No replacement identified.
One of two consular officers transferred from post in 2020. The identified successor was discouraged by post from coming because of likely issues with accreditation with the host country. Consular Affairs reportedly had no officer identified to fill the vacant Consular officer position at post.
Second consular position was previously removed from post staffing in 2019. The incumbent officer did not only leave post but also left the Foreign Service.
The howler we heard says “There are other elements to this shit show, but mainly this Embassy is perhaps the worst managed place I have ever worked.”
How many more posts like this get lost in the shuffle?

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In Seoul, a Spouse Blows Up Husband’s Diplomatic Career With a Slap

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Via the Embassy of Belgium in Seoul:

Mr. Peter Lescouhier has served as Ambassador of Belgium to the Republic of Korea with dedication for the past three years. During his time, he contributed to a very successful State visit in March 2019. It has however become clear that the current situation doesn’t allow him to further carry out his role in a serene way. Now that Mrs Xiang Xueqiu has personally presented her excuses and cooperated with the police, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès has decided that it is in the best interest of our bilateral relations to end Ambassador Lescouhier’s tenure in the Republic of Korea this summer.

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More About the Separate Quarantine at US Mission China

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Yesterday, we posted: FS family members 14 and up are forcibly quarantined separately from their families in China?  As often the case when we post questions in this blog, we get a reaction. Below is what we learned from a correspondent who is currently serving in China and who has “happily extended” their tour there. Our correspondent gave a different perspective about the quarantine process upon arrival in China and life there during the pandemic. He/She also answered additional questions we have.
Quarantine with children
— The quarantine rules, including those affecting children have been known by the entire mission and the EAP bureau a year ago.
— If there are two parents, they decide who takes what kid during quarantine. For single parents, you take all the kids and be in the same room; the bed is reportedly extra large king. In the case of illness concerning a baby or a young child, the PRC would allow one parent to stay at the hospital under the negotiated agreement. This was not the case at the beginning; apparently, there was a three month old baby of French diplomats who stayed alone in the hospital although reportedly with “constant monitoring.”
— When ill, mission employees go to two hospitals where the doctors are 20% Western and the Chinese doctors have been educated in the US, UK, or Australia.
— Diplomats are lodged at franchise hotel in Shanghai and Guangzhou with room sizes similar to a that of a regular Marriott room with about 420 sqft of space.
— The hotel offers at least Chinese, Muslim, Western menus that are “quite cheap.” There are additional choices from the VIP menu with a higher price but still within the authorized per diem.
— Last year, people could order online but this privilege was rescinded for fresh food because it was apparently sprayed with disinfectant upon arrival, so people could only order closed/canned foods. There is second hand account attributed to folks who recently concluded their quarantine that people were able to order salads, cheese, etc. again this year.
— Diplomats are allowed to do part of their quarantine at home, unlike other people (for example, business people). We were informed that EAP/Mission negotiated this. Also in late December, China started requiring a second test (blood) from an approved lab in a city with direct flights to China. Despite these precautions, there are reportedly continuing imported cases from Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Beijing and now Shanghai reportedly require a third week of quarantine with relaxed protocol like a hotel where the families can be together. For our diplomats, the negotiated agreement is that this third week can be done at home.
— The correspondent pointed out that the assignment in China requires an investment of at least a year of language but signing up for the Foreign Service requires acceptance of assignments that include hardships.
— We understand that people can curtail their assignments as some employees did last summer; they never went back after the evacuation.
We asked about the rationale for the cut-off age; 12 year olds are allowed to stay with parents but 14 year olds must quarantine separately?
Our correspondent said that previously, this was kids who are 15 and above. Now the requirement to quarantine separately is 14 years and above. Our correspondent did not have a clear answer but points at the likelihood that local authorities have probably determined that this is the age when kids are infected or transmitting like adults.
Medevac Flights
Our correspondent confirmed that the Department used charter flights to transport people back to Mission China last year. There were standby flights to return anyone who tested positive back to the U.S. “Happened once.” We learned that the Department stopped the charters in September/October when majority of the staff had returned or arrived PCS. Incoming staff to China used commercial flights thereafter.
Communication
Our correspondent said EAP and Mission China were  “almost too communicative”.  Our correspondent pointed out that in June-August, China folks received three emails per week to update them “of the progress.”  They apparently also had a FAQs with over 30 pages. A separate source notes that while the transfer season is always busy,  there is a special China packet, as well as town halls that people should read/tune in.
Isolation
Our correspondent said that “most kids 14-18 were actually happy” to be able to be on their cellphone and other social media without their parents on their back. “With Skype or WeChat you can have video calls if you wish, you are not isolated.”
Life During a Pandemic
Our correspondent explained that Beijing was never in lockdown, the embassy never closed its doors, that people continued to go to work, restaurants remained open, etc.  He/She asks, “Is 14 days a hard price to pay for a regular life?”  He/She writes, “It is much better than over a year of lockdowns, curfews, and other restrictions and worrying to catch the virus.”
At the end of the day, the sentiment expressed by our correspondent is — we are all extremely happy that China has strict rules because it meant a regular life (with a mask) for all Posts (except Wuhan).
One anecdotal evidence from a recently returned employee from China expressed a similar sentiment, that the quarantine process “sucked” but when it was done, they were able to move around and live a “more normal” daily life – although with masks.
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FS family members 14 and up are forcibly quarantined separately from their families in China?

