July/August 2021 Letter from the President

What a Year!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since AAFSW held elections for a new board. My first year as AAFSW President has gone by quickly. The 2020-2021 year was unique and pushed board members to think outside of the box in order to provide better services and programs to our members and the larger Foreign Affairs community. I am pleased with our accomplishments and want to highlight a few below.

Our programs chair, Sheila Switzer successfully hosted virtual programs monthly. AAFSW kicked off the fall season with a program in collaboration with Welcome to Washington. As COVID restrictions continue to lift, AAFSW looks forward to greeting you in person for programs in the Washington, DC area. However, we want to remain connected with our overseas members and will continue to provide virtual programming, too.

The AAFSW annual awards ceremony featuring winners of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) and Champions for Career Enhancement for EFMs (CCE-EFM) was a hybrid event in November 2020. SOSA Chair, Patricia Linderman, coordinated with DACOR for this event. AAFSW is extremely grateful to DACOR for hosting the event and providing GoToWebinar as the platform for virtual participation. We honored amazing volunteers around the globe. The SOSA committee and CCE-EFM committee just held selection meetings for the newest batch of nominations. You will hear more about the 2021 winners soon. We remain hopeful that AAFSW can host our annual awards ceremony in person at the State Department in November. However, we are confident that we can provide an inspirational virtual or hybrid program like last year if need be.

Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, AAFSW was unable to hold our annual Art and BookFair last October. The Art and BookFair is AAFSW’s main fundraiser, providing money for our scholarships, programs and general operational expenses. Stay tuned for updates regarding the 2021 Art and BookFair. In spite of the cancellation of 2020 Art and BookFair, AAFSW is extremely grateful to everyone who donated money to our organization through the Non-Gala Fundraiser in December and the Flag Day Fundraiser that just wrapped up June 30. 

Our Fun For Funds Chair, Joanna Athansopoupous-Owen deserves a round of applause for the fun themes of these fundraisers. Collectively, AAFSW raised $2,257.

This past spring, AAFSW launched a website refresh. We hope that you like the new look and new format. Nicole Spirdakis, AAFSW’s web manager, took the lead on this project. One of the newest pieces to the website is the section called “Community Pillars.” People always ask who or what is AAFSW: while working on the website refresh, I took time to reflect on some of AAFSW’s key services or programs that people identify with. As an organization that has been around for over 60 years, there is a lot to choose from. I narrowed it down to four key programs that our members recognize as uniquely AAFSW. These include: Art and BookFair, SOSA, Foreign Born Spouse Group, and Scholarships.

In addition, Nicole has been busy setting up a new membership platform on the website. This will launch over the summer. Stay tuned for emails from AAFSW about setting up your new online member’s portal, if you haven’t already received one. Once we have this system in place, AAFSW will launch a new membership campaign. We need our members to help spread the word and invite friends and colleagues to join our association. As members, you have a voice!

Thank you to everyone who filled out a survey in May. AAFSW received over 400 complete surveys! Our Forum Chair, Ann LaPorta will be reviewing the results this summer and sharing information with the board at the September board meeting. The goal of the survey is to better understand the needs and concerns of our members and the larger Foreign Affairs Community. AAFSW will use the data from the survey for strategic planning purposes and will devise a plan on how best to use our resources to advocate for you!  

Have a safe and healthy summer.

Lara Center, AAFSW President