Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Overseas
- Nam A. Nguyen (Anandaroopa) – Chennai (SCA)
- Maria Del Carmen Miller – Quito (WHA)
- Edward (Mick) Davis – Kisumu, Kenya (AF)
- Chong O. Farquhar – Yerevan (EUR)
- Matthew David Meredith – Tunis (NEA)
- Sean P. Myers – Rangoon (EAP)
Nam A. Nguyen (Anandaroopa) – Chennai (SCA)
Promoting Pride and Empowering the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community in Chennai
Anandaroopa (Nam A. Nguyen), an accompanying partner, directly inspired the U.S. Consulate General to take a leading role in promoting equal rights for LGBT persons in Chennai, India, a city known for its conservatism and the largest Indian city without a Pride celebration.
As a result of Anandaroopa’s energy and dedication, Chennai became the first Post abroad to organize a comprehensive Pride Month celebration, including: a display of books by LGBT writers in the American Library; a video conference with the American Civil Liberty Union’s LGBT Project Director, for an audience of local LGBT persons, human rights activists, and interested guests; a red-carpet public screening of the Oscar-winning movie “Milk”; a discussion on LGBT issues in the workplace for Post employees; and the first official Pride Month representational event hosted by a high-ranking U.S. official, the Consul General, at his residence.
Anandaroopa was the catalyst for the first-ever LGBT Pride Month in Chennai, now in its third year, encouraging local LGBT folk to stage a Pride March and other cultural and outreach events. He convinced an Indian mobile marketing firm to donate its services so organizers could reach new audiences through new media and mobile phones. Anandaroopa helped Sahodaran, the only local NGO educating men engaging in same-sex activity and transgendered persons on HIV/AIDS, raise funds through creative activities such as a beauty pageant for transgendered women, which tapped into a popular vein in modern Indian culture, as well as one of the first Indian “swimsuit” calendars using male models.
All of Anandaroopa’s initiatives, coupled with his cultivation of the major national and local papers, garnered extensive favorable media coverage for the Consulate and, for the first time, of local LGBT pride and outreach events.
Maria Del Carmen Miller – Quito (WHA)
Quito Cares – Providing Opportunities to Make a Difference for Ecuadorians in Need
Maria Del Carmen Miller, an accompanying spouse, co-founded and continues to be a highly enthusiastic volunteer for the Quito Cares (QC) Group in Quito, Ecuador. Working with several other Foreign Service spouses, Maria spearheaded the creation of this service organization, which supports various Ecuadorian charitable foundations while providing a gateway to community-based service activities for Mission families. This group of dedicated individuals, under Maria’s leadership, has grown to include Americans, FSNs and local Ecuadorians, which is key to the initiative’s sustainability.
Quito Cares centralizes Embassy and local efforts to assist Ecuadorians in need through concerted fundraising and coordinated volunteer efforts. Through Maria’s determination, QC has raised more than $10,000, which has helped fund, among other services: electrical rewiring of buildings for Pan de Vida, an organization that provides food, clothing, health and literacy support; food for beneficiaries and surgery costs for a child from Fundacion Jonathan, an organization that provides free medical services to children and the elderly; sanitary supplies for Juvilus, an organization that provides support for orphaned or abandoned children living with HIV/AIDS; and a child’s brain operation at SOLCA, a hospital that provides affordable treatment for children with cancer. Quito Cares also supports Centro Ayuda para la Mujer, an organization that assists pregnant women at risk.
Through the efforts of Maria and the other FS spouses, a Quito Cares supported charity was awarded a J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust grant in 2009. Interested individuals can access information and tap into volunteer opportunities through the Quito Cares website at www.quitocares.org.
Edward (Mick) Davis – Kisumu, Kenya (AF)
Doing Whatever is Needed to Support Orphaned Children and an Impoverished Community in Kisumu, Kenya
From building a water purification system and repairing roads to providing food, clothes and one-on-one medical treatment, Edward “Mick” Davis has been providing exemplary support to the Jones Clinic and Ring Road Orphanage in Kisumu, Kenya since moving there in August 2010. The orphanage, sponsored by the Christian Relief Fund, serves more than 450 children, many of whom have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS and some of whom are themselves infected.
Mick’s support for the orphanage and the surrounding community includes: buying and installing pipes to complete a donated water purification system, leading to a decline in diarrheal disease; providing protein-rich peanut butter sandwiches and egg-producing chickens to support nutrition; bringing visitors to the site to increase awareness of the needs of the children, resulting in much-needed monetary and clothing donations; working with CDC staff to purchase necessary reagents for lab testing as well as approaching private US donors for lab equipment and other supplies; personally improving the community church’s building and repairing roads in the larger informal settlement; coaching the school’s Scout program to an award-winning level; and working with CRF to secure donations for a multipurpose center, a new computer school and work program options.
With each activity, Mick has focused on empowering students and other community members, through training, to sustain projects or learn a trade to become self-supporting. For example, he brought in an accomplished gardener to train students, and he assisted those students to get local gardening contracts.
