This year, five of the six geographical bureaus submitted nominations for the Secretary of State Award for outstanding volunteerism abroad.
The winners and their projects are:
2019 Winner for Bureau of African Affairs, Marcus W. Lamb
Marcus, an Information Programs Officer, was part of the IRM team while posted to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Marcus worked closely with a local organization, Apps and Girls, which promotes IT skill building for Tanzanian girls ages 14-24 who cannot continue their traditional education. Marcus volunteered during his free time, at night and during the weekends for over a year. And taught two classes in IT fundamentals, and coding and networking. However, after teaching these two courses, Marcus recognized the need for a dedicated curriculum, and he developed an overarching program in cooperation with the organization’s instructors. He also found free resources to supplement teaching materials to enhance the new curriculum. Marcus went a step further and provided workshops on résumé building and interviewing skills. The young girls enjoyed participating in mock interviews for their first IT position, receiving feedback from Marcus. In addition, Marcus established an e-mentoring program, for which he sought out advice from female IT professionals within the Department of State and the private sector. With his example and encouragement, Marcus also inspired other embassy staff to volunteer.
Personal Quote: “Air and time are given to all equally; it’s how you use the latter than can make a difference.”
2019 Winner for Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Jennifer Yan
Jennifer is a Foreign Service spouse and mother of four children. During her three years posted to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jennifer actively pursued numerous activities to help the local community. She donated her time, goods, and meals to local charities and non-profit organizations, including Feed the Hunger and New Hope for Cambodian Children, an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. Each consecutive food drive for Feed the Hunger brought in more Embassy volunteers and provided more meals. The first food distribution drive resulted in 25 feeding containers, then 50, eventually reaching 250 feeding containers. Jennifer reached out to Cambodian Children’s Fund for help with distribution. Jennifer provided continuity and sustainability by ensuring that the embassy continued to work with these organizations after her departure. A dynamic member of the embassy community, Jennifer volunteered at many embassy events, including Breakfast with Santa, Eggstravaganza, and welcome BBQs. She also oversaw the CLO library and administered the Facebook page for embassy families. Jennifer was also an active parent volunteer at her children’s school. She volunteered with the Parent Community Organization and twice organized the American booth at the school’s annual International Day.
Jennifer’s personal quote: “As a mother of four, I want to be the best role model for them and encourage them to make a strong impact on the growing and evolving world around them.”
2019 Winner for European and Eurasian Affairs, Carlos D. Perez
Carlos is Foreign Service Spouse and native of Puerto Rico. Carlos brought to Frankfurt, Germany a wealth of knowledge and understanding of post morale issues, following 23 years of Army service. Described as post’s unofficial mayor, Carlos immediately found ways to support the consulate community based on family priorities he had learned in the Army. Carlos focused on ways to improve post’s morale, overall wellness and recreational opportunities. With these goals in mind, Carlos organized projects that significantly impacted the lives and careers of Foreign Service family members. Carlos worked with T-Mobile to get a representative at post during staff turnover periods to assist with cell phone setup. He took on an active role in the Community Support Association (CSA), reducing massive existing debt, reorganizing the budget, and trimming costs. Through the CSA, Carlos created a small business hub in an unused CSA building, providing a platform for eligible family members (EFMs) and locally employed staff to set up business opportunities, which included a nail salon, massage therapy, and barbershop. This initiative helped previous executive restaurant chefs and professional hair stylists regain employment, while simultaneously reducing the community association’s deficit through the rented business space. Carlos also established a partnership with Military Outsourcing to allow Foreign Service members to buy cars with that service. In his spare time, Carlos organized 5k runs, car washes, and youth sports events, volunteering 400 hours and raising $12,000 for his community. Carlos also helped create an international music publishing and management group, and he continues to inspire other EFMs through his success in the music industry.
Personal Quote: “My actions won’t change the world, but it will make my community better!”
2019 Winner for Near East Asian Affairs, Zhou “Cecilia” Zhuang-Haas
During her time in Rabat, Morocco, Cecilia, a Foreign Service spouse, actively engaged with the local community. She volunteered with Enactus, a global organization that encourages students to take entrepreneurial actions to bring about socioeconomic change in the host country. Cecilia mentored eight student teams, helping them identify areas for improvement and network with Moroccan government officials. One team received a grant from a US Foundation in the amount of $5,500 which will help 180 families in rural Morocco gain access to renewable electricity. Cecilia also organized a 2019 Women’s Day event featuring 5 speakers and over 60 Moroccan students and community leaders attended. The speakers described ways to eliminate cultural and social obstacles to help women achieve their career goals and attain equal pay for equal work. Cecilia led the organization of the US Embassy’s participation in the annual Diplomatic Charity Bazaar as well as the inclusion of 150 physically-challenged children’s participation in the UNESCO City Peace Run. Cecilia also promoted US-Morocco cultural ties through volunteer work with the American International Women’s Association of Rabat. She encouraged her American and Moroccan friends to participate in various events such as Thanksgiving luncheons, Christmas bazaars, and a Ramadan basket distribution. In addition to this, she volunteered on a weekly basis at a migrant center serving displaced persons from elsewhere in Africa.
She finds inspiration from Coretta Scott King: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
2019 Winner for Western Hemisphere Affairs Claudia Felice-Kuebler
Claudia is a Foreign Service spouse and mother of three and is currently posted to Quito, Ecuador. Claudia’s desire to effect positive change and provide assistance in helping disenfranchised segments of the local community resulted in her joining forces with Pan de Vida, a local NGO. She helped pioneer a program from inception to grant writing to execution that provides relief and hope to hundreds of distraught migrants. Working with the Pan de Vida founder and director, Claudia has successfully applied for grants, including one with Samaritan’s Purse for over $50,000. She also led a women’s mentoring program with a microbusiness focus providing revolving micro-loans; on a weekly basis, 50-60 families receive training. Among many other contributions, Claudia also served as Communications Manager at Pan de Vida and has streamlined the organization’s communications strategy, updated new materials, raised funds, developed promotional videos, updated the website, and worked with artisans to create new jewelry for sale benefiting Pan de Vida. Claudia has also volunteered with Venezuelan migrants and women’s mentoring on an individual basis, raising funds for one needy family by initiating a GoFundMe campaign. In addition, she served as a liaison with a team from the embassy to build a shelter, which became a home for an Afro-Ecuadorian single mother of three, who is now part of the women’s business mentoring program. Claudia’s volunteer efforts have made a significant impact in the lives of under-served minorities, especially women, and those from Ecuador of Indigenous and Afro descent.
Claudia is inspired by the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”
AAFSW would like to congratulate all recipients of the 2019 Secretary of State Award and wish them the best of luck in continuing with their volunteer service.
AAFSW SOSA Chair