AAFSW Stands By Your Side
AAFSW Evacuation Support: 2017 was a Busy Year
AAFSW’s Evacuation Support Network has been operating since the mid-1980s, shortly after the hostages came home from Iran. Its goal is to support families who must leave their post suddenly because of political, natural or medical crises. We work hand-in-hand with the Family Liaison Office (FLO) and strive to provide those personal services that FLO cannot.
I have been involved in the Network since the beginning. During the Rwanda Genocide Crisis of 1994 I sat in a briefing for returned families who had just survived a harrowing overland evacuation from Kigali leaving everything behind. They asked question after question: “Is our B&F officer safe?” “Did our Consular Assistant make it to Brussels?” I was in tears.
The Network launches from disaster to disaster, from the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 to the Arab Spring and its aftermath in 2011. 2017 was an especially busy summer. Political unrest in Venezuela brought families home from Caracas. In August Russia ordered that staff in the Embassy in Moscow and the three consular posts in Russia be reduced from 755 to 455 in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the US government. The draw down from Russia was especially difficult. Because of the EFM employment freeze, there were no CLOs. Then families were temporarily evacuated from the Caribbean because of hurricanes.
AAFSW through its Livelines and other social media sites such as Trailing Houses sent out the call for volunteers to help with the families coming home. Within a week more than 90 family members and employees had volunteered. One volunteer, although she was packing out, designed a one-page flyer that FLO could put into each evacuee’s packet describing our services. Another offered her discount at the department store where she worked to the evacuees. An AAFSW member who runs an online tutoring service offered free tutoring so children could keep up with school work. A tour guide offered a free tour of the monuments on the Mall. Transportation and medical advice was given to a pregnant mom. An evacuee’s child fell into a hole and broke his leg badly and volunteers at Oakwood sprang into action. I would estimate that we must have helped 20 families.
I sat in a meeting recently of those who had been drawn down from Russia. Those Foreign Service officers would eventually receive new assignments but their concern was for the locally employed staff who had no jobs. They were setting up a fund for them. It brought me back to Rwanda and the compassion that we in the Foreign Service have for each other and for those who work with us. This to me is what AAFSW and the Evacuee Support Network is all about.
Ann La Porta
AAFSW State and AFSA Liaison, AAFSW EFM Employment Working Group, AAFSW Evacuee Support