Dear AAFSW Members and Volunteers,
I would like to wish all your families and you a very happy and prosperous New Year!
Since August 8, 2016 when I was elected President of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, AAFSW has attained a great deal of accomplishments to add to the long chain of achievements realized since its inception in 1960 when it was established as the first non-governmental organization supporting the American diplomatic community.
As AAFSW President, I am delighted to be leading our elected AAFSW Executive Board comprised of Melissa Hess (1st Vice President), Sandy Taylor (2nd Vice President), Veronica Moran (Treasurer), and Troella Tyznik (Assistant Treasurer). Once a month, in the presence of our AAFSW Office Manager and acting AAFSW Secretary Barbara Reioux, the AAFSW Executive Board convenes together with the Chairs of our AAFSW committees: Sheila Switzer (Program Chair and Foreign Born Spouse State Liaison Chair), Anne Kauzlarich (Art and Book Fair Chair), Yolanda Macias-Cottrell (SOSA Chair), Debbi Miller (Membership Chair), and I (as the Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee Chair) as well as our AAFSW liaisons and coordinators: Patty Ryan (AFSA Liaison and EFM Employment), Ann La Porta (AFSA Liaison, EFM Employment, and Evacuee Support), Mette Beecroft, PhD (State Liaison), Sherry Barndollar Rock (Scholarships’ Program Coordinator), and Karen Villar (Spouses in Transition Coordinator). During AAFSW’s monthly Board meetings, we discuss issues that affect the AAFSW membership, which embraces Foreign Service spouses, partners and family members, as well as FS employees and retirees. Together, we decide how to best represent AAFSW members’ “voice,” address their concerns and advocate for their interests as we continue to engage our great Foreign Service community.
I am deeply humbled to head AAFSW’s impressive group of members who work to improve all aspects of AAFSW’s volunteer projects. Indeed, our volunteers are vital in making the AAFSW Community vibrant, rich, and energetic. Some of our outstanding AAFSW volunteers include: Danuta Moon (Art and Book Fair Publicity), Sarah McKee (Book Store volunteer), Aleksandar Blagoevski-Trazoff (EFM Employment Working Group Committee), Catherine Pierce (EFM Employment Committee), Sri Solat (Book Room Volunteer), Anna Dworken (Special Book Collections), June Carmichael (Art Collections), Cyrille-Celine Erickson (Art and Book Fair volunteer), Brian Neumann (Art and Book Fair volunteer), Ceres Busa (Fun For Funds Committee), Seyoung Thomas (Fun For Funds Committee), Anireves Torres (Art and Book Fair volunteer), Katarine Hamilton (Art Collections), Anna Bysfield (Fun For Funds Committee), Maciej Szumny (Fun For Funds Committee), Natalie Yambrusic (Army and Navy Club Liaison), Patricia Linderman (former AAFSW President and AAFSW Post Representative), Bob Castro (USAID Liaison), Jennifer Dinoia (AAFSW Post Representative), Lara Center (AAFSW Post Representative), Elaine Neumann (past AAFSW President and AAFSW Volunteer Recognition Luncheon Hostess), Lucy Whitley (Book Room volunteer and former AAFSW Treasurer), Barbara Ratigan (Book Room and Art and BookFair), Carol Thomas (Book Room and Art and Book Fair Collector’s Corner, Barbara Jo Harrick (Book Room pricing and Art and BookFair), Cathy Salvaterra (Book Room pricing and Art and BookFair), Margaret Teich (Book Room pricing), AAFSW members who volunteer for the annual AAFSW Art and Book Fair as well as many AAFSW members who volunteer for various AAFSW projects in the USA and around the world. With the help of its volunteers and coordinators, AAFSW has made significant strides in the social media front to support and advocate for its members. Some AAFSW social media examples include the Livelines (Yahoo Group), the Global Connection (Facebook), Foreign Born Spouses (Facebook), EFM Business Owners (Facebook), AAFSW Special Needs Families (Facebook), and many others.
AAFSW is indebted to all its volunteers but owes many of its successes to our dedicated AAFSW part-time employees: Barbara Reioux (AAFSW Office Manager) and Martine Aya Nakpil (Book Room Manager) as well as our AAFSW website and Global Link monthly newsletter editors: Sarah Morrow, Susan Lee, and Nicole Spiridakis who keep the domestic AAFSW membership as well as the international AAFSW and Foreign Service communities well informed and constantly up to date. Indeed, since August 2016 when I was elected AAFSW President, we have methodically and diligently all worked together to update and revamp our communiqué with our AAFSW members via our AAFSW Website (www.aafsw.org), our monthly AAFSW Global Link newsletter, and our AAFSW social media presence.
As AAFSW members and volunteers, we all have many opportunities to discover the vast resources that our AAFSW organization has to offer. On many fronts, AAFSW and its volunteers represent our “voice” and work for us and on behalf of us. Since August 2016, AAFSW and its EFM Employment Working Group have advocated for the EFMs’ employment opportunities, AAFSW and its Evacuation Support Network, led by Ann La Porta, have helped Foreign Service evacuees, especially the families that came back from Russia and Venezuela during the spring, summer, and fall of 2017, AAFSW and its Family Crisis and Spouses in Transition Committees have helped at least five families navigate through challenging transitions, and, lastly, AAFSW and its Board members have been monitoring the changes that are affecting the diplomatic families with children with disabilities.
