Washington, DC - Six winners will receive the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the Department of State. Secretary Kerry will provide videotaped remarks to congratulate the winners who are carrying on the proud tradition of helping others and highlight the 25th anniversary of SOSA. Deputy Secretary Higginbottom will highlight the winners’ exemplary service and present the awards at the ceremony.
SOSA awards recognize U.S. government employees, family members, including domestic partners; and other members of household at embassies and consulates who performed exceptional volunteer service to their communities, mission or host country, or rendered outstanding assistance in emergencies. This year’s award winners include:
Juliette Marsham-McClure – U. S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon
Juliette Marsham-McClure, spouse of John McClure, DOS, volunteered and managed the American Employees Recreation Association (AERAY) while posted in Yaounde. Starting as a board member, Juliette went on to fill the position of interim manager of AERAY. During her time volunteering for AERAY, Juliette looked at the finances and management practices of AERAY. She inventoried the commissary and undertook a complete overhaul of the embassy cafeteria where she worked with local staff to train them in proper food preparation and food handling techniques, reorganized the kitchen, and revamped the menu. Juliette further stepped forward to help organize the 2015 July 4th celebration where she worked tirelessly to make sure staff was properly trained and motivated. As interim manager of AERAY, she made certain AERAY participated as a major food vendor for the event, which was a great success!
Shannon Argetsinger – U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong and Macau
Shannon Argetsinger, DEA Special Agent, began volunteering as a baseball coach for the Hong Kong Little League (HKLL) in 2010, and became President of HKLL in 2012. As President, Shannon oversees approximately 500 youth players, 33 teams, 300 parent volunteers, and a robust schedule that begins in August and ends in March. In addition to Head Coaching during the regular season, Shannon has also served as the Manager and Head Coach for the HKLL Asia Pacific Tournament (APT) All Star Team for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Shannon also created standardized policies and procedures to replace outdated guidance that often times conflicted with Little League rules and procedures. During his tenure within HKLL, he has successfully implemented the traditional American Little League values of courage, loyalty, and character while building an inclusive, fair, and safe environment for all HKLL participants. Shannon has used baseball as a vehicle to share American culture with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese players and their families. His volunteer work with the HKLL has instilled a sense of understanding and acceptance among these diverse ethnic and cultural communities.
Ernesto Luna – U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia
Ernesto Luna, spouse of Janelle Luna, Public Affairs Officer, used his educational and professional background to create an English language program for the Slovak Diplomatic Police force. While stationed in Bratislava, Ernesto discovered that the Slovak Diplomatic Police force had inadequate training in English language skills and limited access to resources. Ernesto addressed this need by creating a specialized English language program for the police force. Using money from a grant, Ernesto purchased electronic tablets and teaching materials and designed a curriculum with three course levels. Each unit had its own electronic tablet applications, online interactive website material, Power Point presentations, and homework assignments custom tailored to meet the needs and professional interests of the students. Throughout the ten month duration of the program Ernesto continually revised materials for the courses and taught classes. The end result was a year-long, blended-learning English language program which increased the fluency and confidence of the Slovak Diplomatic Police force’s English language skills. The website with the custom curriculum is still active so students and other police officers who were not in the class are able to access it as a continuing resource.
Karen Forsyth – U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon
Karen Forsyth, spouse of Tim Forsyth, Political and Economic Officer, formalized and managed “Donations for the Needy.” Karen collected clothing, food, and household goods for Syrian and Iraqi refugees as well as for poor Lebanese families. Donation boxes were placed throughout the community to facilitate ease of donations. Karen receives, sorts, and delivers donations to various charities supporting those in need on a regular basis. These collected donations to refugees in Beirut are making a significant difference as many do not have the basic necessities. Additionally, Karen has supported the embassy community and has assisted in boosting morale by hosting a variety of social events such as afternoon games and open house pancake breakfasts. In a post where there are tight security restrictions, long work hours, and lockdowns, Karen is making a difference with her positive attitude, friendly demeanor, and important community work.
Allison “Sunny” Stimmler – U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Allison “Sunny” Stimmler, wife of Brian Stimmler, Public Affairs Officer, played a key role in strengthening the International Women’s Network (AIWN) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Upon arrival at post in 2012, she quickly became involved in creating a meaningful network for international women. Her book group, monthly lunches, and charity efforts brought women together for much needed support, discussion, and engagement. Serving as chair of AIWN in 2014-15, Sunny focused on expanding the group’s fundraising efforts and raised $4500 at a holiday bazaar that brought together expatriates and locals in an unprecedented celebration of local and foreign culture, totaling $12,000 raised by AIWN during the three years of her involvement. A large portion of the funds supported a local center for physically handicapped youth and adults through donations that included wheelchairs, uniforms, crutches, and exercise equipment. In addition to her work with AIWN, Sunny used her professional background as a teacher, writer, and editor to lead weekly writing sessions and workshops at the Embassy’s Information Resource Center. An average of 35 Turkmen consistently attended to learn how to write poems, essays, and stories. Sunny also volunteered her time to prepare young Turkmen for the U.S. college application process. Sunny’s efforts helped to inspire hundreds to engage for the first time in private charity, self-expression, and artistic creativity.
Carolynn Poulsen - U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile
Carolynn Poulsen, spouse of Christian Poulsen, ARSO, volunteered with a small NGO called International Community of Women (ICW) Living with HIV/AIDS Chile. The goal of the organization is to improve the quality of life and health conditions for women living with HIV and AIDs. Carolynn provided innovative solutions to ongoing HIV issues through her work with the NGO to 1) establish universal access in Chile to the female condom via a female condom campaign; 2) set up educational workshops to discuss and encourage positive sexual and emotional health, a strong sense of community, healthy relationships, and the defense of ICW Chile member’s sexual and reproductive rights; 3) establish behavioral change communications which sought to change fears and misinformation about HIV positive individuals and to improve general knowledge of HIV transmission in Chile via outreach with local and national media; and 4) develop gender policy engagement which influenced policy decisions on issues affecting women living with or vulnerable to contracting HIV. Carolynn was successful in working together with the Ministry of Health and National Women’s Services to implement changes based on Carolynn’s recommendations. Since Carolynn’s nomination was submitted, she has learned that the Chilean Senate approved the female condom for distribution in all public health centers.