Americans have a long tradition of volunteerism and charity work. In 2010 alone, nearly 63 million adults volunteered some 8 billion hours in local and national organizations. And this spirit of engagement does not stop at the border.
Americans serving in the U.S. Diplomatic Service extend a helping hand wherever they are stationed. And every year, the U.S. Department of State recognizes six of its own for their charitable work while stationed abroad, through the Secretary of State Award For Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad. The award is sponsored by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, a non-profit organization that supports U.S. Foreign Service officers and their families.
Edward Davis and Chong Farquhar worked with orphanages. Mr. Davis worked to improve the lives of some 450 children at the Ring Road Orphanage and the Jones Clinic in Kisumu, Kenya.
Ms. Farquhar volunteered at an orphanage for special needs children in Yerevan, Armenia.
Inspired by the events during the Tunisian revolution and recognizing the historic opportunity to support the development of a nascent democracy, Matthew David Meredith, an Arabic language student, initiated a series of public programs dealing with how democracy works. As a result of his work to empower Tunisians to build their democracy, two new Civil Society organizations were born.
In Rangoon, Burma, Sean Myers helped to improve the lives of local workers who maintain the U.S. Embassy, by creating a fund for medical treatment benefiting them and their families.
Nam Nguyen directly inspired the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai, India, to take a leading role in promoting equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, or LGBT persons.
Maria Del Carmen Miller, the wife of an Embassy employee in Quito, Ecuador, spearheaded the creation of a service organization that raises funds and coordinates volunteer effort to assist Ecuadorians in need.
Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
By engaging with the less fortunate around them, by lending a helping hand, this year’s laureates have indeed changed the world around them.