Foreign Service volunteers spread diplomacy beyond embassies

The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide presents the SOSA awards to honor Foreign Service volunteers.

American diplomacy does not end at the embassy gate. In fact, through the volunteer efforts of many Foreign Service employees and their families, U.S. goodwill reaches out to the host countries around the world.

As a way to recognize these efforts, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) presented the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA), during a ceremony at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The award program was started 25 years ago by then-Secretary of State James Baker and his wife Susan Baker, to recognize the volunteer efforts of Foreign Service members and their families while stationed abroad.

The 2015 SOSA winners are:

  • Juliette Marsham-McClure — U. S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon: Marsham-McClure managed the American Employees Recreation Association while she and her husband were stationed in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Working with embassy staff and volunteers, she reorganized the embassy commissary and cafeteria. She also helped organize special events, such as an Easter egg hunt and July 4th celebration.
  • Shannon Argetsinger — U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong and Macau: Argetsinger volunteered as a coach and president of the Hong Kong Little League, overseeing 33 teams, 300 parent volunteers and 500 young athletes.
  • Ernesto Luna — U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia: A career educator, Luna created an English language program for the Slovak Diplomatic Police force.
  • Karen Forsyth — U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon: Forsyth organized and managed “Donations for the Needy.” The program collected clothing, food and household goods for Syrian and Iraqi refugees and poor Lebanese citizens.
  • Allison “Sunny” Stimmler —U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: Stimmler served as chairwoman of the International Women’s Network, which raised money to help support a local center for people with disabilities. She also volunteered at weekly writing workshops offered through the embassy’s Information Resource Center.
  • Carolynn Poulsen — U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile: Poulsen volunteered with International Community of Women (ICW) Living with HIV/AIDS Chile, a non-governmental organization working to improve the health conditions for Chilean women living with HIV and AIDs.

Three other volunteers were recognized at Tuesday’s ceremony.

Sheila Switzer received the 2015 Tragen Award. She established the AAFSW Foreign Born Spouse group, to provide assistance, support and volunteer opportunities to the foreign-born spouses or domestic partners of Foreign Service employees while they are stationed in the United States.

Patricia Linderman received the 2015 Lesley Dorman Award in recognition of her five-year stint as the AAFSW president. During that time, she led a team of volunteers who established the EFM Business Owners Group, EFM Business Directory and the Foreign Service Hub.

Stephanie Arnold was the recipient of the 2015 Champion of Career Enhancement for Eligible Family Members Award. While stationed in Dublin, Ireland, Arnold successfully lobbied the Irish government to grant blanket work permits to all eligible family members once they arrive in the country.

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