AAFSW Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad

Posted: 1:25 am ET
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The annual Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide AAFSW/Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) recognizes the outstanding volunteer activities of U.S. Government employees, spouses, family members over the age of 18, EFM domestic partners, and members of household who are living and working overseas.  The winners of the Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) are selected by a panel of representatives from AAFSW, FLO and the Executive Director or representative from each State Department geographic bureau.

The awards will be given on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. at the Department of State. Deputy Secretary John J. Sullivan will deliver the remarks. The awardees are as follows:

AF – Grace Anne Turner, Dakar, Senegal

Upon arriving in Dakar and viewing the severe poverty and inadequate medical care around her, Grace Anne Turner looked for opportunities to work as a clinician. She joined the staff of the House of Hope, a large primary care clinic that sees 35,000 patients per year. Impressed by her dedication and commitment to quality of care, the clinic asked her to oversee a staff of physicians, nurses, and auxiliary staff that provided care to 50 children a day.

Grace Anne focused on two areas for immediate improvement: patient intake and treatment of dehydration. Dr. Grace formed a cadre of expat volunteers and designed a screening and training program for them to administer; with the help of these volunteers, the previous slow patient processing sped up dramatically. Regarding dehydration, a common and serious ailment among Senegalese children, Grace Anne devised an ingenious way to train mothers to rehydrate their ill children at home.

She also trained House of Hope staff to use a version of the World Health Organization triage system, designed to prioritize those at greatest risk of death or disease transmission. In its first operating 18 days, the new system identified 45 critically ill patients (26 of them children). The new procedures were instrumental in identifying and stopping a potentially dangerous outbreak of measles throughout urban Dakar. Noticing several patients who met the definition of suspected measles, Grace Anne immediately contacted the health ministry. An intervention team (including Grace Anne) found a large number of cases in a marginalized (and unvaccinated) community. That same team conducted an intensive education and vaccination campaign that stopped the outbreak in its tracks.

”Dr. Grace” raised the profile of the clinic in the local community and internationally, drawing in thousands of dollars in donations, medicines, and materials. During her time at House of Hope, Dr. Grace improved its training programs, its material and human resources, its treatment algorithms, and its strategic planning for the future.

EAP – Craig Houston, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Working entirely without compensation, staff, or a budget, Craig Houston created a multi-faceted website (http://www.chiangmaiair.org/) to promote air quality awareness during northern Thailand’s annual agricultural burning seasons, provide sustainable solutions to the problem, and support information sharing. He partnered with local government air quality experts, NGOs, schools and film directors to tackle this issue.

To increase awareness and reporting of seasonal high pollution levels, Craig met with local schools and small businesses to provide training on the use of air quality monitors, and by the end of 2017, he will have assisted eight schools and local businesses to obtain and install air quality monitors.

In addition to his work on air quality awareness, Craig is the Chair of the Consulate’s Green Team. Under Craig’s leadership, the consulate has screened films raising awareness of air quality issues, partnered with local U.S. government grant recipient NGOs who work closely on the issue, and participated in numerous community service endeavors including tree planting and city cleanup projects.

Craig’s selfless dedication to this vitally important issue has helped improved the health and lives of northern Thailand’s residents and visitors.

EUR – Alesia Krupenikava, Kyiv, Ukraine

As the first ever Regional Ambassador of the Technovation Challenge in Ukraine, Alesia was able to recruit more than 150 girls from all over Ukraine to participate in the program, find 50 mentors to coach them, raise over $20,000 to send a team to the finals in San Francisco, sign up partners like Microsoft and the Ministry of Education, and recruit a team to take over and grow the program when she departs post.

This was the first time Technovation, the world’s largest tech and entrepreneurship contest for girls ages 10-18, had been conducted in Ukraine. When the original Regional Ambassador stepped down, Alesia was asked to take her place. Alesia was a tireless recruiter and promoter for Technovation, holding numerous meetings and information sessions and spent countless hours answering calls and emails to explain the program. The most meaningful thing for Alesia was that teams were signing up from all over Ukraine and from all backgrounds, including a team made up of girls with HIV, and others from orphanages and centers for families in crisis. Supporting the teams became an almost full time job by itself, and Alesia was a constant motivator and cheerleader for the girls.

