This year celebrates the 25th anniversary of the SOSA awards. Nominations from posts in all of the six geographic regions were submitted and reviewed. AAFSW thanks those posts and individuals who took the time to nominate these volunteers. All the nominees’ remarkable activities have had a profound impact on Mission and host-country communities overseas.
Please see below for details on the 2015 SOSA award winners!
Juliette Marsham-McClure, Yaoundé
Juliette Marsham-McClure, spouse of John McClure, DOS, volunteered and managed the American Employees Recreation Association (AERAY) while posted in Yaoundé. Starting as a board member, Juliette went on to fill the position of interim manager of AERAY. During her time volunteering for AERAY, Juliette looked at finances and management practices of AERAY.
She did an inventory of the commissary and complete overhaul of the embassy cafeteria where she worked with local staff to train them in proper food preparation and food handling techniques, reorganized the kitchen and revamped the menu. Juliette stepped forward to help organize the 2015 July 4th celebration where she worked tirelessly to make sure staff was well trained and motivated. As interim manager of AERAY, she made certain AERAY participated as a major food vendor for the event. The event was a success!
Shannon Argetsinger, Hong Kong
Shannon Argetsinger, DEA Special Agent, began volunteering as a baseball coach for the Hong Kong Little League (HKLL) in 2010, and became President of HKLL in 2012. As President, Shannon oversees approximately 500 youth players, 33 teams, 300 parent volunteers, and an incredibly robust schedule that begins in August and ends in March. In addition to Head Coaching during the regular season, Shannon has also served as the Manager and Head Coach for the HKLL Asia Pacific Tournament (APT) All Star Team for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
During his tenure within HKLL, he has successfully implemented the traditional American Little League values of courage, loyalty, and character while building an inclusive, fair, safe environment for all HKLL participants. Shannon has created standardized policies and procedures to replace outdated guidance that often times conflicted with Little League rules and procedures. Shannon has used baseball as a vehicle to share American culture with Chinese, Korean and Japanese players and their families. He has instilled a sense of understanding and acceptance among these diverse ethnic and cultural communities.
Ernesto Luna, Bratislava
Ernesto Luna, spouse of Janelle Luna, Public Affairs Officer, used his educational and professional background to create an English language program for the Slovak Diplomatic Police force. While stationed in Bratislava, Ernesto discovered that the Slovak Diplomatic Police force had inadequate English language skills and had limited resources to learn English. Ernesto addressed this need by creating a specialized English language program for the police force.
Using money from a grant, Ernesto purchased electronic tablets, teaching materials and designed the curriculum which includes three course levels. Each unit had its own electronic tablet applications, on-line interactive website material, Power Point presentations and homework assignments, all custom tailored to meet the needs and professional interests of the students. Ernesto continued to revise materials and teach courses during the ten months the courses ran. The end result was a year long, blended-learning English language program which increased the fluency and confidence of the Slovak Diplomatic Police force’s English language skills. The website is still active, so students and other police officers who were not in the class can refer to it and use it.
Karen Forsyth, Beirut
Karen Forsyth, spouse of Tim Forsyth, Political and Economic Officer, formalized and managed “Donations for the Needy.” Karen collected clothing, food and household goods for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as, poor Lebanese families. Donations were made easier for community members through the use of donation boxes throughout the community. Karen receives, sorts, and delivers donations to the various charities supporting those in need on a regular basis. The donations to refugees in Beirut are making a significant difference, as many do not have the basic necessities. Additionally, Karen supported the embassy community and helps boost moral ewhile hosting a variety of social events such as afternoon games and open house pancake breakfasts. In a post where there are tight security restrictions, long work hours and lockdowns,
Karen is making a difference with her positive attitude and friendly demeanor.
Allison “Sunny” Stimmler, Ashgabat
Allison “Sunny” Stimmler, wife of Brian Stimmler, Public Affairs Officer, played a key role in strengthening the International Women’s Network (AIWN) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Upon arrival at post in 2012, she quickly became involved in creating a meaningful network for international women in a country that is physically, socially, and politically isolated. Her book group, monthly lunches, and charity efforts brought women together for much needed support, discussion, and engagement. Serving as chair of AIWN in 2014-15, Sunny focused on expanding the group’s fundraising efforts and raised $4500 at a holiday bazaar that brought together expatriates and locals in an unprecedented celebration of local and foreign culture, totaling $12,000 raised by AIWN during the three years of her involvement. A large portion of the funds supported a local center for physically handicapped youth and adults through donations of wheelchairs, uniforms, crutches, and exercise equipment.
In addition to her work with AIWN, Sunny used her professional background as a teacher, writer, and editor to lead weekly writing sessions and workshops at the Embassy’s Information Resource Center. An average of 35 Turkmen consistently attended to learn how to write poems, essays, and stories. Sunny also volunteered her time preparing young Turkmen for the U.S. college application process. Sunny’s efforts helped and inspired hundreds in a country where private charity, self-expression, and artistic creativity are institutionally discouraged.
Carolynn Poulsen, Santiago
Carolynn Poulsen, spouse of Christian Poulsen, ARSO, volunteered with a small NGO called International Community of Women (ICW) Living with HIV/AIDS Chile. The goal of theorganization is to improve the quality of life and health conditions for women living with HIV and AIDs. Carolynn provided innovative solutions to ongoing HIV issues through a four-prong approach: 1) Female Condom Campaign to establish universal access in Chile to the female condom; 2) Educational Workshops to discuss and encourage positive sexual and emotional health, strong sense of community, healthy relationships, and the defense of ICW Chile member’s sexual and reproductive rights; 3) Behavioral Change Communications sought to change fears and misinformation about HIV positive individuals and improve general knowledge of HIV transmission in Chile via outreach with local and national media; and 4) Gender Policy Engagement influenced policy decisions on issues affecting women living with or vulnerable to contracting HIV. Carolynn was successful in working together with the Ministry of Health and National Women’s Services to implement changes based on Carolynn’s recommendations.
Since Carolynn’s nomination was submitted, she has learned that the Chilean Senate approved the female condom for distribution in all public health centers!