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Below from Sender A:
State is forcing teenage EFMs 14 and up to forcibly quarantine separately from their families in China. Imagine PCS’ing to a new post and being told the 14 year old child had to quarantine for two weeks alone in a hotel room separated from their parents. How did L sign off on this? This is a legal nightmare waiting to unfold. What 14 year old should be locked alone in a room for two weeks and have all their food brought to them…. no food delivery allowed. What if the child struggles from 14 days of isolation?

We’ve learned previously from a separate source that the Department is requiring employees to fulfill local quarantine rules on arrival in a country, as they apply to diplomats. That’s expected. It would not want the perception of skirting local rules amidst a global pandemic. Back in March, when Mainland China news alleged that the US staffers claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid quarantine in Hong Kong, the State Department pushed back and called it “absolutely false.”
A former ambassador pointed out that Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that “Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State.” The former official noted that under the normal course of events, an undertaking to quarantine within the embassy premises would normally be agreeable to the local authorities.
We understand that some countries have even waived them for diplomats or allowed diplomats to do it at their embassy quarters. We’re talking about quarantine at entry as opposed to an isolation required due to illness.  But not China. One source called its entry requirements, the “most onerous.” The quarantine is reportedly for all “regardless of test status.”  We were informed that this involves “something like 14 days in a hotel in the arrival city and then a stay at home for another 7 days in your destination city, with multiple tests along the way.”
The EAP bureau and Mission China were supposedly communicating to FS people relocating to China what the requirements are and what they should expect. The rules are “rigid and exacting” we were told.  We understand that a particularly egregious requirement is that couples have to quarantine separately. We were, however, told that the United States had supposedly “received earlier assurances” from the Chinese that in situation where kids are involved, at least one parent would be able to stay with the children.
So, if teens are now being quarantined alone, and separate from the parent/parents — what happened?
  • 1) Is this a case of arbitrary enforcement of local laws?
  • 2) If they’re separating 14 year olds from their parents for the quarantine, why is 14 the magic number?
  • 3) So the host country just now decided not to follow through with its prior assurances, why?
  • 4) Was this so unexpected EAP and Mission China did not get a chance to forewarn incoming FS families?
  • 5) Did State/L sign off on this? If yes, why?If not, what is it going to do about it – just let families bear it?
  • 6) USG and China must have exchanged Diplomatic Notes, what’s in it?
Excerpt from US Mission China’s COVID-19 Information updated on April 20, 2021:

All travelers, including U.S. citizens who enter China, are screened upon arrival and subject to a minimum 14-day quarantine. While restrictions around domestic travel within China have eased, local quarantine requirements can vary significantly between cities, and regulations can change very quickly. All international arrivals should be prepared to complete quarantine at a government-selected facility or hotel at their own expense, with no control over the amenities, even if they maintain a residence in China. Cities and provinces within China may also require quarantine for domestic travelers, regardless of nationality.

The US Consulate General in Hong Kong has an update dated May 10:

Starting May 12, 2012, fully vaccinated individuals will be able to reduce their quarantine by 7 days. Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States will complete 14 days in a designated quarantine hotel and then self-monitor the remaining 7 days. For full information about reduced quarantine, please see the Hong Kong government’s press release.