The culmination of the program is a live event where the teams present their projects in demo sessions and give a “pitch” to a panel of judges and the audience. Alesia recruited the top technical university in Ukraine to host the event and another university for housing. She formed partnerships with organizations such as Microsoft to support the program, and was able to raise over $20,000 to pay for travel to Kyiv, prizes for the teams, and for one team to attend the World Pitch Event in San Francisco.

SCA – Lisa A. Hess, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Lisa Hess created and leads the U.S. Embassy Colombo community outreach team that provides great benefits to Sri Lanka while also providing the U.S. mission community an opportunity for service.

Many of Lisa’s actions engaged U.S. Navy sailors visiting Sri Lanka. In 2016, the Captain of the USS Blue Ridge, command ship of the 7th Fleet, requested two days of community relations activities involving 30 U.S. and 10 Sri Lankan sailors. Lisa volunteered for this task and identified a community center in a poor area that provides education, food, medical treatment, and much more. Lisa raised the funds to pay for paint and materials needed for the sailors to conduct a renovation project at the center and make a contribution towards new playground equipment. The American and Sri Lankan sailors, community center patrons, and Embassy staff worked together to paint desks, tables, benches, classrooms, and playground equipment.

Lisa also organized outreach for U.S. and Sri Lankan sailors from the USS Hopper and USS Comstock to, including an activity at dental clinics in which children practiced their tooth-brushing skills on a sailor wearing a giant alligator costume, as well as cleaning debris from children’s playing fields. Other community outreach included repairing a local no-kill animal shelter, and cleaning and painting rooms at a local school for the deaf and blind.

Within the Mission, Lisa coordinated bake sales; helped prepare food for and serve our entire embassy community at our Black History Month breakfast; helped manage the U.S. booth at the overseas School of Colombo fun fair; and led a book drive for the school library. Funds raised in the bake sales and fun fair were used to establish a library for an under-privileged local school.

WHA – Maritza V. Wilson

As a Nicaraguan who practiced medicine in her native country before becoming a U.S. citizen, Maritza Wilson has been uniquely equipped to make a significant contribution as a volunteer in Nicaragua.

Maritza focused her efforts through a non-profit organization called Amos Foundation (Fundación Amos), a group that serves a local community (barrio) in Managua via a walk-in clinic, home visits, and health education. Maritza became one of the regular volunteer doctors at the clinic, participating in home visits and home surveys to better understand the needs of the barrio and train members of the community in basic home health care–ensuring the sustainability of her efforts. Maritza’s work with Amos Foundation also extended to Nicaragua’s rural areas, including a remote village on the opposite side of the country in the impoverished Caribbean Coast. Serving that community for one full week, she instructed villagers in basic community health concepts, such as how to use (and clean) filters to avoid water-borne illness.

Maritza’s work also involved the hosting of training teams, known locally as brigades, from the U.S. Maritza’s knowledge of both cultures and languages has enabled her to integrate many of these teams seamlessly into the local context, maximizing their effectiveness. Maritza has organized and led training sessions for more than 1,000 high school students at four schools, offering instruction that covered reproductive health and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. She has also worked alongside U.S. neurosurgeons visiting Nicaragua each year to provide training and assistance in neurology treatment at the main public hospital in Managua.

Maritza has also worked to develop economic opportunities for families in her home village of San Juan de Oriente, a community famous for a unique type of pottery. Maritza started a non-profit venture to expand marketing opportunities for local artisans’ pieces and to create new ceramics products. Maritza plans to leave the business in the hands of the families she is serving—ensuring her volunteer efforts will have an enduring impact on this community.

