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50

MARCH 2016

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

H

ow far can $4,395 go toward helping

others? At an orphanage in Haiti, it

saved lives.

Over the past two decades, the

J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust

has given out small but valuable

grants for projects all over the world.

The Haitian grant, made in 2009,

helped enclose and waterproof

two rooms of an orphanage, and build a third. The two existing

rooms had been open to the elements, and heavy rains made

them useless as classrooms. When Hurricane Sandy struck Haiti

Two Decades of

Volunteer Support:

Kirby Simon’s Legacy

The J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust is uniquely committed to expanding the

opportunities for community service to people associated with U.S. embassies and

consulates.

BY KATHL EEN SHEEHAN AND L I I SA ECOLA

Liisa Ecola (at left) and Kathleen Sheehan

are former FSOs who served with Kirby

Simon at the American Institute in Taiwan.

Ms. Ecola’s first tour was inWarsaw from

1992 to 1994. She currently lives inWashington, D.C., where she works

at a public policy research institute. Ms. Sheehan left the State Depart-

ment in 2007 after tours in three bureaus: East Asia and Pacific Affairs,

European Affairs, and Population, Refugees, and Migration. She cur-

rently lives inWashington, D.C. Both are board members of the J. Kirby

Simon Trust.

in 2012, the children in the orphanage weathered the storm in a

literal sense, taking shelter in the newly constructed rooms. They

all survived in the midst of terrible destruction.

The application was submitted by an Embassy Port-au-Prince

team of nine people, led by a husband and wife, Cecilia and

Jerome Oetgen, who volunteered at the orphanage, teaching the

children and sponsoring Christmas parties. Even though the

Oetgens were no longer at post by this point, their impact lived

on.

Stories like this—not all so dramatic, but all meaningful—

are why the J. Kirby Simon Trust persists in its mission: issuing

grants to members of the extended Foreign Service community

so they can give back to the places where they serve. Nobody

else does what we do.

What Is the J. Kirby Simon Trust?

The J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust was started by John

and Claire Simon in 1996 as a memorial to their son (see sidebar).

Kirby Simon, a first-tour FSO, died of accidental carbon monoxide

poisoning while serving at the American Institute in Taiwan in

1995. He was only 33. Anyone who knew him remembers that he

had a quick wit, was wise beyond his years and had an immense

interest in the demands and challenges of being an FSO.

FEATURE