Contact Us Press Releases AFRICOM Portal
CJTF-HOA Receives 15,000 Donated Books for Djibouti Schools
Members of the 9th Provisional Security Force unloaded more than 15,000 books from USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198) at the port of Djibouti March 20, 2009. <br /> <br />The Marine unit, comprised of Marine Corps reservists from Detroit, Minneapolis and
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - A pallet of donated books is offloaded from USNS Big Horn (A-TO 198) at the port of Djibouti, March 20, 2009. U.S. Marines with the 9th Provisional Security Force, in coordination with the not-for-profit group Books for Africa, organized the book collection and shipment of more than 15,000 books which will be distributed to schools and universities throughout Djibouti. (US Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)
4 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 4: DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - A pallet of donated books is offloaded from USNS Big Horn (A-TO 198) at the port of Djibouti, March 20, 2009. U.S. Marines with the 9th Provisional Security Force, in coordination with the not-for-profit group Books for Africa, organized the book collection and shipment of more than 15,000 books which will be distributed to schools and universities throughout Djibouti. (US Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Robison, a member of the 9th Provisional Security Force, Alpha Company, Second Platoon sorts books to be distributed to Djiboutian schools, March 21, 2009. More than 15,000 books were received as part of Project Handclasp, a program which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian and educational materials donated by various organizations. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser, U.S. Air Force)
4 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 4: DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Robison, a member of the 9th Provisional Security Force, Alpha Company, Second Platoon sorts books to be distributed to Djiboutian schools, March 21, 2009. More than 15,000 books were received as part of Project Handclasp, a program which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian and educational materials donated by various organizations. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser, U.S. Air Force) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - A forklift operator loads a pallet of donated books onto a truck at the port of Djibouti, March 20, 2009.  U.S. Marines with the 9th Provisional Security Force, in coordination with the not-for-profit group Books for Africa, organized the book collection and shipment of more than 15,000 books which will be distributed to schools and universities throughout Djibouti. (Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)
4 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 4: DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - A forklift operator loads a pallet of donated books onto a truck at the port of Djibouti, March 20, 2009. U.S. Marines with the 9th Provisional Security Force, in coordination with the not-for-profit group Books for Africa, organized the book collection and shipment of more than 15,000 books which will be distributed to schools and universities throughout Djibouti. (Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Members of the 9th Provisional Security Force, Alpha Company, Second Platoon sort books to be distributed to several schools in Djibouti on March 21, 2009. More than 15,000 books were received as part of Project Handclasp, a program which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian and educational materials donated by various organizations. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser, U.S. Air Force)
4 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 4 of 4: DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Members of the 9th Provisional Security Force, Alpha Company, Second Platoon sort books to be distributed to several schools in Djibouti on March 21, 2009. More than 15,000 books were received as part of Project Handclasp, a program which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian and educational materials donated by various organizations. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser, U.S. Air Force) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - A pallet of donated books is offloaded from USNS Big Horn (A-TO 198) at the port of Djibouti, March 20, 2009. U.S. Marines with the 9th Provisional Security Force, in coordination with the not-for-profit group Books for Africa, organized the book collection and shipment of more than 15,000 books which will be distributed to schools and universities throughout Djibouti. (US Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Robison, a member of the 9th Provisional Security Force, Alpha Company, Second Platoon sorts books to be distributed to Djiboutian schools, March 21, 2009. More than 15,000 books were received as part of Project Handclasp, a program which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian and educational materials donated by various organizations. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser, U.S. Air Force)
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - A forklift operator loads a pallet of donated books onto a truck at the port of Djibouti, March 20, 2009.  U.S. Marines with the 9th Provisional Security Force, in coordination with the not-for-profit group Books for Africa, organized the book collection and shipment of more than 15,000 books which will be distributed to schools and universities throughout Djibouti. (Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Members of the 9th Provisional Security Force, Alpha Company, Second Platoon sort books to be distributed to several schools in Djibouti on March 21, 2009. More than 15,000 books were received as part of Project Handclasp, a program which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian and educational materials donated by various organizations. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser, U.S. Air Force)
Members of the 9th Provisional Security Force unloaded more than 15,000 books from USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198) at the port of Djibouti March 20, 2009.

The Marine unit, comprised of Marine Corps reservists from Detroit, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, worked closely for more than four months with Books For Africa (BFA), a St. Paul, Minnesota-based not-for-profit organization.

"During our civil affairs outreach visits to the local villages we work with, we found there was a huge need for books in the schools," said Marine Chief Warrant Officer Jason Testa. "My commanding officer (Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence White) has ties with civil affairs, based on his deployment experiences and was able to reach back to a non-governmental organization called Books For Africa."

Founded in 1988, Books For Africa's stated mission is to end what it sees as a book famine in Africa by creating a culture of literacy and providing the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers and leaders here. With the help of the Department of Defense, BFA said it has delivered more than 20 million books to 45 African countries over the past 20 years.

"We have worked with the Department of Defense Funded Transport Program in the past, but this is one of the first times that we have had the opportunity to work so directly with a unit," said BFA executive director Patrick Plonski. "It has been a great opportunity, and we would love to do much more of this in the future."

The unit requested a couple hundred to 1,000 books, but Plonski said the organization could send 15,000 books.

"That was much more than our five schools needed," said Testa. "We will only need 5,500-6,000 of the books. We will give the rest of the books to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Civil Military Operations to send out. The books will not only cover the five local schools of Chebelley, Damerjog, Doraleh, Douda and Nagad, but all of Djibouti, to include the University of Djibouti."

The books, donated by publishers, schools, libraries, individuals and organizations, were sorted and packed by volunteers for age and subject appropriateness. The books are usually shipped in sea containers paid for by donations. In this case, to keep the cost down, the books were shipped on 20 pallets instead.

The Marines received assistance from the chaplain corps out of Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, who paid for the movement of the books from St. Paul to Norfolk, Virginia. with religious donations from church members.

The Marines also engaged with an organization called Project Handclasp to deliver the books. Project Handclasp is a program established by the Navy in the 1962, which coordinates transportation and delivery of humanitarian, educational and goodwill material donated by corporations, charitable and public-service organizations and private citizens throughout the United States. The U.S. military distributes donated materials such as clothes, toys, food and medical supplies to towns and villages in foreign countries on behalf of American citizens.

Even though BFA has screened and sorted the books before sending them to Djibouti, more than 50 volunteers from Camp Lemonnier will do one final screening and sorting of the books specific to each school's needs before the Marines deliver them.

"Delivering these 1,000-1,500 books to each of the schools will be a huge enhancement to what they currently have," said Testa. "This will double -- and in some cases triple -- what the schools have for an educational library. I have visited each one of my five schools and a lot of the books are archaic, out of date, in bad condition and many are stacked on the floor. To fix this problem, we are working with the Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 (NMCB 11) to build 65 bookshelves."

While in Djibouti, the Marines also participated in smaller projects including building sun shelters, making school improvements, and playing soccer with local kids.

"This project would not have happened without the combined and joint efforts from around the globe, to include the Marines, CJTF-HOA CMO and Seabees locally to the Sigonella chaplains in Italy, Books For Africa in Minnesota, Project Handclasp out of San Diego and the USNS Big Horn," said Testa.

PARTNERSHIPS OPERATIONS READINESS