For more information about the award, please visit: http://www.aafsw.org/services/sosa

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AAFSW launches online resource, FSHub.org for the Foreign Service community

Posted: 4:21 pm ET
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The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), the oldest non­governmental organization supporting the American diplomatic community and administrator of the popular Livelines hosted in Yahoo! Groups since 1998 has just launched its “crowd-sourced” online resource for the Foreign Service community. They rely on the FS community members to suggest relevant links and for volunteers to help keep the links current. Check it out at FSHub.org and help make it grow!

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Below is the announcement shared by the FSHub team:

AAFSW is proud to announce the launch of the Foreign Service Hub, FSHub.org, a user-friendly online source for all Foreign Service community resources.

In the past, AAFSW’s Board and other volunteers have often been frustrated by the lack of awareness in the Foreign Service community about the support resources available to help them, ranging from AAFSW itself, to FLO’s website, to specialized social media groups.

To attack this problem, Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel, Patricia Linderman and Lara Center proposed and obtained a Una Chapman Cox Foundation grant, and organized a survey and focus groups, together with Barbara Reioux and many other volunteers. Based on this input, they hired webmaster Nicole Spiridakis, designer Lauren Ketchum and marketing expert Trena Bolden Fields and developed a beautiful, streamlined site that is now ready for use.

FSHub.org is a free, open Internet site aimed at presenting all relevant Foreign Service resources. Of course, it will continue to expand and improve based on user input.

All readers are encouraged to:

–- Visit FSHub.org and use it often!

-– Tell others in the Foreign Service community about it, especially newcomers.

-– Suggest any new links, improvements and events to fshub@aafsw.org. (We know there is still a lot missing, especially with regard to other foreign affairs agencies — your input is needed!)

-– Consider joining our volunteer team to identify and maintain links in an area of interest to you (for instance, for singles, retirees, male EFMs, USAID, parents in DC, etc.). Contact us at fshub@aafsw.org

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AAFSW Book: Raising Kids in the Foreign Service (Edited by Leah Moorefield Evans)

Posted: 12:10 am EDT
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This is AAFSW’s latest book for families. Titled “Raising Kids in the Foreign Service,” it has 31 essays and a resource list written by family members and officers. It has chapters on education, transition, tandem parenting, mindfulness, clutter, and a wide variety of topics important to parents living abroad. We understand that Patricia Linderman shepherded the book with Leah Evans from idea to publication.  You may read an excerpt below courtesy of Amazon Kindle:

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You might want to check the other AAFSW books: The Foreign Service Companion: Moving Your Household Without Losing Your Mind by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide and Kelly Bembry Midura and Realities of Foreign Service Life, Volume 2 by Patricia Linderman and Melissa Brayer Hess.

The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) was established in 1960 and was responsible for the creation of the Family Liaison OfficeOverseas Briefing Center, and the Foreign Service Youth Foundation.

By the way, Nicholas Kralev’s America’s Other Army: The U.S. Foreign Service and 21st-Century Diplomacy has also been updated and released on second edition, so check that out, too. 

 

 

 

New AAFSW Award for Career Enhancement Champions for @StateDept Eligible Family Members

— Domani Spero
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The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, a non-profit organization that has represented Foreign Service spouses, employees and retirees has a new award for those who promote the cause of career development for Foreign Service family members.

Via AAFSW:

AAFSW is now accepting nominations for the “Champions of Career Enhancement for Eligible Family Members” (CCE-EFM) Award. This award will be conferred alongside the annual Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) and DACOR’s Eleanor Dodson Tragen Award at the AAFSW Awards Ceremony on November 12, 2014.

The CCE-EFM Award has been developed by AAFSW’s EFM Employment Committee to recognize and incentivize those who go above and beyond their job descriptions and routine daily activities to promote the cause of career development for Foreign Service family members serving under Chief of Mission authority abroad or during Washington-based or other domestic field office assignments of their sponsor.

Recognizing that many posts and bureaus/offices have adopted best practices and spurred innovation in addressing the demand for meaningful employment and engagement of family members in fulfilling mission objectives, both by matching them to jobs and by encouraging their good works in host countries in both paid and volunteer/pro-bono activities, AAFSW seeks to encourage and reward those who have exceeded expectations.