Mick also does whatever is necessary to improve the quality of life for these kids, as illustrated by his one-on-one care for a child who was injured in a car accident. He paid for her care, changed her bandages and provided treatment and support for months until she was well enough to go back to school.
Chong O. Farquhar – Yerevan (EUR)
Providing a Safe, Stimulating Place to Play for Special Needs Children in Yerevan, Armenia
Shortly after arriving in Armenia, Chong Farquhar, an accompanying spouse, volunteered at a local government-funded orphanage for special needs children. In spite of the orphanage’s limited resources and staff, Chong saw an opportunity to increase suitable and stimulating activities for the children by renovating the orphanage’s dilapidated and dangerous playground equipment.
She also convinced the school’s director that a new sandbox would be an appropriate and useful addition, as it would stimulate motor skills development in those children with physical challenges. Prior to the renovation, children with physical challenges lacked any outdoor activities. They were placed in chairs or cribs so that they could watch the other children play.
To initiate the project, Chong successfully applied for a grant from the J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust. Additional funds were needed, however, to attain her goal of completing the new sandbox, as well as renovating all of the playground equipment. Undaunted, Chong persuaded the contractor doing the renovation work to contribute manpower and materials equal to more than half of the total expenses of the total project. She coordinated the participation of the American Ambassador in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new playground to highlight the support and cooperation of the Embassy, American expat and local community.
The support of this energetic woman is not limited to the orphanage. She has also solicited donations of used household goods and clothing to be distributed to the beneficiaries of Hye Santa organization. Hye Santa serves the most impoverished families in Armenia and seeks to promote independence. In addition, she has helped to paint houses and coordinate charity medical care in the local community.
Matthew David Meredith – Tunis (NEA)
Empowering Tunisians to Build Their Democracy
Inspired by the events during the Tunisian revolution and recognizing the historic opportunity to support the development of a nascent democracy, Matt Meredith, an Arabic language student and accompanying spouse, stepped forward to craft an ambitious agenda of democracy outreach.
First, working with faculty and students, Matt initiated a series of public programming covering topics such as educational opportunities in the U.S., U.S. politics and civilian oversight of the police. As a direct result of his initial speaker series, two NGO’s were born, one similar to the League of Women Voters in the United States, and the second, an organization focused on helping civil society take the steps necessary to gain oversight of the police.
Matt listened to the concerns of his teachers and other Tunisian women following the departure of then-Tunisian President Ben Ali. He researched women’s political advocacy groups in the U.S. and “cold-called” Zaida Arguedas, the Deputy Executive Director of the U.S. League of Women Voters, to discuss the opportunity and challenges facing Tunisia. Although she had never met Matt, Ms. Arguedas was convinced by Matt’s passion that that the League could contribute, and was very eager to get involved. Matt then dedicated himself to assist the group of Tunisian women to establish their NGO, prepare a strategic plan, and identify the crucial needs in the current environment.
Matt convinced Ms. Arguedas to come to Tunisia and participate in a program with her Tunisian counterparts, meeting with representatives from the government and civil society. The result was a Middle East Partnership Initiative grant proposal for a joint project to educate women, especially rural women, about the political system and encourage them to register and vote. The League of Tunisian Woman Voters has continued its work and is in the process of developing and providing critical training.
Sean P. Myers – Rangoon (EAP)
Bridging Cultures and Providing Sustainable Support for Burmese Staff in Need
Sean Myers, an Information Management Officer at Embassy Rangoon, has shown extraordinary commitment to improving the welfare of those who perform janitorial, housekeeping, yard-maintenance and similar duties for the Embassy community. These local workers are not Embassy employees, but work for local contractors and are paid Burmese wages, often earning less than $2 per day, with no medical benefits.
Sean learned of their struggle to get by because he took the time, upon his arrival at post, to get to know the local lifestyle and make local friends, which is challenging in poverty-ridden Burma. Sean consulted a number of Embassy Rangoon FSNs about possible ways to help those in need. He then approached the Chief of Mission with an idea: to raise donations for a new fund, the American Burmese Contribution (ABC) Fund, providing financial assistance to those workers who could provide evidence of pressing medical need for themselves and their immediate families; and, to recruit an Embassy-based group to oversee that fund.
With the Chief of Mission’s encouragement, Sean sprang into action: drawing up the ABC fund plans, ensuring that the fund met all legal and regulatory requirements; working with Embassy Rangoon’s FSN staff, particularly the Embassy’s local-hire medical doctor, along with an activist Office Management Specialist and the Medical Unit’s family-member nurse to help oversee the Fund; spearheading fundraising so that the
ABC Fund now totals over $4,000; and continuing to maintain and strengthen ties between Mission personnel and the local community.
Sean has created a sustainable mechanism that will continue to provide invaluable assistance to contract staff in need long after he moves on to his next post.