THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
ow far can $4,395 go toward helping
others? At an orphanage in Haiti, it
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
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
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
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
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.