As many so often take on this challenge without additional resources nor direct recognition through their performance rating criteria, the CCE-EFM award seeks to draw attention to and thank those who overcome inertia, bureaucracy, and gridlock to advance the careers of professionally-oriented EFMs who have subordinated their own careers in service to the higher calling of the Foreign Service Family.

The award recipient(s) will be chosen for his/her/their individual or collective efforts to adopt best practices and innovations that demonstrate a commitment to expanding and elevating both individual job opportunities and long-term career enhancement for Foreign Service family members.

The deadline for nominations is August 15, 2014. For a detailed description of the award eligibility and criteria, please email office@aafsw.org.

We encourage you to take the time to nominate career champions for our EFMs.

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AAFSW: A Guide to Connecting Communities at Overseas Posts via Facebook and WordPress

— Domani Spero

There was a time when embassy newsletters were distributed only in printed format. Do you remember that?  Later they were distributed as Word documents, then eventually as PDF files. We know that some posts put the newsletters up on the Intranet, not sure if all posts do this now. But even if they do put it up on the Intranet, only a third of all FS spouses are working (some outside the mission), which means more than two-thirds do not have regular access to the Intranet. We would not be surprise if at some posts, spouses still have to go into the Community Liaison Office (CLO) to use dedicated terminals to do stuff on the Intranet.

Hey! Look at the bright side, at least they’re not making spouses use the Wang for what they need to do online.

Typically the newsletters are produced by the CLO or by a contractor. We learned that at the Tri-Mission in Vienna, the official weekly PDF newsletter couldn’t serve as an easily accessible timely resource for answers to all the nitty-gritty questions that new arrivals to post always seem to have, such as finding a good dentist or figuring out the public transport system. Tri-Mission Vienna is not alone on this, of course. Most embassies have CLOs but they do not serve as call centers. At the time when smartphones  are ubiquitous, when there are 1,310,000,000 users on Facebook with 54,200,000 pages, access to timely information is still a challenge for some, particularly overseas.

Enter a couple of Foreign Service spouses who wanted a way to share information quickly and efficiently.  Kelly Bembry Midura and Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel put together a Facebook group, “Vienna Vagabonds” to provide support and advice to the Tri-Mission community.  Later they developed “TriVienna” (using free WordPress) as an unofficial resource for the American community in Austria. The site includes information for newcomers as well resources for navigating the city, schools, services and travels to neighboring areas. There are a few other posts with similar unofficial sites but they are still in the minority.

The two spouses have now put together a guide, through the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) on how to set up similar online communities at posts overseas.  The guide which is pretty straight-forward includes setting up FB pages at post, setting up a community website using WordPress, and privacy and security.  CLOs everywhere should applaud this effort. Community members working together could only enhance the cohesion of the mission and this should make information and resources easily available and shareable.

Before anyone complains about this to Diplomatic Security, please read the material, okay?

Kelly Bembry Midura is a writer and the Content Manager for AAFSW (http://www.aafsw.org). She has for many years advocated for making information more accessible to Foreign Service family members.  She blogs at http://wellthatwasdifferent.wordpress.com. Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel worked as a research social scientist before her husband convinced her to try life in the Foreign Service. She blogs at http://kidswithdiplomaticimmunity.wordpress.com.

As an aside on Intranet access for spouses — the Defense Department has long provided online access and information to spouses of service members. For instance, Military OneSource offers 24/7/365 access to information on housing, schools, confidential counseling and referral services at no cost to Service members or their families.  Its Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program also offers spouses assistance with career exploration, education and training, career readiness, and career connections.

At the State Department on the other hand, spouses and family members do not even have access to feedback about life at post from other employees, unless they have logins to the Intranet.  Out of  11,528 spouses and adult family members, over 8,700 are not working or are not working at the mission and do not have regular Intranet access.  We suspect that funding the Intranet access for FS spouses and family members would cost less than a wink of what we’re spending at the Sinkhole of Afghanistan.

But — here we are in 2014 and the 21st century statecraft is still missing at home.

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