Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Overseas
Year 2007 Winners
This year the American Associates of the Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) received 24 nominations from posts around the globe for the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad. All of the nominees demonstrated remarkable volunteer efforts that impacted Mission and host-country communities overseas. These inspiring volunteer activities are a clear example of grass roots diplomacy at its best. The members of the selection committee for the 2007 SOSA Awards faced a real challenge in identifying only one winner from each regional bureau.
Click here to read a wrap-up of the awards ceremony with photos.
State Department magazine featured the awards ceremony in its Feburary 2008 issue. Click here to read the article in PDF format.
Award winner Neill Krost was interviewed by Federal News Radio regarding his work with the Abomey Orphanage in Cotonou, Benin. Click here to listen to the interview online (scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Neill G. Krost – Cotonou, Benin (AF)
During his two year tour, Neill has devoted countless hours to the welfare of 250 children at the Abomey orphanage located four hours from Cotonou. He brought together the entire diplomatic and expat communities for the first annual Christmas drive and organized the subsequent delivery of a large truckload of clothing, books, toys and furniture to the orphanage. Neill was also successful in persuading the mayor of Abomey to provide electricity and water to the facility. Working with the orphanage, he wrote a proposal for the Ambassador’s Self-Help Program which will fund construction of a new dining room as well as teaching valuable trade skills to the children. To sustain and expand these efforts, Neill developed a business plan, created a website, and raised $20,000 to fund improvements. He has made a lasting improvement in the quality of life for orphans struggling to survive the harsh realities of life in West Africa.
Alison M. Padget – Beijing (EAP)
Alison is a family member living in Beijing who is a volunteer nutrition program coordinator for the United Foundation for Chinese Orphans (UFCO). She has dedicated her skills and expertise to improve the lives of the children of the Jiaozuo City orphanage who face severe health issues including malnutrition. Alison oversees the ordering and transport of infant formula to the orphanage. In her regular visits, she weighs and measures the babies, trains the orphanage staff in sanitation techniques, formula preparation, supplemental feeding, and alerts the volunteer doctors to children who require special attention. Alison was also instrumental in securing a grant from a pharmaceutical company of $10,000 for corrective surgeries and a 2008 grant of $45,000. To improve and sustain the efforts of UFCO, she designed a new website and is active in fund-raising activities. In her ever-reaching efforts to improve the lives of needy children, she is currently working with the China Center for Adoption Affairs to find a second orphanage to sponsor.
Alison (in black shirt) doing a weight check at the orphanage.
Alison caring for an infant in the hospital.
Dennis E. Nice – Zagreb (EUR)
Dennis’s volunteer efforts span his three year assignment in Zagreb. As two-term Chairman of the School Board of the American International School of Zagreb (AISZ), he has been the catalyst for the identification of a much-needed new school facility. Drawing on his strong leadership skills, Dennis formed a multi-cultural team of architects, engineers, investors, and lawyers to tackle the challenges of a viable school plan, site location, and construction. As Board Chairman, he also led a successful search for a new School Director. Among his other accomplishments are establishing a financial aid policy, increasing classes to accommodate waiting lists, increasing the number of international teachers, and paying off a facilities improvement loan two years in advance, thereby saving AISZ thousands of dollars. Dennis’s efforts have not only impacted the Embassy community but the entire international community as well.
Dennis and AISZ Director Robin Heslip reviewing the proposal for the new school.
Investor Daniel Bernard, Architect Luc-Emile Bouche-Florin, Investor Francis Galichon, and Dennis at the site of the new school project.
Paul A. Sabatine – Dhaka (NEA/SCA)
Since Paul began his assignment in Bangladesh in 2004, he has devoted his volunteer efforts to further the education of street children and the employment of destitute women in Dhaka. During his tenure as Board Chair of Eglal’s ABC School for street children, the school building has been renovated to include a computer lab, upgraded kitchen, showers, and ceiling fans. Vaccinations and medical care are also provided. Paul’s implementation of a monthly family subsistence plan catapulted school attendance from 70 to 92%. Paul also volunteered to manage and promote sales of handicrafts by a cooperative of marginalized women. His management and financial skills resulted in tripling the income for the 50 women who relied on the cooperative for their sole support. Better yet, he has established an infrastructure which the cooperative now uses to manage its own sales and financial plan. Paul leads by example and coupled with his enthusiasm and practicality, has become a force of nature in the community.
Paul and Suraiya, founder of the Women's Cooperative.
Festivities at the ABC School for street children.
Maria Regina Barros Pontes – Managua (WHA)
Maria is a family member who believes that poverty and ignorance can be overcome by motivation, education, self-reliance, and most of all, opportunity. She created that opportunity in the rural community of Los Amadores, 20 miles outside of Managua. The families of Los Amadores live in extreme poverty and illiteracy approaches 100%. In 2006, Maria began making weekly visits to teach a group of women to make baskets from newspaper. At the same time, she was making contacts in Managua with galleries and craft fairs where the women of Los Amadores might sell their wares. The yearly arts fair sponsored by the First Lady of Nicaragua provided the venue for the group’s debut and resulted in coverage on national television. Not content with this achievement, Maria convinced the mayor of the community to create a space in the public market for sale of the handicrafts and to assist in the restoration of an old building where the women have established a headquarters for their cooperative.
Regina and members of the Los Amadores Cooperative
Regina and her students display samples of their handicrafts.
AAFSW extends congratulations to the 2007 SOSA winners, and to all the nominees, for the exceptional contributions they made to their respective communities. They all deserve recognition for their unselfish commitment and outreach. AAFSW encourages posts to recognize the efforts of the following nominees: Anne Martin – Cotonou, Cleo Kyin Oo Appleton – Nairobi, Victor Williams – Pretoria, Victoria V. Cross – Beijing, Hoa Kim Teague – Seoul, Paula Dinger – Suva, Jeff Weinshenker – Tokyo, Vicki Sliwa – Athens, Mchael Gilmore – Frankfurt, Carma Ryan – Kiev, Katherine L. Falterman – Rome, Hugo Rodriquez – Rome, Rianna-Mia Martinez – Skopje, Grazia Deulus – Colombo, Cesaria Boyer – Kathmandu, Sarina Penn – Caracas, Kelly Trainor – Guadalajara (Nuevo Vallarta), Elizabeth Black – Quito, and Ellen Brager Michiels – Santo Domingo.