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State Department Recognizes Foreign Service Spouse in Cambodia

Jennifer Yan, fourth from right, is among the recipients of this year Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) for her volunteering work in Cambodia.

The State Department announced the winners of a volunteerism award last weekend, with Jennifer Yan, whose partner worked at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, winning recognition for her work with local charities in Cambodia.

Recipients of the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA), were picked by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), which is a non-governmental organization that advocates for family members of foreign service members.

Jennifer Yan moved to the city with her husband in 2016, when he worked at the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh. The AAFSW said Jennifer Yan had donated her time and material support for charities such as Hope for Cambodia Children.

“During my time volunteering, I thought no one was watching you volunteer,” she told VOA Khmer during the award ceremony on November 20. “But, apparently somebody recognizes and appreciates it.”

The South Korea-born awardee was one of five recipients this year. The awards, established in 1990, recognize exceptional volunteer services by family members of U.S. government employees in their community, diplomatic mission or host country.

Having grown up in an orphanage, Jennifer Yan said she understood the value of support, be it through monetary or material donations.

“All my life, I have received from everyone,” said Jennifer Yan, who was adopted and brought to the U.S. in 1985. “Because I grew up in an orphanage, I know how it feels to receive.”

The award was presented this year by Susan Pompeo, partner of the current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said volunteerism was very much in line with core American values.

“Volunteerism is very American,” she said. “It’s the best way to convey who we are.”