When we previously blogged about quarantine, the former ambassador also pointed out that our relations with the Chinese “have involved scapegoating them for their failure instantly to recognize and act to control the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, coupled with all sorts of conspiracy theories and uncouth accusations by our former secretary of state and others.  So, it would not be surprising that they would not cut us much slack.”
What else is going on between US and China the last couple of months?
On April 8, 2021, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to the Entity List for conducting activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.
On May 10, the SFRC approved S. 1169 Strategic Competition Act of 2021 signaling bipartisan support in “laying out a strategic approach towards Beijing – and assuring that the United States is positioned to compete with China across all dimensions of national and international power for decades to come”.

 

Related posts:

 

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Snapshot: Hardship Differential Category Weightings

The fundraising campaign is closer to its goal today than yesterday, but it’s not quite there yet. We are grateful to the more than 450 donors who have supported our annual fundraising to-date. We will not run an indefinite campaign, just a few weeks out of the year.  Help us meet our goal so we can get back to our regular blogging programming without plugging our fundraising. If you are able to help, please pitch in at GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27. Thanks – DS

 

Via Office of Allowances:

11 Categories Include (but are not limited to) Questions About:
Climate (9%):Heat; Cold; Humidity; Rainfall; Mold/Mildew; Dust; Altitude; Latitude
Medical and Hospital (13%): Availability and quality of medical facilities; Incidents of communicable diseases
Environmental Conditions and Sanitation (12%): Pollution (including air quality); Water and food sanitation; Garbage and sewage disposal; Pest control
Education (4%):Adequacy of Schools; Availability of Facilities for Special Needs Education
Community Resources (6%): Food availability and safety; Recreation and entertainment facilities; Religious facilities; Veterinary care
Import Restrictions (2%):Restrictions on imports (e.g., POVs and pets); Excessive wait times for receipt of POV and HHE shipments
Housing and Infrastructure (8%): Post housing conditions; Public transportation; Traffic and road conditions
Crime (9%):Post reporting on crime
Political Violence, Terrorism and Harassment (17%): Animosity toward Americans; Travel restrictions; Post reporting on terrorism and political violence
Social Isolation (13%): Spousal Employment; Internet service; Ability to bring samesex partners/spouses to post; Bias based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion; Customs negatively impacting single employees; Language restrictions; Social isolation resulting from security conditions; Unaccompanied status
Physical Isolation (8%): Geographic isolation of post; Need for a periodic change of environment; Time required for emergency transport to the U.S.; Reliability/timeliness of mail

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@StateDept Adds 71 Historical Names to Memorial Plaque on #ForeignAffairsDay #ExceptSuicide

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On Foreign Affairs Day, the State Department added 71 names to the Memorial Plaque located in the lobby of the State Department. AFSA maintains the plaque. According to AFSA, the plaque’s establishment grew out of AFSA’s efforts in the late 1920s and early 1930s to establish a “Roll of Honor” naming colleagues who had died in the line of duty while serving overseas, including due to violence, natural disasters, tropical diseases, and accidents during official travel. Please click here to view the criteria for inclusion in the plaque. If you wish to submit a name for consideration, please fill out this form. Read more here.
According to WaPo, the honorees fall into two general categories: 58 died overseas before 1933 and had been forgotten, and 13 died overseas between 1938 and 1971 and had been previously overlooked or excluded.
Current AFSA President Ambassador Eric Rubin said that “In honoring them we honor all of the men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service who serve their country in, at times, very difficult circumstances and conditions and give of themselves in the true tradition of public service.”
The WaPo piece also said that “Those who died overseas by suicide, natural causes or while doing something illegal are still not eligible …. and anyone in the Foreign Service who died overseas of the coronavirus would not be eligible since it is a worldwide pandemic.”
We’re wondering how many more names would be added if we count suicide for the Memorial Plaque?
If Foreign Service employees are considered on duty 24/7, shouldn’t deaths that occurred while on official order count on the memorial plaque? The criteria for consideration includes a note that also says “Deaths involving the decedent’s illegal, negligent, reckless, or selfish behavior are not eligible for inclusion.”
Besides the fact that suicide could be “due to disease related to particular circumstances of overseas assignment“, isn’t it time to recognize that suicide is not/not a selfish choice? This view contributes to the misunderstanding of mental illness.” In ‘Don’t Say It’s Selfish: Suicide Is Not a Choice’, a clinical psychologist writes that “suicide is not a personal weakness or someone’s “fault,” …. suicide is often a product of mental health and environmental variables that we don’t fully comprehend.”  It is time to rethink this.

