To the members of AAFSW: Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to serve as President of AAFSW for the past two years. While I have been an active board member for the better part of the last decade, I was hesitant to take on this leadership role at first. I knew it would challenge me but I knew it would also be rewarding. And rewarding it was.
First and foremost – I must say THANK YOU to the AAFSW board. This group of dedicated volunteers is the best. The accomplishments of AAFSW are truly a team effort. AAFSW has been running strong for 60+ years and individuals like those on the board have been instrumental in keeping the association going. I was fortunate to have the sage advice of veteran board members and could tap into their institutional knowledge. There was also a group of new board members with fresh and exciting ideas who brought a different perspective to the table. In the end, we really complemented one another.
During my term as AAFSW President, the world experienced the seemingly never-ending COVID pandemic. When the pandemic shut down in-person events, AAFSW transitioned to virtual opportunities. AAFSW continued offering programs virtually, collaborating as needed with partner organizations such as DACOR who had the technology and tools in place. AAFSW successfully held its first virtual auction to raise money for scholarships and other programs in lieu of the annual Art & BookFair. AAFSW held the annual awards ceremony in a hybrid fashion recognizing the winners of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA), Champion for Career Enhancement for EFMs and Dorman Award. With Zoom and MS Teams, AAFSW continued to meet regularly with GCLO on a variety of issues concerning family members such as education allowances, EFM employment, and Spouses in Transition. AAFSW provided tireless support to evacuees through our Evacuee Support Network (ESN) through our email list and created a private Facebook group for the ESN.
AAFSW continues to look for ways to improve resources for the Foreign Affairs Community. During 2021, AAFSW tackled a website refresh. The new website is easier to navigate, content has been streamlined, and the membership portal updated. The overall look is up-to-date In addition, FS Hub, underwent a refresh, aligning the site with AAFSW’s website appearance. These updates were much needed, allowing the websites to be a resource for members and the community. During the last year or two, AAFSW added a supplemental newsletter for our members. The monthly supplement contains links to articles of interest to our community that you may have missed. These articles are pulled from a variety of publications including the Foreign Service Journal, The Transition Center’s Newsletter, major newspapers and magazines and blogs.
Be on the lookout for two new exciting projects together with the Cox Foundation. AAFSW was at the forefront of EFM oral histories back in the 1980s. The collection, under the skilled leadership of Jewel Fenzi, is now housed with ADST and the Library of Congress. AAFSW wants to draw on that experience and create new topic specific oral histories. Together with the Cox Foundation, AAFSW will create six new oral histories to be released later this fall. Topics range from Third Culture Kids, EFM Employment, and Singles in the FS.
Another project together with the Cox Foundation, which is currently under development and will be launched in the fall as well, is called Map for Change: Foreign Affairs Community Volunteers. AAFSW has the privilege of reading about the amazing volunteer efforts going on overseas through SOSA nominations. Many of us are interested in getting involved but may not know where to begin. The map and supporting database will provide information about current volunteer opportunities at posts around the globe.
I look forward to seeing what the new board accomplishes this next term. As June Byrne, AAFSW founding President said in 1960: “We’ll go slowly. We’re not going to set the world on fire or work miracles overnight. Our job this year is to establish a simple, solid base on which to work, well organized, but simply organized and very flexible.” This captures the essence of AAFSW and will provide guidance for future years.