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J U L Y - A UGU S T 2 0 1 2 / F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L
he Avis Bohlen Award honors the volunteer work of a
Foreign Service family member. As a result of Leila
Gupta’s efforts, a dilapidated school in one of Kenya’s
largest slums has been transformed, a library has been estab-
lished and a clinic has opened its doors, offering Kenyans and
expatriates alike mental health care.
Leila’s professional credentials as a trauma and grief consul-
tant read like a disaster junkie’s bucket list: Rwanda in the wake
of the 1994 genocide; Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of
Kabul; Sierra Leone following the rebel invasion; Ethiopia and
Chad with HIV/AIDS orphans; and Haiti following the 2010
She joined the State Department as an eligible family member
in 2002 with her husband, Jay Zimmerman. They have been
posted to Ndjamena, Port-au-Prince and Nairobi, where they
have been residing since 2008.
When Leila first visited Casa Upendo School in Mathare
Valley shortly after arriving in Nairobi, she was confronted with
impoverished children playing in filth and a school in name
only. The structure
was dilapidated,
learning materials
were nonexistent
and teachers had lit-
tle understanding of
curriculum develop-
“I found it
extremely distressing
to see 275 children
crowded together in
small, dark class-
rooms sitting on broken benches and muddy floors without a
pencil, slate or exercise book,” she explained. “Even more strik-
ing was the total absence of textbooks, teaching materials or
books of any kind in any of the 10 classrooms from kindergarten
to 8th grade.”
The experience spurred her to action. To raise awareness of
the deplorable conditions of the school, she e-mailed relatives,
friends and mission colleagues soliciting donations to renovate
the building and establish a library.
Working with Bishop BernardWambala, a respected Kenyan
community leader; Pastor Sammy, the school director; and
donations from the embassy community and others, Leila con-
tracted local carpenters and laborers to renovate the structure
The Avis Bohlen Award
Leila Gupta
t takes all kinds of people to volunteer to be an AFSA post
representative. Generally speaking, someone with an outgo-
ing personality would be the first type to come to mind. But
this year’s AFSA Post Representative of the Year, Jeff Jacob, dis-
pels that image. A modest, self-effacing, private kind of guy, he
is also a man with a mission.
From 2008 to 2009, Jacob’s first
assignment with the Bureau of
Diplomatic Security was in their
New York field office. He then
traveled to Kabul, where he served
from 2011 to 2012, and will be
moving on to Manila this month.
Before joining DS, Jacob served
on the New Orleans police force, a
job that also required working with
communities. So when the post
rep position in Kabul became
vacant, he volunteered.
Jacob instigated an AFSAmem-
bership drive — sending out mass
e-mailings and making personal appeals — successfully adding
newmembers fromKabul to the association’s roster.
As a result of his tenure
as post rep, a number of
individuals benefited from
his proactive support during
a variety of personal prob-
lems. By steering his con-
stituents to AFSA’s labor
management office, he
helped them cope with such complicated issues as discrimina-
tion, overtime pay and eligible family member employment.
His commitment to his role as AFSA rep did not end when
he went on R&R. Jacob continued to respond to AFSA emails.
And nearing the end of his time at post, he sought volunteers to
replace him as post rep.
Commenting on his post rep role, Jacob said, “I found it very
satisfying to help people in the community.” He describes his
position as “serving as the middle-man” between AFSA and
members at post by keeping them abreast of association infor-
mation, which requires frequent updates. He modestly charac-
terizes his role as the initial point of contact, with AFSA staff pro-
viding all of the support and guidance.
“I am glad I took the job, and I look forward to being active
and helpful in the association at my next post,” he concluded.
AFSA Post Representative
of the Year
Jeff J. Jacob
Jeff J. Jacob, winner of AFSA
Post Representative of the Year
Leila Gupta reads to students at the Casa Upendo
Continued on page 59
A number of individuals
benefited from his proactive
support during a variety
of personal problems.