Over the last year and a half, AAFSW and its Program Chair, Sheila Switzer, have kept our many AAFSW members culturally engaged with many international events including presentations from Ambassadors posted in the USA representing countries such as: Hungary (Department of State), Afghanistan (DACOR), Cyprus (Department of State), as well as AAFSW visits to Embassies of various countries such as Germany, Austria, Myanmar, Australia, Tunisia, and to the Press Club of Washington, DC, etc. Since the summer of 2016, additional AAFSW events have included: a three member panel discussion on the expectations from the new administration (January 2017), an evening dedicated to Arabian culture and dining, Halloween party, Thanksgiving lunch, tea at the Hillwood Estate, a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, an Indonesian ASEAN Cultural event, celebration of the “Dia de los Reyes,” winter holiday parties, St. Patrick’s Day lunch, Images of Music, Mother’s Day lunch, a visit to George Washington University’s Textile Museum, a showing of the film “Ali and Nino,” a 4th of July Welcome and Farewell summer party, a visit to Twin Oaks’ Estate, a premiere performance of the Lullaby of Peace (at the Arts Club of Washington DC), and many more. All the while, smaller AAFSW groups such as the AAFSW French Group (chaired by Marilyn Wong Gleysteen) and the AAFSW Foreign Born Spouses (chaired by Sheila Switzer) continued having their monthly meetings.
On December 1, 2016, yet another AAFSW Committee was established: the AAFSW Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee, which I chair. The purpose of this Committee, as approved by the AAFSW Board on December 13, 2016, is to raise funds to benefit AAFSW and the Family Crisis Fund via fun and spectacular events, which, in some cases, can showcase and harness the unique talents of AAFSW members. Some of the most successful Fun For Funds events over the last year include a Valentine’s special Celebration gala at the University Club in Washington, DC (February 2017), a tour of Richmond and an afternoon tea at the Jefferson hotel (March 2017), a one-person comedic theatrical performance on the Shakespearian experience entitled “O Mistress Mine” (May 2017), as well as a wonderful musical soirée at DACOR, during which soprano Debbi Miller and pianist Jennifer Heemstra performed songs from around the world (September 2017).
AAFSW also handed out many scholarships (merit, volunteer, best essay, needs’ based) to Foreign Service youth (scholarships coordinated by Sherry Barndollar Rock) and was actively present at the FSYS Youth Awards in July 2016 and 2017, chaired by John Naland. AAFSW was also represented at the AFSA Awards in June 2017, where fellow AAFSW Board member Mette Beecroft, PhD and I helped judge the Avis Bohlen Award. In October 2016 and October 2017, AAFSW successfully held the 10 day annual Art and BookFair (chaired by Anne Kauzlarich; publicity carried out by Danuta Moon). This past fall, for the 57th Art and BookFair, over 62 AAFSW members (plus a Girl Scout and three Boy Scouts) volunteered to help AAFSW raise funds. In March 2017, AAFSW also held its Women’s History Month Event while, in the same month, many AAFSW members were invited to the Army and Navy Club to honor the role of the Military Spouse. Further, in May 2017, during the Foreign Affairs Day (at the Department of State), AAFSW members informed the Foreign Service Community of its projects as well as dedicated wreaths and honored both the FSOs and FS Spouses fallen abroad while at post. As AAFSW is one of the Foreign Affairs Council members, I recently represented AAFSW and participated in the PEPFAR Roundtable Session followed by the BCIU Holiday Reception honoring the State Department (December 2017).
Most importantly, AAFSW successfully hosted the annual Secretary of State Award Ceremony (SOSA) in November 2016 and 2017 and honored many of the Foreign Service Community volunteers for their altruistic efforts. There was a long preparation for the success of the SOSA Ceremony by Deputy Assistant Secretary Dierman in the Bureau of Human Resources and the HR Office Staff, by Global Community Liaison Office Director Frost and the FL Office Staff as well as by Mette Beecroft, PhD (AAFSW State Liaison), Yolanda Macias-Cottrell (AAFSW SOSA Chair), Barbara Reioux (AAFSW Office Manager) and myself, in my capacity as AAFSW President. For the first time in November 2017, in addition to all the distinguished awards presented during the SOSA Ceremony, on behalf of AAFSW, the AAFSW Program Chair Sheila Switzer and I presented a special AAFSW award, the AAFSW Lifetime Achievement Award, to Jewell Fenzi for being a pioneer in recording the Oral History of the American Diplomatic Spouse. This award was very timely as AAFSW and the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) are about to launch a joint effort to reboot the recording of the history of American Foreign Service spouses.
Every year, to honor our AAFSW members’ volunteer work, AAFSW and Elaine Neumann (a past AAFSW President), hold an AAFSW Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. In May 2017, celebrating the 10th annual AAFSW Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, in addition to a wonderful lunch offered to all AAFSW volunteers by the AAFSW Board members, for the first time, AAFSW presented four awards and acknowledged its “volunteers of the year” for their extraordinary efforts in helping with the Fun For Funds, Foreign Born Spouses, Book Room as well as the Art and BookFair. As the AAFSW President, I am dedicated to promoting the ideas of volunteerism, community and fun, which together can benefit AAFSW and its members’ spirit and camaraderie as well as bring success to AAFSW as an organization.
Additionally, as President, I am deeply honored and privileged to be surrounded by such remarkable and outstanding members and volunteers. While AAFSW advocates for our members’ needs and concerns, it continues to engage in our group’s diverse interests and incredible cultural heritage. As AAFSW’s President, I hope, believe in, and plea for your boundless support in helping me learn everything about something and something about everything that pertains to AAFSW.
And, as Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
May 2018 be a wonderful year for our great organization, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide! And, as always, enjoy your travels around the world!
Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President
AAFSW Fun For Funds Fundraising Events Committee Chair