There is no denying that the U.S. as a country plays a prominent role in international politics, regularly weighing in on issues around the globe. Similarly, people from the U.S are increasingly having an influence in the lives of those around the world as well.
Every year, U.S. Foreign Service officers commit countless hours to help improve the areas in which they live and work. And every year, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide recognizes six of the most dedicated volunteers for their efforts. The AAFSW attempts to recognize the important role individuals can play in a community, even when it is not their own.
These Foreign Service workers, and one Embassy worker's wife, made contributions in a wide variety of ways. Some worked directly with those in need, like Edward "Mick" Davis and Chong Farquhar who helped in orphanages in Kenya and Armenia, respectively.
Others took a less direct route, helping to create systems to support needy individuals over the long-term. Maria Del Carmen Miller helped create a system to direct volunteer work in Quito, Ecuador. Sean Meyers, meanwhile, pushed for better healthcare for Burmese people working at the U.S. Embassy there.
Still others helped promote the individual rights of indigenous communities. Working in Tunisia at the dawn of the Arab Spring, Matthew David Meredith helped teach locals about the principles of democracy. Voice of America reports that his efforts led to the creation of two Civil Society organizations. And Nam Nguyen spurred an effort to promote understanding of gender and sexuality in Chennai, India.
These six represent only a small number of the many Foreign Service workers who have made contributions to their communities. The AAFSW celebrated the 20th anniversary of this award in 2010 and created a site to highlight the numerous projects that U.S. workers have begun abroad.
Voice of America notes that Foreign Service workers are far from the only people from the U.S. who have made contributions abroad. Volunteer opportunities abroad are offered by a number of cultural exchange organizations each year, and these organizations' participants seize the chance to make a difference. While fewer statistics are available on the outbound populations, the U.S. saw 8 billion man-hours of volunteering domestically, a number that represents a serious commitment to community-oriented work.