The Foreign Service Journal, May 2024

62 MAY 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL located in Bangkok, to encourage Vietnamese with some connection to the U.S. to wait in Vietnam until they could be assured the U.S. would accept them. Together with the UNHCR, the Visa Office took the lead in establishing and running the program for several years. I was intimately involved, working from the Visa Office, and immensely proud of how many lives were saved and how many outstanding Vietnamese were accepted safely into the United States, where they have become U.S. citizens and enriched culture and education. Holland: In the Aftermath of 9/11 JAMES B. GRAY The exceptional privilege of being a Foreign Service officer includes the exceptional privilege of representing and serving the United States. In response to the tragedy of 9/11, Amsterdammers brought hundreds of bouquets, surrounding the perimeter of our consulate general in a floral tribute. At noon on the Friday after the attacks, several thousand Dutch filled the adjacent Museumplein for three minutes of silence, at the end of which there was a thunderous round of applause. A very large Dutch policeman standing next to me stated quietly: “That was special.” Thank you, Holland, and may God bless the U.S.A. Kyrgyz Republic: Special Needs Orphanage Renovation BRENDA GRAVES Far outside the capital city of the Kyrgyz Republic, there was an orphanage for children with extreme medical and developmental needs, who were unseen and forgotten by the Kyrgyz government. In 2010, as a first-tour officer in Bishkek, I discovered the department might provide humanitarian assistance, and I submitted a grant proposal for bathroom renovations at the out-of-the-way orphanage. The renovations were approved, yet hopelessness lingered in the orphanage director’s eyes. Her special-needs children’s home had never been anyone’s priority. But when ribbon-cutting day arrived with lots of media attention on this little orphanage, exhilaration replaced hopelessness in the orphanage director’s eyes. With the helping hand of the U.S., finally, the needs of these children would be seen and met. Guatemala: Ongoing U.S. Assistance BARBARA ELLINGTON BANKS The Guatemalan Ministry of Finance asked, in 1990, whether USAID-originated funds remaining in old trust funds we’d established in local currency 20 years before—more than $20 million—could be spent. No, we told them—but the funds could be restructured. It took weeks to create one mega fund and turn it over to the country! The president inaugurated the program with the ambassador and USAID Administrator, and the fund remains in operation today. Washington, D.C.: My 800-Person Poem [HUI JUN] TINA WONG, AFSA STATE VICE PRESIDENT I am FS Proud … of standing up for what’s right! As former president of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association, I led the effort to bring more than 800 employees together to add their voices to a video collection of the poem, “Clap for Me Now.” The video, celebrating the achievements and heroism of our Asian American frontline workers and diplomats who experienced COVID-related stigmatization and discrimination, went viral. Kenya: Dancing for the President EDWINA “EDDIE” SAGITTO On the way to the hotel for my temporary assignment in Nairobi in June 2015, we passed several huge billboards proclaiming: “Welcome Home President Obama!” The driver asked if I was in town for President Obama’s visit, and when I answered that I was, he thanked me profusely for bringing Obama to Kenya—an experience that was repeated throughout my stay. I was the on-site press officer for Air Force One arrival and departure, making sure that journalists were credentialed and in place. On the final day of the president’s visit, the crowds wishing to see him began to gather early at the airport. I was surrounded by groups of dancers wearing the colorful clothing of the various ethnic groups and tribes of Kenya. They danced for hours, hoping to get a glimpse of Obama before he left. He rewarded them with a wave, while I have the enduring memory of their excitement and their beautiful dancing.