SOSA: The 2008 Winners

Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Overseas

An article was published in State Magazine – January 2009 about the 2008 winners.

Sherilynn R. Tounger – Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (AF)

The Chasing Lions orphanage and preschool project.

Shortly after her arrival at post, family member Sherilynn Tounger personally adopted a poor village near Ouagadougou that was struggling to maintain an orphanage, clinic and school.

An educator by profession, Sherilynn quickly identified the needs within the village complex and conducted major fund-raising efforts to finance construction of a pre-school facility on the compound.  She developed the building plans and is implementing every detail of the $60,000 project. Click the photo at right to see a photo album with scenes from the project.

To sustain financial support for the village, Sherilynn created a charitable organization called “Chasing Lions” whose total proceeds benefit the children of the orphanage and school.  To achieve long-term goals, she is currently leading a group of expatriate volunteers to identify and plan for staffing needs, supplies, and facility maintenance.

Visit the Chasing Lions website for more information.


Amy E. Robinson – Rangoon, Burma (EAP)

Cyclone Nargis Relief Effort

Amy Robinson is a family member who used her leadership and organizational skills to provide humanitarian relief to seven ethnic Karen villages after the devastation of cyclone Nargis in May 2008.  While NGOs were unable to enter the country, Amy and her team of volunteers risked personal safety to transport food, clothing, and building supplies to the cyclone victims.  She arranged for visits by medical and dental personnel.  She conducted a major grass-roots fund-raising campaign to provide support for the relief project. With this support, she was able to establish a school in one of the villages that will educate 145 children.
Click the photo above to see a slide show of the relief effort.

Looking ahead, Amy organized the establishment of village committees to determine future priorities and to encourage personal investment by the residents in their recovery program.

Listen to an interview with Amy Robinson on Federal News Radio.


Bridget L. Guerrero – Ankara, Turkey (EUR-IO)

Ankara Refugee Support Group

Since her arrival at post in 2006, family member Bridget Guerrero has worked tirelessly to assist the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who arrive in Turkey from Iraq, Iran, and Somalia.  Visiting the UNHCR processing center in Ankara, she identified the needs of this under-served refugee population and within a few months, had established a meal program that provides lunch 5 days a week.

Through her efforts, a monthly distribution program of used clothing, food and vouchers has flourished.  Her fund-raising efforts have provided needed support to vulnerable refugee women and children upon their arrival in Ankara. Click the photo at right to view a photo album about the project.

To sustain these projects, Bridget formed the ARSG (Ankara Refugee Support Group) and spearheads its work in soliciting food and other donations from Turkish businesses to provide long-term support.


Susan C. Mattes – Baghdad, Iraq (NEA)

Baghdad OFF-Site

Like all Embassy community members in Baghdad, FSO Susan Mattes lives and works in a war zone under constant threat of rocket and mortar attack.  Susan’s response was to take on the demands of the nascent employee association and create an environment in the “OFF Site” where employees could find a refuge.  Leading a team of volunteers, she turned the facility into a welcoming place where the community could relax and escape the realities of a war-torn assignment.

Click the photo at right to view a photo album about the project.

Susan took the management of the association to a higher professional level by establishing a complete accounting, inventory, and financial management system.  Her skills in identifying supply sources and organizing special events under extremely difficult circumstances have had an indelible impact on morale at post.


Calvin L. McQueen – Karachi, Pakistan (SCA)

FSO Cal McQueen took on the challenge of reviving the Consulate’s employee association for a community that lives in lockdown.  With deft organizational skills, he overhauled the association with a new filing system and a membership update campaign which involved tracking down over 200 members.  When dealing with the merger with the Islamabad association, Cal ensured that locally employed staff could voice their concerns and become an integral part of the process.  No task was too great or too small as he reviewed commissary orders, improved shelf stocks, and evaluated the menu options including tasting recipes.

Cal’s overhaul of the Consulate’s cafeteria, commissary and club had a profound impact on morale for the American and local communities.

Cal McQueen - 2008 SOSA

Cal McQueen assists Consul General Kay L. Anske in cutting the cake at the Community Celebration of the 4th of July, held at the Karachi American Consulate Club on 6 July 2008, and attended by many from the American Community in Karachi.


Ellen J. Brager – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (WHA)

Traveling Notes

Family member Ellen Brager used the power of classical music to bring together youngsters from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds through music festivals.  She successfully raised funds from local and multinational companies and attracted faculty and participants from the U. S.  The result was a 10 day festival where Dominican and American children thrived on music lessons, rehearsals, concerts, and sight-seeing activities. Click the image at right to view a photo album of her activities.

In July 2008, Ellen took the highly successful “Traveling Notes” festival to Peru.  Ellen puts great effort into securing scholarships to ensure participation by children from all backgrounds.  The outreach component of the program incorporates social awareness through performances in hospitals, orphanages, and other charitable institutions.  Plans are already in place for festivals in 2009 and 2010.

Visit Ellen’s Traveling Notes website for more information.

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