I’m thrilled to be elected AAFSW’s President for the 2020-2022 term. As the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, I have experienced unique opportunities and challenges living abroad like many of our members. My husband and I moved to our first post, Guadalajara, Mexico, in January 2003. Since then, we have lived on three other continents, started a family, and experienced some amazing opportunities personally and professionally.
One organization that is important to me was established in 1960. It was called the Association of American Foreign Service Women. Now the “W” stands for “Worldwide” as the organization continues to evolve and meet the needs of our members. AAFSW is the volunteer organization for the Foreign Service community. Our Board is made up of individuals volunteering their personal time for you – the foreign service community. Last year, the board clocked in over 3600 personal hours! Those hours were consumed by the annual Art and Book Fair, SOSA awards, lobbying for family member employment, representing our members’ needs on a committee which worked to reform the special needs education allowance (SNEA), supporting spouses in transition, supporting evacuees as a result of COVID 19, scholarships, planning programs and much, much more.
My first introduction to AAFSW was in 2009, when I was a recipient of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) for my volunteer work in Luxembourg. When we returned to Washington, DC in 2010, I felt disconnected to the foreign service. AAFSW provided me an outlet to feel connected again to the FS community. I have worked as the AAFSW SOSA Chair for many years (2012-2016, and 2019 – present) promoting the amazing volunteer efforts of our FS community. As SOSA chair, I have had the opportunity to network with high level Department of State officials and gain their support of SOSA and promote the grassroots diplomacy efforts our SOSA winners and nominees. One highlight as SOSA Chair and volunteer of AAFSW, was the opportunity to meet former Secretary of State James Baker and his wife Susan Baker. In honor of the 25th anniversary of SOSA, I traveled to Houston to interview the Bakers for a special video. I encourage you to watch this video if you are not familiar with it – https://youtu.be/BHb2O2J1cIE .
I look forward to your continued support of established AAFSW programs in these coming years. I also am excited to meet more of our members, and to work together to find creative solutions to further enhance our needs as we navigate a complicated world.
All the best,
Lara L. Center
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