THIS for Diplomats – Promoting International Understanding and Friendship
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Washington, DC: “THIS for Diplomats is probably the best thing that can happen to a diplomat in Washington, DC,” said Ambrin Hayat of Pakistan. "Were it not for your wonderful services, it would have taken us years to get acquainted with the many varied aspects of your nation’s capital, be it cultural, social or vocational. We particularly enjoyed going to American homes and learning about your customs,” said a diplomat from Egypt.
A pocket size brochure contains some valuable information about “The Hospitality and Information Service (THIS) for Diplomats” which was created at the request of the Chief of Protocol in 1961. It is a dynamic, non-profit, non-governmental organization with no political or religious ties. “THIS welcomes and assists diplomats and their families during their stay in Washington, DC. This promotes international understanding and friendship.”
“Open Doors … Open Minds … Open Hearts…” welcome the visitors to the website of THIS. The magnificent doors of the Meridian House – a part of the Meridian International Center – adorn the website as much as they are physical, a part of the residential jewel designed by the famous architect John Pope. Phyllis Kaplan, President, THIS for Diplomats, welcomed the guests as they entered this majestic edifice for the Spring Soiree 2013. A sustained team effort led by Executive Director Maryanne Laager and dedicated volunteers helped make this event, which included a silent auction, into a success. The silent auction items consisting of many interesting items were donated by embassies, generous individuals as well as participating businesses.
Accomplished artists like Amy K. Bormet and Burnett Thompson performed beautiful music at the Spring Soiree as the sun was gently setting over the horizon in Washington. Amy Bormet is an accomplished composer, pianist, vocalist and arranger. Her arrangements have been performed by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the Bohemian Caverns Orchestra. Burnett Thompson has had extensive experience in the classical Jazz and has brought musicians from around the world. Together, they made the Spring Soiree very special for the diplomats and the participants.
Any successful effort is a two-way street and diplomatic missions become engaged partners in helping THIS succeed in its mission. For instance, the Silent Auction at the Spinrg Soiree 2013 included “a dinner for 16 at the residence of the Egyptian Ambassador Mohammad Tawfik” and “five porceilain vase from Ambassador Namik Tan of Turkey.” The funds from the Silent Auction play an important role in helping THIS help the families of diplomats arriving from around the world in DC. This in turn helps diplomats focus on resolve some of the problems facing the world and in helping strengthen the bonds between friendly nations.
An army of dedicated volunteers, acting as “citizen diplomats”, go to great lengths to make over 4,000 diplomatic families representing over 180 countries of the world. It is a joy to talk to the volunteers, who seem very excited in doing what they do best. Their personal commitment enables THIS to greet newly arriving diplomats and their families to the Washington area with welcome receptions and information about the opportunities and resources in the local area. Countless hours spent behind the scenes were required and their hard work showed in the Spring Soiree 2013 at the Meridian House. Ambrin Hayat, originally from Pakistan, is one of those people recognized for making the event a success.
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