2014 AAFSW Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad

Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 5, 2014

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 at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the U.S. Department of State.

Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom will deliver remarks to congratulate the winners and highlight their exemplary volunteer service.

The 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:

Sgt. Kyle Romero – Accra (AF)

Sgt. Romero, a Marine Security Guard in Accra, provided a variety of community aid and outreach programs while posted in Ghana. Sgt. Romero volunteered at the Children of Light and Haven of Hope orphanages during his time in Accra. He provided property maintenance, tutoring services, and distribution of material goods such as clothing, food, school materials, and hygiene items to the children in the orphanages. He raised $500 which was donated to the Children of Light and will aid in the completion of the school’s construction. Additionally, Sgt. Romero volunteered to be a motivational speaker at the Liberty American School. He spoke enthusiastically of the Marine Corps’ values of striving to live by noble morals and proper ethics.

Kerry Carswell – Sofia (EUR)

Kerry Carswell, spouse of Bruce Carswell, Army Attaché, is credited with her enthusiastic leadership, encouraging attitude and helpful nature for bringing the Friends of Lopyan charity group to another level. During her two years with the group, Kerry led approximately seven embassy trips to visit the school and boarding house, which serves disadvantaged children and where the group provided material goods, and organized fun weekend activities and holiday cheer. Through various fundraising activities, Kerry helped raise more than $4,000 which was used to secure medicine, clothes, school supplies and more, led a campaign to purchase 20 radiators, and lastly, worked with the Humanitarian Assistance Program to build a new kitchen facility for the children.

Shilpa Gadde - New Delhi (SCA)

Shilpa Gadde, the spouse of Patrick Gadde, DHS, founded Rescue without Borders, an organization that rescues injured, sick, orphaned and special needs dogs in India. She partnered with local veterinarians to provide emergency care to injured dogs. Once the dogs became healthy, Shilpa and others worked on rehabilitating the dogs and training them so they can be adopted in the United States and Canada. Shilpa formed a network of foster families and volunteers throughout the Northeast United States to assist in the rescue operation. Additionally, Shilpa created online advertising and fundraising campaigns to promote animal adoptions and worked diligently to generate awareness on the plight of the street dogs in developing countries and to encourage adoption.

Jose Ramirez Dorce, Fernando Marcelo Alvarez, and Liana Maria Alvarez - Mexico City (WHA)

Jose Ramirez Dorce, Fernando Marcelo Alvarez and Liana Maria Alvarez, spouses of FSOs, founded “Zapatos Rotos” [“Broken Shoes”] to help disadvantaged children in Mexico City. The organization was created out of a desire to assist the children of “Centro de Atencion Multiple #48,” a school for physically and mentally challenged children. The group engaged with local businesses and individuals, encouraging them to get involved in philanthropic efforts. Businesses agreeing to participate included Starbucks, which provides breakfast for the children and caretakers twice a month; MVS Radio Foundation, which provided hearing aids; and El Despertar, which offers equestrian therapy once a month for a group of seven children.

A brief synopsis of the volunteer activity that earned each winner their award can be found at: http://www.aafsw.org/awards-scholarships/sosa/sosa-2014-winners/

The award ceremony is open to the press. Media interested in attending should contact Public Affairs Officer Brenda Greenberg at 202-647-4282.

Pre-set time for video cameras: 9:00 a.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance.

Final access time for writers and still photographers: 9:30 a.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance.

Media representatives may attend this award ceremony upon presentation of one of the following: (1) a U.S. government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from the requester’s employer on letterhead verifying his/her employment status as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification (driver’s license or passport). Those who do not have a State Department building pass should allow adequate time to for security processing at the 23rd Street entrance.