Congratulations 2017 SOSA Winners

AF – Grace Anne Turner, Dakar, Senegal

Upon arriving in Dakar and viewing the severe poverty and inadequate medical care around her,
Grace Anne Turner looked for opportunities to work as a clinician. She joined the staff of the
House of Hope, a large primary care clinic that sees 35,000 patients per year. Impressed by her
dedication and commitment to quality of care, the clinic asked her to oversee a staff of
physicians, nurses, and auxiliary staff that provided care to 50 children a day.
Grace Anne focused on two areas for immediate improvement: patient intake and treatment of
dehydration. Dr. Grace formed a cadre of expat volunteers and designed a screening and training
program for them to administer; with the help of these volunteers, the previous slow patient
processing sped up dramatically. Regarding dehydration, a common and serious ailment among
Senegalese children, Grace Anne devised an ingenious way to train mothers to rehydrate their ill
children at home.

She also trained House of Hope staff to use a version of the World Health Organization triage
system, designed to prioritize those at greatest risk of death or disease transmission. In its first
operating 18 days, the new system identified 45 critically ill patients (26 of them children). The
new procedures were instrumental in identifying and stopping a potentially dangerous outbreak
of measles throughout urban Dakar. Noticing several patients who met the definition of
suspected measles, Grace Anne immediately contacted the health ministry. An intervention team
(including Grace Anne) found a large number of cases in a marginalized (and unvaccinated)
community. That same team conducted an intensive education and vaccination campaign that
stopped the outbreak in its tracks.

”Dr. Grace” raised the profile of the clinic in the local community and internationally, drawing in
thousands of dollars in donations, medicines, and materials. During her time at House of Hope,
Dr. Grace improved its training programs, its material and human resources, its treatment
algorithms, and its strategic planning for the future.

EAP – Craig Houston, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Each spring, northern Thailand is blanketed by s smothering pall of deadly smoke that annually
kills 3,500 people and sickens thousands more. Working entirely without compensation, staff, or
a budget, Craig Houston created a multi-faceted website ( to
promote awareness of severe air quality issues during northern Thailand’s annual agricultural
burning seasons, provide sustainable solutions to the problem, and support information sharing.
He partnered with local air quality experts, NGOs, schools and film directors to tackle this issue
Craig’s website provides PM2.5 (the most dangerous fine particulate pollution) air quality
information to the general public. The Thai government readily provides air quality information
to the public for PM10; however, the World Health Organization standard for air quality
monitoring purposes is PM2.5 To increase awareness and reporting of PM2.5 levels, Craig met
with local school and small businesses to provide training on the use of PM2.5 monitors, and by
the end of 2017, he will have assisted eight schools and local businesses to obtain and install
PM2.5 air quality monitors.

In addition to his work on air quality awareness, Craig is the Chair of the Consulate’s Green
Team. Under Craig’s leadership, the consulate has screened films raising awareness of air quality
issues, partnered with local U.S. government grant recipient NGOs who work closely on the
issue, and participated in numerous community service endeavors including tree planting and
city cleanup projects.
Craig’s selfless dedication to this vitally important issue has substantially improved the health
and lives of northern Thailand’s residents and visitors.

EUR – Alesia Krupenikava, Kyiv, Ukraine

As the first ever Regional Ambassador of the Technovation Challenge in Ukraine, Alesia was
able to recruit more than 150 girls from all over Ukraine to participate in the program, find 50
mentors to coach them, raise over $20,000 to send a team to the finals in San Francisco, sign up
partners like Microsoft and the Ministry of Education, and recruit a team to take over and grow
the program when she departs post.

This was the first time Technovation, the world’s largest tech and entrepreneurship contest for
girls ages 10-18, had been conducted in Ukraine. When the original Regional Ambassador
stepped down, Alesia was asked to take her place. Alesia was a tireless recruiter and promoter
for Technovation, holding numerous meetings and information sessions and spent countless
hours answering calls and emails to explain the program. The most meaningful thing for Alesia
was that teams were signing up from all over Ukraine and from all backgrounds, including a
team made up of girls with HIV, and others from orphanages and centers for families in crisis.
Supporting the teams became an almost full time job by itself, and Alesia was a constant
motivator and cheerleader for the girls.

