The Foreign Service Journal, April 2009

44 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 0 9 “Y ou can say to yourself, ‘I only have two years at post, so I don’t have time to make a dif- ference,’ or you can say, ‘I only have two years at post, so I’d better get started,’” explained Bridget Guerrero at the lectern in the Benjamin Franklin Reception Room. Under Secretary for Manage- ment Patrick Kennedy had just pre- sented her, along with five others, with the annual Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad at a Dec. 9, 2008, ceremony. The six award winners profiled below, as well as the 20 who were nominated but didn’t win, have gone “above and beyond” in show- ing the best side of America to their re- spective communities abroad. The Associates of the American For- eign ServiceWorldwide recognizes over- seas volunteer efforts through the SOSA program, which began 18 years ago with the support of then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Mrs. Baker. The awards have been supported by dona- tions from former Secretaries of State, the Green Family Foundation and the AAFSWmembership. SOSA recognizes volunteer efforts at posts overseas in the following areas: 1) exceptional service to the mission com- munity; 2) outstanding activities di- rected toward the host country; and 3) exceptional service in emergencies. The 2008 SOSA Winners Family member Sherilynn P. Toun- ger (Ouagadougou) “adopted” a strug- gling village. An educator, Tounger began volunteering at the village or- phanage, then expanded her efforts, rais- ing funds to finance construction of a preschool facility on the compound. To sustain financial support for the village after she leaves post, Tounger created a charitable organization called “Chasing Lions.” When Cyclone Nargis devastated seven ethnic Karen villages inMay 2008, AmyRobinson (Rangoon) immediately organized a humanitarian relief effort. While NGOs were unable to enter the country, Robinson and her team of vol- unteers risked personal safety to bring in food, clothing, building supplies and even local medical personnel. Through a major fundraising drive, she estab- lished a school for 145 children and set up village committees so that locals are personally invested in their recovery pro- gram. Familymember Bridget L.Guerrero (Ankara) has worked tirelessly to assist the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Turkey from Iraq, Iran and Somalia. After visitingAnkara’s UnitedNations High Commissioner for Refugees processing center, Guerrero es- tablished a program that provides week- day lunches and distributes clothing, food and vouchers. To sustain this and other projects, she formed the Ankara Refugee Support Group and spearheads its work in soliciting donations from Turkish businesses. Like all embassy community mem- bers in Baghdad, FSO Susan C. Mattes lives andworks in a war zone under con- stant threat of rocket and mortar attack. Her response was to gather a team of volunteers to revitalize the employee as- sociation, creating a welcoming lounge, called the “Off Site,” where employees could find refuge and relaxation. Mattes established a complete ac- counting, inventory and financial man- agement system for the association. Her skills in identifying supply sources and organizing special events under ex- tremely difficult circumstances have boosted morale at post. FSO Calvin L. McQueen (Karachi) took on the challenge of reviving the consulate’s employee association for a community that lives in lockdown. He overhauled the association with a new filing system and a membership update campaign that included local citizens. When the Karachi community merged with the Islamabad association, he en- sured that locally employed staff could voice their concerns and become an in- tegral part of the process. McQueen’s overhaul of the consulate’s cafeteria, commissary and club had a profound impact on morale. Family member Ellen J. Brager (Santo Domingo) brought together youngsters from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds through classical music festivals. With funds raised from local and multinational companies, she attracted faculty and participants from the U.S. and provided scholarships to low-income children. The resulting 10-day festival found Do- minican and American children partic- ipating in a variety of musical activities. In July 2008, Brager took the highly suc- cessful“Traveling Notes”festival to Peru. The program incorporates social aware- ness through performances in hospitals, orphanages and other charitable institu- tions. Plans are already in place for fes- tivals in 2009 and 2010. Is there someone remarkablemaking a difference at your post? Look for the announcement cable soliciting nomina- tions for the 2009 SOSA Awards, in late April, and take the time to nominate that individual. Award winners receive a check for $3,000, a certificate signed by the Secre- tary of State and a pin commemorating the December AAFSW awards cere- mony. For more information and photo slide shows of the 2008 SOSA winners and their projects, please visit www. A F S A N E W S CALL FOR 2009 NOMINATIONS Grassroots Diplomats: The Inspiring SOSA Award Winners BY CATHY SALVATERRA, AAFSW SOSA CHAIR, AND FRANCESCA KELLY Under Secretary for Management Patrick Ken- nedy (right) presents SOSA award to Out- standing Volunteer Sherilynn Tounger, Dec. 9, 2008. COURTESY OF AAFSW