Special Announcement


Building Successful Communities (inside & outside WBFN)


Finding your tribe and setting up a strong support system in a new place are key factors in a successful relocation. Whether you have been in a country for some time or are just preparing for the next move, the following tips and observations shared by our members Mila, Olga, and Sadaf might give you a new perspective on how to build meaningful connections inside and outside of the existing network.


Olga Doubina – WBFN Member, former Local Connector in Uganda and Ethiopia

Overseas assignments can be an adventure or a struggle, or even a combination of both. For some of us, novelty brings joy, excitement, and motivation to challenge ourselves. If your adventurous spirit outweighs the part of you that craves routine and stability, then overseas assignments are just for you! Take a chance and explore new continents, countries, and cultures! Here are a few tips to help you navigate the change:

The easiest way to find your way in a new country is to have a guide there, someone who can take your hand and walk you all over. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of my role as a WBFN Local Connector in Uganda (especially during the pandemic) and Ethiopia (particularly during the volunteer departures). Try to connect with one of us before your arrival in a new place. You can acquire valuable advice and information in advance, such as what to bring, where to rent, which schools to consider, and so on. The more prepared you are, the fewer surprises you'll encounter. And in general, it feels good to know there are your people waiting there. The most common ways to get settled, connect, and find friends are through three channels: colleagues, schools, and embassies. Quite often, these avenues overlap, which makes it even easier. But be prepared, you will need to put in some effort – in many countries the options may be limited but it only means if you want to have fun you will need to organize it yourself. You could throw a BBQ in your backyard, have a regular Friday pizza and movie night for kids, invite musicians for a jazz concert or start a choir, set up a painting course for teenagers or have a boxing club for husbands, or yoga classes on your terrace, book club or poker every month - the possibilities are endless, just do what you’re good at and follow your hobbies and passions. The best part is you get to meet amazing people as many of us trailing spouses are amazing individuals! 


Sadaf Khalid - Regional Connector for East and South Africa

My adventure with the Family Network started in 2016 when I visited Washington D.C. for my husband's work assignment. During that one-month stay, he introduced me to WBFN, marking the start of an enriching chapter in my life. In 2017 I took the initiative to start the WBFN Pakistan chapter, initially with just four spouses. This small group quickly evolved into a thriving community, engaging in a plethora of activities such as coffee mornings, barbecue dinners, tree plantation events, and printer distribution drives, among others.

My journey didn't stop there. In Islamabad, I became involved with the Foreign Women's Association, collaborating on bazaars and organizing events to support underprivileged individuals. This work not only fostered a sense of community but also highlighted the power of collective effort in making a tangible difference in people's lives.

After moving back to D.C. in 2018, my focus shifted towards volunteering, particularly with the Teen Summer Program and CHP. I also joined a diplomat group, expanding my horizons through tours, lunches, and various events aimed at welcoming and integrating members into the community.

My commitment to building communities continued as I moved to Tanzania, where I assumed the role of Local Connector for WBFN Tanzania and later as the Regional Connector for East and South Africa. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our efforts were focused on supporting members through gatherings and collaborative activities, in partnership with the Asian Mama Group and a diplomat spouses group dedicated to fundraising for education and clean water initiatives.

Now, as I embark on a new chapter in Jakarta, my mission remains unchanged: to foster communities both within and outside WBFN. This mission is driven by my passion for helping others and my eagerness to learn from diverse cultures and environments. Through these experiences, I have gained valuable insights into community building:

Start Small: Every significant community starts with a few dedicated individuals. The key is to begin with manageable activities that bring people together.

Be Inclusive: Embrace diversity and make everyone feel welcome. Different perspectives enrich community experiences and foster a more robust environment.

Collaborate and Partner: Joining forces with other groups or organizations can amplify your impact and extend your reach.

Engage in Meaningful Activities: Focus on activities that not only bring people together but also contribute positively to society.

Adapt and Grow: As communities evolve, their activities and goals evolve as well. Stay open to new ideas and be prepared to tackle emerging challenges.

Building a community requires patience, dedication, and a genuine desire to make a difference. My journey through various WBFN chapters across the globe has been a testament to the power of collective action and the enduring bonds it creates. Whether in Pakistan, D.C., Tanzania, or now Jakarta, the essence of community building remains the same: connecting hearts and minds to achieve a greater good.


Mila Borukhova – WBFN Austria

Anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress, confusion, frustration, and excitement—these were just a handful of feelings I experienced during our first expat assignment. Picture this: on March 27th, 2005, we danced at our wedding in New York City, and the very next morning, we boarded a Delta flight to begin our new lives as husband and wife on an assignment in Moscow. We were both excited and joked that this assignment would feel like an extended honeymoon. I left my finance job in New York City without a second thought that day. Looking back, my 25-year-old self was delirious and delusional!

There was no support system, no friends or family to rely on, no cultural guidance—we were isolated, and I felt particularly alone. Six months down the road, I still couldn’t understand the culture. I experienced constant prejudice and racism, lost my career, and didn’t know how to prevent my mental self-destruction. That’s when I stumbled upon a quote by Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” "Building" became my keyword to start anew. I realized I needed to build our lives around a community—to laugh with, find support from, enrich our cultural experience, and find purpose. Thus, I made a plan to integrate into a community, which has now become the key to keeping myself, my husband, and our four kids happy.

Here are some essential steps we take as a family:

  • Joining a local religious affiliation for our spiritual well-being.
  • Finding international expat groups or interest groups such as the International Women’s Club and WBFN—attending their events and building relationships. Forming bonds with individuals who understand the unique trials of expat life can offer a sense of solidarity and comfort.
  • Searching for and joining numerous social media local and expat groups—expat groups are available in virtually any part of the world, and they provide valuable local information.
  • Volunteering—Contributing time and skills not only benefits others but also fosters a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  • Regular communication with family and friends back home—Maintaining contact with loved ones provides a sense of continuity and support, especially during times of homesickness or adjustment.

In essence, building a community as an expat spouse is crucial for fostering a sense of belonging, gaining support, and enriching the overall experience abroad. Embracing opportunities to connect with others, both expats and locals alike, is vital. Remember, you're not alone on this journey. As Goethe said, “The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”


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