Secretary of State Awards for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad

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2022 SOSA winner for EUR Meredith Wiedemer

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2022 SOSA winner from AF Justin Wimpey

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2022 SOSA winner for NEA Deborah Stock

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2020 SOSA winner for SCA (Islamabad), Brendan Melchiorri

2020 SOSA winner for AF (Libreville) Michelle Collette

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2020 SOSA winner for SCA (Islamabad) Megan Johnson

2020 SOSA Honorable Mention for AF Melody McCambridge

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Zhou “Cecilia” Zhuang-Haas 2019 SOSA winner for NEA, Rabat.

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2013 SOSA Winner for EAP (Bangkok), Jameson DeBose

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2013 SOSA Winner for EAP (Bangkok), Jameson DeBose

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2019 SOSA winner for AF (Dar es Salaam) – Marcus Lamb

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2015 SOSA winner for SCA (Ashgabat) – Allison “Sunny” Stimmler

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2012 SOSA winner for SCA (New Delhi), Dr. Charles Wright

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2014 SOSA winners WHA (Mexico CIty), Jose Ramirez Dorce, Fernando Marcelo Alvarez, and Liana Maria Alvarez

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AAFSW presents annually the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) to recognize the most exceptional volunteer efforts by Foreign Service employees and family members abroad. The SOSA award was created in 1990 with the direct encouragement and support of then-Secretary of State James A. Baker and his wife Susan. AAFSW administers the award through generous contributions from former Secretaries of State as well as the Green Family Foundation and AAFSW members.

Since 1990, the program has honored more than 100 awardees chosen from over 130 diplomatic missions. SOSA awardees demonstrate outstanding creativity and commitment in improving the lives of others at overseas posts, reflecting the highest ideals of diplomacy and humanitarian leadership. Another key factor considered in choosing awardees is sustainability: these are projects that continue over the long term, reaching countless local citizens and helping illustrate to the world who we are as a nation.

The winners of the SOSA award are selected by a panel of representatives from AAFSW, GCLO and the Executive Director or representative from each State Department geographic bureau. Full profiles of these volunteers are published annually in AAFSW’s Global Link newsletter and on this website.

 See more about projects on this page. For more information about the SOSA awards contact


Quick links


Read more about previous winners

2023 winners, honorable mentions, and nominees of the SOSA Award

2022 winners, honorable mentions, and nominees of the SOSA Award

2021 winners and honorable mentions of the SOSA Award

2020 winners of the SOSA Award

2019 winners of the SOSA Award

2018 winners of the SOSA Award

2017 winners of the SOSA Award

2016 winners of the SOSA Award

2015 winners of the SOSA Award


SOSA in the News

State Department fetes Foreign Service families for their ‘volunteer spirit’ overseas, Federal News Network, November 28, 2022

Meet the SOSA winners, the heroes who strengthen diplomacy through generosity, State Department DipNote, November 23, 2022

‘Model diplomats’: State Dept. honors Foreign Service families’ volunteer work overseas, Federal News Network, November 24, 2021

State Dept gives thanks to Foreign Service’s ‘exceptional’ volunteer workforce, Federal News Network, November 25, 2020

Foreign Service volunteers awarded for ‘quintessentially American’ efforts abroad – Federal News Network, December 19, 2019

Former Grand Rapids resident receives national award for volunteering abroad, MLive, November 26, 2019

State Dept. recognizes spouses for overseas volunteer work, Federal News Network, November 21, 2018

Foreign Service awards go to volunteers who ‘dream big, hope big, and inspire others’, Federal News Network November 21, 2017

CIM Alum Wins Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad, Cleveland Institute of Music, November 14, 2016

Foreign service awards show American volunteerism at its ‘generous best’, Federal News Network, November 14, 2016

Secretary of State Award presented to woman with Utah ties, Deseret News, February 16, 2016

Foreign Service volunteers spread diplomacy beyond embassies, November 11, 2015

Foreign Service Journal article, January 2013

The Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad, EdTechDidi, December 12, 2012

State Magazine article, 2012

Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad Award, VOA, December 23, 2011

Group honors six for their volunteerism abroad, Washington Post, 2011

Grassroots Diplomats: The Inspiring SOSA Award Winners, Foreign Service Journal, 2009

SOSA Awards article, State Magazine, 2009

Article about SOSA in Cambodia


Watch the 2023 SOSA Ceremony

Secretary of State Remarks on SOSA, 2022


Watch the 2022 SOSA Ceremony

Testimonials from SOSA winners

The SOSA Award is important for the Foreign Service community because it increases public awareness of the vital volunteer work done overseas by diplomatic family members and officers and inspires them to intensify the desire to volunteer at all levels.

Sheila Switzer

AAFSW Program Chair

The best part of receiving the SOSA award for me was getting to meet the other recipients serving in different countries around the world. It was exceptionally meaningful to see the different ways each of us had volunteered in the communities at our posts, with each recipient doing something unique to their skills and the local context. As a family member, joining my husband on his overseas assignments is not only personally fulfilling but also is an opportunity for me to serve my country as well. 

Receiving the SOSA reminded me that my work on public diplomacy programming in Guangzhou, China was not confined to individual events but also contributed more broadly to U.S. Mission goals overseas. Volunteerism is essential to the U.S. Foreign Service both in the way officers and family members give back to the communities that welcome us but also in how we present our country to the rest of the world. The SOSA’s recognition of officer and family member volunteer contributions is a powerful, annual reminder of that.


Nicola Hil

SOSA winner

Winning the SOSA award has meant the world to me – it’s a recognition that giving back to our community matters and is an integral part of being in the Foreign Service. By winning this award, I’ve been introduced to new and amazing people and gotten new ideas and motivation for new projects that will make a difference. Past SOSA winners are some of the most creative and giving people in the Foreign Service!

Moises Mendoza

SOSA winner

It was an honor to be included in this incredible group of people who have made life better for others around the globe. Winning the SOSA Award has stirred me to keep giving of my time, talent and resources. There is still so much to do. 

Jane Thompson

SOSA winner

Awards are great and motivate you to continue serving others. Having received the SOSA award for our collective work in helping special needs children, the elderly and the less fortunate in Mexico has inspired me to continue serving others.

There is not a better feeling than to see the expression of a 12-year-old girl hearing for the first time because we were able to get her a hearing aid; helping a senior citizen seeing better with a new pair of eyeglasses; getting the host county to allow a group of special-needs students to use horses for emotional therapy; or being identified by your human scent by a bedridden blind boy.  

I am grateful for receiving the SOSA award particularly because giving is important in my life.  But most importantly, I am honored for being able to proudly serve as a goodwill ambassador for the United States government.

Less important is getting recognized with an award, but what is important is to know that what you do with love makes a difference and does not go unnoticed. 

Jose R. Dorce

SOSA winner