Female military personnel from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) donated more than 50 book bags containing school supplies, flip flops, shampoo, soap and treats to girls at Center Aicha Bogoreh in Djibouti on January 27.
Volunteers from the English-as-a-Second Language Team received the donations from fellow servicemembers, family, friends and organizations, including three chapters from the Federally Employed Women Organization, the Department of the Leadership, Ethics and Law, U.S. Naval Academy and Naval Legal Service Office Southeast.
"The girls are eager to learn but lack resources," said Army 1st Lieutenant Jody L. Glover, CJTF-HOA Cryptologic Services Group officer in charge and Signals Intelligence liaison officer. "The writing supplies will enable them to practice dictation and repetition. The notebooks ensure continuity in their studies, so they can review their work over time. The fun treats, like markers, crayons and candy, surely make learning fun."
The volunteers visit the orphanage twice a week to teach the girls, between 7 and 13 years old, English.
"We leave for the school in the evening after a full work day, and the volunteers are usually tired, but we are always so happy we went at the end because the girls make it so worthwhile," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Danielle L. Saunders, Camp Lemonnier Operations emergency management officer.
By the time the team arrives to the orphanage, the girls are gathering outside the school house, and the volunteers can see the children light up.
"The best thing about volunteering is getting to interact with the girls," said Navy Lieutenant Hollis N. Simodynes, Camp Lemonnier Staff Judge Advocate. "Our students are genuinely interested in learning English, and they are gifted with the talent to learn new languages easily. They were a bit shy at first, but they quickly became very friendly and spirited. In one of my classes, we discussed what the girls want to be when they grow up, and many of them said they wanted to be doctors."
About 1,800 people from the U.S. military, civilian employees, and partner nations make up CJTF-HOA, based at Djibouti's Camp Lemonnier. They work with nations in the region to provide a stable, secure environment, to include promoting education and prosperity.
"I really enjoy working with the girls," said Navy Senior Chief Legalman Alicia Barnes, Camp SJA staff legalman. "Although they are less fortunate than some, their love for each other and their willingness to learn is overwhelming. They have taught me many things about themselves and their culture, which has enabled me to better understand them. I have grown close to all of them, and I will miss them when I leave."
The center is the largest orphanage in Djibouti, caring for more than 325 young women and children, ages 2-22.