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Post in Search of a Mission: “Now, I found, that the world is round and of course, it rains everyday ….”

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1) If there are fewer than two dozen staff members. 
2) If they live in austere conditions even without COVID, but particularly during COVID they are limited to their homes and the embassy. Nothing else. 
3) If there are no flights servicing pouch needs coming to post. This means the staff cannot procure needed items with regularity, including food and medicine. 
4) If there are no relationships with the host government. This means the embassy remains open simply to support itself. 
5) If staff is top heavy with multiple FS-01 positions and few FS-02 and below officers. 
6) If staff lives together due to health concerns. 
7)  If there are no option to telework even amidst COVID. Security requirements preclude remote access. 
8) If a staff member gets COVID, they will likely put the entire embassy at risk. Flight clearance to get an OPMED evacuation flight is difficult to obtain from host nation and would likely necessitate evacuating all who had been exposed (thus shuttering the embassy) because of the OPMED cost, and the delayed timeline of clearance to land and cost of repeated flights. 
9) If local staff continue to be paid even though most never come to work, and have been forced to stay home since COVID. 
10) If COVID vaccination efforts will be hamstrung by the aforementioned issues with host nation further putting staff at risk. 

 

Now, I found that the world is round
And of course it rains everyday

Living tomorrow, where in the world will I be tomorrow?
How far am I able to see?
Or am I needed here?

Now, I found that the world is round
And of course it rains everyday

If I remember all of the things I have done
I’d remember all of the times I’ve gone wrong
Why do they keep me here?

Courtesy: Bee Gees – World (From the 1968 Album, Horizontal)


 

 

Presentations of Credentials: U.S. Ambassadors to Timor-Leste, Venezuela

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US Consulate General Hong Kong Staffers and Kids in HK Quarantine Center

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Two employees at the USCG Hong Kong reportedly tested positive of COVID-19. According to local news the Hong Kong  Special Administrative Region Government has allowed the children of these staffers to join them in a quarantine center.  A separate report says that a three-year old daughter of consulate employees has also tested positive and the school had now been closed.  Mainland China news alleged that the US staffers claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid quarantine. The State Department called it “absolutely false.” The HK SAR says that the “US Consulate General in Hong Kong has been fully co-operative with the Government on all the above action items to combat COVID-19.”
Via SCMP Hong Kong:
Hong Kong leader Chief Executive  Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor confirmed that two infected US consulate employees, a married couple, had already been sent to the hospital on Monday night, while special permission had been granted to allow their children to join them instead of being sent into quarantine as per long-enforced rules. But she emphasised the exceptional treatment for the pair was made on compassionate grounds and based on their family circumstances, rather than their status as consulate workers.
” …. Lam said the government allowed for children to be admitted to hospital along with their parents and that the special dispensation had been granted to the consulate workers, who also had a daughter who tested preliminary-positive.
“We are a compassionate government … Instead of sending the very young kids on their own to the quarantine centre or asking other relatives and friends to go into a quarantine centre with these kids, we will exceptionally allow the admission of their children into the hospital as well,” she said. “We are applying the exceptional treatment, not exceptional because they are US consulate staff, but exceptional because of their family circumstances.”

[…]
Arrangements for families hit by Covid-19 were thrust into the spotlight this past week when a flare-up of cases enveloping part of the expatriate community on Hong Kong Island, affecting international school teachers, bankers and lawyers, forced many children into quarantine. They are among about 120 children and teens currently isolated at the government facilities.”

