- Elizabeth “Betsy” Orlando (AF)
- Jameson DeBose (EAP)
- Marilyn Kott (EUR)
- Amber Boyd-Eiholzer (NEA)
- Gretel Patch (SCA)
- Megan Gallardo (WHA)
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Read Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns remarks about SOSA
Elizabeth “Betsy” Orlando
Betsy Orlando, a Foreign Service Officer posted in Abuja, spearheaded numerous projects and fundraisers in aid of the African School of Excellence, which benefits 500 poor and disadvantaged children, Hope for Survival Orphanage and the Abuja Children’s Home, where financial donations contributed to the purchase of medicine and medical supplies. Betsy served as vice president of the American Embassy Recreation Association and established two new Toastmasters chapters at post. She also partnered with other organizations to provide environmentally sustainable technologies to locals. She attracted the interest of Wishing Well Africa to provide clean water supplies and solar power to a school in Suleja; facilitated a partnership with Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) which recycled plastic bottles and constructed eco-friendly, low cost housing in Zaria; and provided recycled paper to a local organization to make “bricks” which are used as an inexpensive, alternative fuel source. This year, Betsy, serving as the Mission’s “Green Queen,” worked with the Nigerian Ministry of Environment to host a large scale Earth Day event at which the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) donated land to plant trees, including a small grove named after her.
Jameson DeBose, a Foreign Service Officer, provided strong and effective support to the Ban Kru Noi Child Development Center in Bangkok which helps local, disadvantaged children attend school. The center provides much-needed meals and extracurricular activities. Working closely with the center, Jameson encouraged fellow Consular officers to “give back” by coordinating events involving the children in the Consular Section’s Leadership Day. Later, Jameson spearheaded a project to renovate Ban Kru Noi. He was awarded a J. Kirby Simon grant for this expanded project at the center, which brought together the center’s staff and children with more than 40 volunteers from across the US Mission. Over the course of seven months, he developed a multi-day service event resulting in the improvement of the center’s building structure with a new roof, major clean-up and other repairs. In a city that receives nearly five feet of rainfall annually, the staff and children at Ban Kru Noi now have a safe, dry place to prepare food and conduct other activities. Jameson has also been an active member of post’s Quality of Life Committee and has continued to work on a number of projects both at post and in the local community of Bangkok.
Marilyn Kott, spouse of Colonel James Kott, Defense Attaché, and a retired US Air Force officer herself, has created and assisted organizations that serve the local and Mission communities in Pristina. Marilyn co-founded and manages “Clothes for Kosovo,” a means for Embassy personnel to easily donate used items. Since its creation in the spring of 2012, “Clothes for Kosovo” has donated over 1,200 pounds of clothes, along with furniture and food, to local charities. Additionally, Marilyn established and taught three levels of English courses for the non-profit organization, AYA Pjeter Bogdani. This provided low-cost English instruction for Kosovars and provided AYA with funds for its projects to promote cultural and ethnic diversity. Through her affiliation with The Ideas Partnership (TIP), Marilyn helped advance a sustainable enterprise for single women in rural villages to produce and sell handmade soap and cloth shopping bags. Marilyn also shared her time and energy with the Kosovo Shelter and Coaching Center for Stray Dogs, working on animal socialization and adoption. Within the US Mission, Marilyn led a team of volunteers in an 80-hour effort to design and paint the new children’s play area on the compound with cartoon characters. She also worked to expand Mission involvement in volunteer activities by creating a section in the Community Liaison Office newsletter called “Opportunities in Volunteerism,” which contains information on organizations throughout Kosovo that are in need of volunteer assistance.
Amber Boyd-Eiholzer, an Office Management Specialist at Embassy Amman, expanded that post’s Black History Month celebrations to a much higher level. She coordinated an extremely successful series of events, culminating in the sold-out Black and White Ball. The Ball, which raised a record $10,000, allowed the Embassy community to support local charities. Amber identified a local non-governmental organization (NGO) assisting Syrian refugees to receive a portion of the proceeds. The donation enabled the NGO to provide medical treatment for two young girls with hearing problems. Another donation went to a local orphanage for Jordanian children. Amber has also been instrumental in the Embassy’s participation in the annual diplomatic holiday bazaar, whose proceeds benefit the Al Hussein Society (AHS) for the Habilitation/Rehabilitation of the Physically Challenged. Furthermore, to promote cordial relations with counterparts in the Jordanian government, Amber organized a series of lunches for the two groups to get together and share ideas.
Gretel Patch, the spouse of an FSO, used her professional training in the field of educational technology to bring 21st century technology skills to underprivileged and at-risk youth in Nepal. Gretel teamed up with the English Access Microscholarship Program (Access), which provides intensive English language instruction to students ages 14-18. Calling herself the “EdTech DiDi” (the Nepali word for older sister, pronounced dee-dee), Gretel saw a chance to broaden the curriculum to incorporate computer and technica skills that educate, engage and empower the students. She traveled around Nepal to various Access centers, sharing her time, expertise and equipment with students in the program. She designed lesson plans incorporating slideshows, movies, presentations and interactive quizzes. She also encouraged students to explore the world around them by using her personal digital camera; video camera; iPads; and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) manipulatives. She continues to encourage and interact with Access students and teachers via e-mail and social media. Gretel has posted class materials, lesson plans and resources online for future instructors and students, thus allowing for the sustainability of the work she started. Gretel blogs about her project here: http://www.edtechdidi.com/outreach.html. A one-minute video about her work can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlftsLNTRlc.
La Paz, Bolivia
Megan Gallardo, an Office Management Specialist posted to La Paz, showed exceptional volunteer achievement under adverse conditions within her host country. Megan was initially approached by a Locally Employed Staff member for help collecting blankets to donate to a local cancer treatment clinic. After visiting the clinic, Megan decided to launch a project to improve the facility, applying for and receiving a J. Kirby Simon grant. After months of negotiating with the clinic’s director, in an environment hostile to U.S. volunteer efforts, Megan and a group of Americans and Bolivians made repairs to the building, including replacing the roof, repairing water damage, painting and cleaning. Megan also focused her attention on a Trafficking in Person’s shelter, helping young women rescued from sex trafficking. She raised funds to build a security wall around the shelter, as well as developing personal connections to the young women, sponsoring a girls-only prom and setting up professional workshops and mentoring for the girls. Megan has also raised money to provide and deliver lunches for disabled children at a local orphanage; purchased shrubbery and flowers to create a green space for Alzheimer’s patients at a local, low/no income nursing home facility; and taught a six-week English language course at the public university. She continues to aid a local animal shelter in La Paz.
View more photos of the winning projects on AAFSW’s Facebook page!
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