The culmination of the program is a live event where the teams present their projects in demo
sessions and give a “pitch” to a panel of judges and the audience. Alesia recruited the top
technical university in Ukraine to host the event and another university for housing. She formed
partnerships with organizations such as Microsoft to support the program, and was able to raise
over $20,000 to pay for travel to Kyiv, prizes for the teams, and pay for one team to attend the
World Pitch Event in San Francisco.

SCA – Lisa A. Hess, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Lisa Hess created and leads the U.S. Embassy Colombo community outreach team that provides
great benefits to Sri Lanka while also providing the U.S. mission community an opportunity for

Many of Lisa’s actions engaged U.S. Navy sailors visiting Sri Lanka. In 2016, the Captain of the
USS Blue Ridge, command ship of the 7 th Fleet, requested two days of community relations
activities involving 30 U.S. and 10 Sri Lankan sailors. Lisa volunteered for this task. She
identified a community center in a poor area that provided education, food, medical treatment,
and much more. Lisa went to work fundraising and raised enough to pay for paint and materials

for the renovation project and extra money to go toward playground equipment. The American
and Sri Lankan sailors, community center patrons and Embassy staff worked together to sand
and paint desks, tables, benches, classrooms, and playground equipment.

Lisa also worked with U.S. and Sri Lankan sailors from the USS Hopper and USS Comstock to
do more community outreach, including dental clinics in which children practiced their tooth-
brushing skills on a sailor wearing a giant alligator costume, followed by cleaning debris from
children’s playing fields. Other community outreach included repairing a local no-kill animal
shelter, and cleaning and painting rooms at a local school for the deaf and blind.
Within the Mission, Lisa coordinated bake sales; helped prepare food for and serve our entire
embassy community at our Black History Month breakfast; helped manage the U.S. booth at the
overseas School of Colombo fun fair; and led a book drive for the school library. Funds raised in
the bake sales and fun fair were used to establish a library for an under-privileged local school.

WHA – Maritza V. Wilson

As a Nicaraguan who practiced medicine in her native country before becoming a U.S. citizen,
Maritza Wilson has been uniquely equipped to make a significant contribution as a volunteer in

Maritza focused her efforts through a non-profit organization called Amos Foundation
(Fundación Amos), a group that serves a local community (barrio) in Managua via a walk-in
clinic, home visits, and health education. Maritza became one of the regular volunteer doctors at
the clinic, participating in home visits and home surveys to better understand the needs of the
barrio and train members of the community in basic home health care–ensuring the sustainability
of her efforts. Maritza’s work with Amos Foundation also extended to Nicaragua’s rural areas,
including a remote village on the opposite side of the country in the impoverished Atlantic Coast.
Serving that community for one full week, she instructed villagers in basic community health
concepts, such as how to use (and clean) filters to avoid water-borne illness.

Maritza’s work also involved the hosting of training teams, known locally as brigades, from the
U.S. Maritza’s knowledge of both cultures and languages has enabled her to integrate many of
these team seamlessly into the local context, maximizing their effectiveness. Maritza has
organized and led training sessions for more than 1,000 high school students at four schools,
offering instruction that covered reproductive health and prevention of sexually transmitted
diseases. She has also worked alongside U.S. neurosurgeons visiting Nicaragua each year to
provide training and assistance in neurology treatment at the main public hospital in Managua.
Maritza has also worked to develop economic opportunities for families in her home village of
San Juan de Oriente, a community famous for a unique type of pottery. Maritza started a non-
profit venture to expand marketing opportunities for local artisans’ pieces and to create new
ceramics products. Maritza plans to leave the business in the hands of the families she is
serving—ensuring her volunteer efforts will have an enduring impact on this community.