The Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad recognizes outstanding volunteer service performed overseas by employees, family members, domestic partners and members of household in at least one of the following areas: remarkable service to the American community, outstanding activities directed toward the host country, and exceptional service in emergencies.
Keri E. Dziuban – Windhoek, Namibia (AF Bureau)
Keri E. Dziuban, born and raised in Grand Rapids Michigan, is the 2021 winner of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad for the U.S. State Department’s African Affairs bureau. While posted in Namibia, Keri used her training as an expert in special needs education to turn around a struggling international school. On a volunteer basis, she took extensive action to identify and resolve gaps in the curriculum, improve the physical security of the campus, and recruit a highly qualified Educational Director. Keri states: “In my experiences with volunteering, I often begin with giving, but in the end I receive more than I ever could have hoped. By volunteering in my community, whether in the US or abroad, I am able to get to know my neighbors, see firsthand how the community’s values are lived out, share my skills and experiences with those I meet, and make lifelong friends and connections.”
Sean P. Doyle – Shenyang, China (EAP Bureau)
Sean writes, “For most of my time in Shenyang, I was one of the only male EFMs at post which was challenging but it also encouraged me to search for more opportunities to be involved in and stay connected with the Consulate community. I volunteered routinely to help with CLO events such as Halloween and Christmas parties and volunteered to host English Corner and “Thursday Night Lecture” events put on by PAS as a way to engage with the local Chinese community and share American culture and values. One of my largest volunteer commitments included helping the Control Officer with trip planning and logistics for CG Abella’s 4-day trip to northern China which I attended along with the delegation. A second significant commitment was planning, hosting, and starring in a Thanksgiving cooking show livestream event that reached over a million Chinese viewers. During that program, I demonstrated how to cook a turkey along with several common dishes and talked about diverse American traditions, history, and values associated with the holiday. Speaking to a live audience with that many people was totally unnerving but the experience turned out to be a lot of fun and one in which I learned a lot. Sometimes after the show aired when I would be out and about in Shenyang, Chinese people would approach me and ask if I was the guy who cooked a turkey on TV! Although there are many aspects of being an EFM that can be challenging, it’s also an opportunity to meet new people, try different things, learn additional skills, and step out of one’s comfort zone. I’m looking forward to seeing what new adventures lie ahead for my life as an EFM at our next post in Stockholm, Sweden.
Sari Heidenreich and Layla S. Murphy – Kuwait, Kuwait/Abu Dhabi (NEA Bureau)
Posted as diplomatic family members in Kuwait and the UAE, Sari Heidenreich and Layla Murphy (a college junior) supported the repatriation of Sierra Leonean domestic workers who had been trafficked to and/or exploited in Oman. Working with the organization Do Bold, they helped raise nearly $30,000, which supported 43 victims of trafficking and exploitation to see home again; organized repatriations logistics; provided direct education and empowerment to hundreds of women and conducted research to help the international community better understand how to address the underlying issues.
Layla states: “When I volunteer, I feel connected. The work I’ve done with Do Bold has led me to feel that most people in most places are mostly alike. We suffer different circumstances, and some of us are certainly more privileged than others—but we share some fundamental convictions. We largely agree on what makes us feel vulnerable and hurt, and we embrace in common the features of the good life and the importance of its pursuit. I find this universality deeply comforting, and above all, energizing: Empathy has driven me, and volunteering makes me grateful.”
Muliani Lyng – Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan (SCA Bureau)
Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Muliani Lyng has been posted with her husband, two children and two dogs in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Russia, Washington, and Kazakhstan. During her three years in Nur-Sultan, Muliani undertook a wide range of volunteer activities, including supporting Embassy families during the pandemic; helping operate a soup kitchen for the needy and summer camps for local children; supporting a fledgling animal shelter; and providing much-needed support to autistic children and their parents at a rehabilitation center. She writes: “Compared to the amount of work that Mother Theresa’s sisters are dedicating to the needy in Nur-Sultan, my support and help rendered was not much worth mentioning. The staff at the Green Pastures Autism Center where I had the privilege to volunteer also deserves great credit. The staff of these organizations are the ones who really deserve an award. My time serving the needy through the Mother Theresa organization and at the Green Pasture autism center, has taught me there is nothing too little or too small to share. The time, commitment, and the love you share provide positive and encouraging gestures in letting them know you care. Serving the less fortunate has shown me to look at life’s problems from a different perspective and to be thankful regardless of the circumstances you are going through.”
