While challenging, returning to the U.S. for an assignment for those born and raised here is an opportunity to spend more time with friends and family, to familiarize children with their home culture, and become reacquainted with the latest trends and styles. For foreign born spouses, however, a domestic tour is not “coming home” since many of them have never lived in the U.S. before, may have limited knowledge of American cultural norms, and may experience difficulty using the English language. They arrive in a location with no CLO or GSO and no built-in network. In short, coming to Washington is truly the toughest assignment of all.
Fortunately, they have Sheila Switzer. She serves as a one-person welcome wagon and her warm
personality and enthusiasm always makes foreign born (and sometimes American) EFMs feel like part of the Foreign Service family. When Ms. Switzer recognized this need, she organized the AAFSW Foreign-Born Spouse group to direct family members to resources, create a support network, and help spouses get involved in volunteer activities. She also provides critical assistance when foreign born spouses are in distress.
Sheila Switzer is recognized as the very definition of the word “volunteer.” No matter what anyone asks of her, her first response is, “Of course! How can I help?” Through the positive impact she has had and continues to have on the lives of countless EFMs in need of support and assistance, Sheila Switzer embodies the values of Ele Tragen and is awarded the 2015 Eleanor Dodson Tragen Award for advocacy for and support of Foreign Service families.