On Monday October 16, a group of AAFSW Board members and volunteers from the Evacuee Support Network (ESN), in addition to members of the current A-100 class met a charter flight of families who had been evacuated from Israel. There were more than 150 family members and employees and many crates of pets. We were aided greatly by a longtime AAFSW member and former State Department & USAID official at post who knew to reach out to alert the EFN as soon as Voluntary Authorized Departure was publicly announced, to give us a heads-up to start mustering volunteers. We could not have done this without such lead time.
At the airport, the evacuees were helped by members of the USO who went out of their way in the baggage area providing food, drink, and toys as the passengers came through customs, and helping the families with their luggage. Outside, AAFSW volunteers greeted the families, passed out Snickers and other treats and walked dogs. Families were also met by members of the DOS NEA bureau, GCLO, USAID, and the military.
Most evacuees traveled onward the following day. However the ESN was able to find a mentor for one family, provide area school information for several families, and find a preschool near an evacuee’s apartment that had room for their child. It was able to link a family who was staying in another state with a volunteer in her town and provide information to a family staying with family in the West.
Some of the school and preschool information came from volunteers now stationed overseas. One of our ESN volunteers at the airport had babysat during the Venezuela evacuation, was stationed in Nairobi, and is now studying Hebrew at FSI.
I pointed several evacuees with technical questions to GCLOAskEvacuations. I sent information about a two part program on how to talk to children about war to the GCLO evacuation chair. Due to privacy restrictions we are unable to get the names of individual evacuees and must rely on social media and word of mouth and members to get the word out.
Ann La Porta, Chair, Evacuation Support Network