Janeth Peña-Heredia – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (WHA Bureau)
During her first tour as a Consular Fellow with the U.S. State Department in São Paulo, Brazil, Janeth Peña-Heredia established the no-cost English for the Guards language program with support from Consular managers and the Regional Security Officer. Janeth served her second and final tour in Rio de Janeiro, where she began the English for Facilities Staff program with support from the Consular Chief and Facilities Managers. These programs helped to build more inclusive Consulate communities, which created a space for meaningful conversations about systemic racism following the murder of George Floyd. The ongoing impact of these English language programs for local staff also included better opportunities for job advancement, improved workplace communication, and greater involvement of these skilled workers in the Consulate’s volunteer Community Engagement Committee in Rio. Janeth took on leadership of this committee, which carried out extensive renovations at an orphanage, organized beach cleanups, and secured donations of food and hygiene products for residents of a local community, Morro da Babilônia, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Janeth writes: “I volunteer because every little bit makes a difference and it’s what my mother taught us is the right thing to do. I have gained lifelong friends, warm memories, and priceless life lessons. I separated from the State Department in May. I live in New York City with my spouse and continue to serve Morro da Babilônia as best I can.”
2021 SOSA Honorable Mentions
Ian Arzeni – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (AF Bureau)
Ian writes: “Each weekend, I taught young Tanzanians how to skateboard at a youth recreation center in Dar es Salaam. This included the basic mechanics of pushing and riding, to more advanced tricks. The weekend classes often included more kids than skateboards, so the classes also reinforced life skills, like sharing, collaboration, and communication. Tanzanians do not have easy access to skateboards, so the first part of my volunteer work involved cold-calling companies in the U.S. to request donations. One company donated 40 boards and dozens of t-shirts. Family and friends pitched in to buy equipment and build a skateboard ramp that will last for years. Nike donated more than 80 pairs of shoes for the kids, many of whom previously practiced barefoot or in sandals. Skateboarding became an excellent diversion and opportunity for young people to learn a new sport and meet new people. As a kid I loved to skateboard, and to be able to share my hobby with Tanzanian kids and watch their progress was a highlight of my time in Dar es Salaam.”
Jennie Linton – Shanghai, China (EAP Bureau)
Facing restrictions on local NGO efforts in Shanghai, Jennifer Linton organized Consulate volunteers to create and deliver nearly 120 reusable hygiene kits to help girls attend school in India and Kenya. Jennie writes: Our Shanghai chapter of Days for Girls helped sew and distribute 120 reusable menstrual kits for girls in developing countries who do not have access to adequate supplies. Studies show that girls who don’t have menstrual supplies often miss school; and subsequently get behind and some even drop out. Days for Girls kits provide dignity for girls as well as allowing them to go to school even during their periods. Our group of roughly 40 women and girls, many from the US embassy and expat community, put in over 700 hours of service and produced over 120 kits. We were able to make deliveries and provide health education to girls’ schools in New Delhi, India and Nairobi, Kenya. We have more completed kits that we hope to deliver in the Philippines or Indonesia when COVID is not restricting delivery. I started this Days for Girls chapter in China in order to help my four daughters think about and serve others, and to contribute in a way to help allow girls to have access to sanitary supplies so they can finish their education. It was inspiring to see all the love and time that so many gave to helping sew menstrual kits for girls. As a group we felt connected as we served for a common purpose. In addition it was an honor to deliver the kits to girls. They were delighted and so grateful. I love the quote by Mother Theresa, ‘We need not do great things, only small things with great love.’ Really, it was a small thing but it had a big impact not only on the girls who received them but on all of us who participated. We felt more gratitude, connection, and purpose.”
Team Vaccine – Amman, Jordan (NEA Bureau)
Honorable Mention for the NEA Bureau was awarded to Embassy Amman for its outstanding Vaccine Task Force, in which over 70 volunteers, trained over the weekend, vaccinated more than 1,000 mission personnel against COVID-19 in just 1.5 days.
Amy Duhamel – Bogota, Colombia (WHA Bureau)
Amy J. Duhamel founded the volunteer group “Giving Hearts” in Bogota, involving her fellow EFMs and local volunteers in assisting Venezuelan migrants and Colombian families in need during the pandemic. Amy writes: “We provide groceries, baby supplies, warm clothes, blankets and other necessities to locals and Venezuelan refugees who were struggling due to the strict quarantine. We also held a Christmas event were we handed out wrapped toys for kids, grocery bags, hot meals, new shoes and clothes. The group has grown to over 100 volunteers and continues to assist those in need. We are currently planning another Christmas event for this year.”