The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2012

J U L Y - A UGU S T 2 0 1 2 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L 55 A F S A N E W S T he Avis Bohlen Award honors the volunteer work of a Foreign Service family member. As a result of Leila Gupta’s efforts, a dilapidated school in one of Kenya’s largest slums has been transformed, a library has been estab- lished and a clinic has opened its doors, offering Kenyans and expatriates alike mental health care. Leila’s professional credentials as a trauma and grief consul- tant read like a disaster junkie’s bucket list: Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 genocide; Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of Kabul; Sierra Leone following the rebel invasion; Ethiopia and Chad with HIV/AIDS orphans; and Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. She joined the State Department as an eligible family member in 2002 with her husband, Jay Zimmerman. They have been posted to Ndjamena, Port-au-Prince and Nairobi, where they have been residing since 2008. When Leila first visited Casa Upendo School in Mathare Valley shortly after arriving in Nairobi, she was confronted with impoverished children playing in filth and a school in name only. The structure was dilapidated, learning materials were nonexistent and teachers had lit- tle understanding of curriculum develop- ment. “I found it extremely distressing to see 275 children crowded together in small, dark class- rooms sitting on broken benches and muddy floors without a pencil, slate or exercise book,” she explained. “Even more strik- ing was the total absence of textbooks, teaching materials or books of any kind in any of the 10 classrooms from kindergarten to 8th grade.” The experience spurred her to action. To raise awareness of the deplorable conditions of the school, she e-mailed relatives, friends and mission colleagues soliciting donations to renovate the building and establish a library. Working with Bishop BernardWambala, a respected Kenyan community leader; Pastor Sammy, the school director; and donations from the embassy community and others, Leila con- tracted local carpenters and laborers to renovate the structure The Avis Bohlen Award FOR A FOREIGN SERVICE FAMILY MEMBER Leila Gupta I t takes all kinds of people to volunteer to be an AFSA post representative. Generally speaking, someone with an outgo- ing personality would be the first type to come to mind. But this year’s AFSA Post Representative of the Year, Jeff Jacob, dis- pels that image. A modest, self-effacing, private kind of guy, he is also a man with a mission. From 2008 to 2009, Jacob’s first assignment with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security was in their New York field office. He then traveled to Kabul, where he served from 2011 to 2012, and will be moving on to Manila this month. Before joining DS, Jacob served on the New Orleans police force, a job that also required working with communities. So when the post rep position in Kabul became vacant, he volunteered. Jacob instigated an AFSAmem- bership drive — sending out mass e-mailings and making personal appeals — successfully adding newmembers fromKabul to the association’s roster. As a result of his tenure as post rep, a number of individuals benefited from his proactive support during a variety of personal prob- lems. By steering his con- stituents to AFSA’s labor management office, he helped them cope with such complicated issues as discrimina- tion, overtime pay and eligible family member employment. His commitment to his role as AFSA rep did not end when he went on R&R. Jacob continued to respond to AFSA emails. And nearing the end of his time at post, he sought volunteers to replace him as post rep. Commenting on his post rep role, Jacob said, “I found it very satisfying to help people in the community.” He describes his position as “serving as the middle-man” between AFSA and members at post by keeping them abreast of association infor- mation, which requires frequent updates. He modestly charac- terizes his role as the initial point of contact, with AFSA staff pro- viding all of the support and guidance. “I am glad I took the job, and I look forward to being active and helpful in the association at my next post,” he concluded. AFSA Post Representative of the Year Jeff J. Jacob Jeff J. Jacob, winner of AFSA Post Representative of the Year Award. Leila Gupta reads to students at the Casa Upendo School. Continued on page 59 A number of individuals benefited from his proactive support during a variety of personal problems.