On March 15, the US Consulate General Hong Kong posted a statement on its website about being informed that two Consulate General employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The consulate will remain closed until March 22. It also released a Health Alert for American citizens:

On March 15, 2021 the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau was informed that two Consulate General employees tested positive for COVID-19. We have closed the Consulate General to perform a deep disinfection and cleaning while contact tracing is conducted. The Consulate employees that tested positive for COVID-19 do not work in offices that interact with the public. We are aware that many U.S. citizens in Hong Kong are concerned about local government testing, quarantine, and hospitalization procedures, particularly in regard to the possible separation of children from their parents. The U.S. Consulate General is actively addressing these concerns at the highest levels of the Hong Kong government to advocate for the U.S. citizen community. We urge U.S. citizens in Hong Kong to comply with all instructions from the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection.

At the March 15 DPB, the StateDepartment’s Deputy spokesperson was asked about this and she responded:

“Yes, so we’ve been informed that two consulate general employees have tested positive for COVID-19, but due to privacy concerns, we’re not able to share additional information. When it comes to disinformation about these two not complying to quarantine, that is absolutely false.”

The Hong Kong SAR Government also released a statement:

“… The cases have been admitted to the hospital for isolation, and all staff members and visitors who have been present at the relevant premises are required to undergo testing according to the relevant legislation. The two preliminary positive cases belong to the same family. Having learnt that the two patient are staff members of the US Consulate General in Hong Kong, the Government has immediately liaised with the Consulate General; the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has also contacted the relevant persons, and arranged them to be admitted to the hospital for isolation and medical treatment according to the mechanism.
[…]
The US Consulate General in Hong Kong has been fully co-operative with the Government on all the above action items to combat COVID-19.”

HK SAR also issued “a compulsory testing notice pursuant to the Prevention and Control of Disease (Compulsory Testing for Certain Persons) Regulation (Cap. 599J), which requires any person who had been present at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong between March 2 and 15, 2021 to undergo a COVID-19 nucleic acid test.”
In related news, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said that the international business community has undergone an unsettling weekend with children from several schools under threat of being sent to mandatory government quarantine facilities after mandatory testing due to COVID outbreaks. The Chamber conducted a quick poll to gauge its members’ views. A majority of those surveyed said they were worried or somewhat worried about entire school classes being sent to government quarantine facilities, and that the policy is unjustified when it comes to the health of children. Over half of those surveyed said that if this policy became routine it would factor into their decision about staying in Hong Kong.  AmCham suggested “more clarity and transparency of information around quarantine arrangements for minors be given to schools and parents while the government does its best to control the pandemic” See more here.
Meanwhile, on March 16, the State Department named 24 PRC and Hong Kong officials who have materially contributed to the PRC’s failure to meet its obligations under the Sino – British Joint Declaration (see Update to Report on Identification of Foreign Persons Involved in the Erosion of the Obligations of China Under the Joint Declaration or the Basic Law). This was an update to the October 14 report, consistent with section 5(e) of the HKAA and includes financial sanctions and visa restrictions.
On March 17, the State Department also released a statement on the Hong Kong Autonomy Act Update):

“Today’s update identifies 24 PRC and Hong Kong officials whose actions have reduced Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, including 14 vice chairs of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and officials in the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Division, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Office for Safeguarding National Security.  Foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed in today’s report are now subject to sanctions.”

We’ve reached out to the State Department on the quarantine of USG employees. We’re hoping to have a follow-report.

 

AAFSW Announces Winners For the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA)

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The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) recently announced the awardees for the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA). The official awarding ceremony typically occurs sometime in fall. We will keep an eye out for that later this year. The 2020 SOSA Winners and Honorable Mention Awardees are as follows:

AFRICAN AFFAIRS: Michelle Collett (Libreville, Gabon): 

Michelle advanced the goals of environmental protection and awareness both inside and outside the Mission. To protect sea turtles and their habitats, she organized a group of volunteers to regularly patrol the local beach every day during the nesting season of September to March. Michelle arranged training from the Wildlife Conservation Society for her volunteers and set up communication between guards and residents of local homes and businesses to inform them of the volunteer conservation efforts and to gather their firsthand information of beach wildlife nighttime activities. She also acted as a liaison with the federal government environmental agency, a trash company, a recycling company, and schools to organize beach trash cleanups. In addition, Michelle coordinated a speaker program at a local military English school, providing native English speakers to make presentations and grade the students’ final presentations. During her three years in Gabon, through church, school, and community events, Michelle volunteered as a soccer coach, music instructor, choir director, and drama teacher. Additionally, Michelle won the J. Kirby Simon grant to install a well, build bathrooms, and construct water storage for an orphanage and children’s shelter whose residents were using the same stream for bathing, drinking, and waste disposal. Finally, Michelle played a pivotal role in helping family members in the Mission community stay informed about local, national and State Department updates during the early days of COVID-19.

EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: Jane Thompson (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Drawing on her experience in early childhood education, Jane created and presented numerous programs at the international school and local Malaysian schools aimed at children with special needs. Topics included sleep, brain development, parenting skills and setting positive boundaries. She helped organize an Embassy program on autism and rare medical conditions to raise awareness and highlight the work of Malaysian NGOs. Jane wrote and implemented grant proposals through the Simon Kirby Trust to provide resources for refugees. With a team of fellow volunteers, Jane created play-based learning kits and first aid kits to distribute to refugee mothers and provided first aid training to young refugee families. She further volunteers with UNHCR to improve training programs for refugee women on education, hygiene and domestic violence. During the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Jane coordinated numerous activities to maintain community morale, including online yoga classes, virtual Embassy trivia nights, and virtual story time for children. She also set up a virtual children’s town hall to answer young children’s questions about the lockdown.

EUROPE AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS: Mikell Reed Carroll (Zagreb, Croatia)

Mikell volunteered with the agency Refugee Aid Serbia, through one of its facilities, The Workshop, a place that provides hope to refugees through education and recreation.  Volunteers there teach English, Serbian, German, French and math. They also offer special outings and workshops on music, art, science and other subjects, open to all ages. Mikell led donation drives in 2017 and 2019; for items desperately needed by refugees at the camps and for educational materials for The Workshop. She collected and personally delivered more than $10,000 USD in donations of clothing, educational materials, toys, books and winter items.  A number of the winter items were hand knit by a group of senior citizens in Mikell’s hometown, at a senior center where she has volunteered for nearly a decade. She told them about the project and asked them to knit children’s winter hats, mittens, scarves and blankets, and they produced hundreds of handmade items that helped to keep refugee children in the Western Balkans warm.

NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: Kimberly Arsenault (Amman, Jordan)

Kimberly volunteered for 20 hours each week with the Hope Workshop, a Collateral Repair Project, which is a craft collective providing refugee women (Iraqis, Syrian, Yemeni and in-need Jordanian women) the space to collaborate, create and socialize while earning additional income for their households. In 2019, she raised approximately $20,000 for Hope, helping with sales and inventory control at local craft bazaars. Kimberly is also highly active within the Embassy community. She organized a soccer program for 50 embassy children ages 5-14, and arranged games with a local soccer league, as well as an adult tournament that brought together 70 Embassy players. Kimberly assists her post’s Community Liaison Office with initiatives such as art events and game nights. Kimberly also founded a parents’ chat group to keep Embassy parents informed and providing a place to ask questions.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIAN AFFAIRS: Brendan Melchiorri (Islamabad, Pakistan)

As a volunteer, Brendan took responsibility for a four-month-long initiative to raise morale and increase team spirit at post. He created the Consular Cup, a series of innovative competitions inspired by the Hogwarts Houses in the Harry Potter book series. With participants sorted into one of four teams based on a personality quiz designed by Brendan, over 120 Foreign Service personnel and local staff from nearly all sections of the Embassy joined together to win points in dozens of events, including volleyball matches, trivia nights, dodgeball tournaments, art contests, crossword puzzles, and kickball games. Participants also earned points for hosting their own competitions, inspiring members of the community to showcase their own unique talents. The Consular Cup significantly improved overall morale at a critical-threat post with over 1000 employees and generated camaraderie between the many different offices of the Embassy. Participants are now continuing the initiative by leading their own events, amplifying Brendan’s morale building efforts and underscoring the sustainable nature of the project.

Megan Johnson (Islamabad, Pakistan)

During her two years at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Megan worked tirelessly to create and expand opportunities for Embassy employees to stay fit and healthy. An avid triathlete, Megan was the co-race director of two triathlons, including a 5K, 10K and children’s race. These events drew hundreds of diplomatic participants, volunteers, and spectators, boosting the spirit of collaboration among diplomatic missions. Megan also encouraged Pakistani participation, including young girls who have fewer opportunities to swim, bike and run than boys the same age. She coordinated with Embassy security and like-minded missions to create more options for cyclists to bike beyond the small Diplomatic Enclave while carefully managing the need for safety and security. This led to a regular cycling group of 15+ cyclists for weekly rides. She established relationships with local bike shops to provide resources for bike repair and purchasing. Megan also co-chaired the Federal Women’s Program, organizing regular professional development sessions and events that included members from other diplomatic missions to foster women’s empowerment at post and within the diplomatic community.

WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS: Moises Mendoza (Matamoros, Mexico)

Moises carried out an intensive research project to illuminate the nearly 200-year history of U.S. Consulate Matamoros. Partnering with a local university, he identified and organized primary- source resources to allow other researchers to launch their own investigations into the Consulate’s role in the region. To assist and protect his fellow Consulate community members, he designed a smartphone add-on that overlaid color-coded green and red zones over Google Maps to instantly alert personnel and family members when they strayed out of the designated “green zone” and provide directions on how to return.  This tool was adopted widely in the Consulate community. Moises also noticed a void in medical care at the Consulate, due to local limitations and the lack of a post medical office. In response, he took evening classes to become an emergency medical technician and CPR instructor.


The AAFSW selection committees also decided to add an Honorable Mention category to further recognize nominees. The 2020 Honorable Mention Awardees include:

AF Melody McCambridge (Gaborone, Botswana)

Melody worked with the Government of Botswana, the private sector and the local community to build a community library, which serves as a gathering place for the community and a learning center for children. Melody took responsibility for fundraising and managing the funds to strategically purchase relevant resources for the library. As a volunteer, she taught others to use available resources to deliver the government-managed curriculum in an engaging and effective manner. Melody used texts from the new library to establish an English-language learning program with exercises in letter knowledge, phonemic awareness and fluency. In addition, she helped bridge socioeconomic divides by organizing weekly events in which private school students read together at the library with the underserved students of Bosele.

EAP Quinzy Johnson (Seoul, Korea)

Upon his arrival in Seoul, Quinzy immediately undertook efforts to find a way to help the city’s most vulnerable people. He regularly volunteered to distribute food to over 2100 homeless people at a shelter, as part of a monthly program organized by the Embassy. Forming a corps of more than 10 volunteers to provide continued support, he trained new recruits and expanded and improved the services at the shelter. As a board member for the Embassy Employees’ Association, he led several initiatives, such as partnering with vendors near the former US Army base on joint ventures that would bring income to them while benefiting the Embassy community. For the Embassy Fleischmeister Association, which hosts biannual events open to the local community, he raised funds, managed events, cooked and served food, and planned the ceremony. He helped raise more than $2000, which was donated to the Korean Breast Cancer Foundation.

 EUR Angela Spellman (Yerevan, Armenia)

Angela’s commitment to the Mission community spans the range from the Community Liaison Office (CLO) and the Marine Security Guard detachment, to the adults in the Mission, as well as all of the Eligible Family Member kids. If the CLO has an event or needs an extra person, dish of food, or a sponsor, Angela is the one person who always steps in before she is even asked. Every week, Angela volunteers at the Sister of Charity orphanage to assist with over 15 children with severe physical and mental disabilities. On other days, Angela can be found at the QSI International School, volunteering, chaperoning school trips, or substituting for a teacher. She has never missed a Parent Support Group meeting, to inform QSI of the post community’s needs and help ensure that they are met.

WHA Georgina Allen (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)

Georgina was an early member of the Santo Domingo Volunteer Club, which focuses on literacy, education, and crafts projects with children in the local community. She expanded the volunteer recruitment program, created a club website which allowed people to sign up online, and launched other creative initiatives for people to learn more about the new club and ways to help. She drafted a proposal for the J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust, securing a grant of $1,500. This money was used for art supplies, learning resources, and even expansion of the club’s space, providing more room in which to play and learn while also enhancing physical security. She raised a further $400 while helping to publicize the club’s activities and recruit new volunteers. She also volunteered with an organization focused on empowering some of the poorest Haitians, using her expertise in business operations to analyze various business models, including required startup funds needed from donors, levels of complexity, sustainability, and various risk factors. She wrote detailed proposals for the founder, which shaped the direction of this innovative and important organization serving Haitian women.

The original announcement is available here via AAFSW.