By Staff Sgt. Gregory WilliamsJanuary 26, 2017
TADJOURAH, Djibouti -- A cool breeze sets under the blistering sun as kids play in the streets of Elimo neighborhood. The days here can be filled with fun and excitement for the children living at the SOS Village d' Enfants compound, but for the caretakers they can be stressful and exhausting.
In January, the caretakers responsible for the well-being of the curious toddlers and overstimulated kindergartners of SOS Village d'Enfants Djibouti participated in a three-day first aid event hosted by U.S. Army Soldiers with C Company, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion.
The Soldiers shared best medical practices and western medicine concepts with the goal of ensuring the continued health and safety of the children at the compound.
"Creating a lesson plan for this discussion group was very challenging," said Sgt. Brian Duckworth, a civil affairs team medic with C Company, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. "One of the biggest problems was our interpreter didn't have a lot of practice with medical terms. So this led to us doing a lot of charades and exaggerated actions to try and bridge the language gap."
The parent organization of SOS Village d' Enfants Djibouti, SOS Children's Villages has been working in the city of Tadjourah since 2011, identifying the most vulnerable families and providing them with support. Children who are unable to remain with their families are looked after by the SOS "mothers" in SOS family-based care.
During the three-day discussion group, the civil affairs team worked through the language barrier and covered topics like burns, bruises, sprains, fractures, open wounds, and common illnesses among children.
Duckworth said his U.S. Army reservist training had prepared him well for this mission, but his civilian career also played a key role preparing him for working with the Djiboutian people.
"In my civilian career I work in emergency medical services," Duckworth said. "We tried to tailor the class to the audience, which is how we arrived at hand washing, choking emergencies, and slowing the spread of viral and bacterial infections."
With PowerPoint presentations, hands-on classes, and live demonstrations with Soldiers acting as injured children, the team armed the staff with critical, first aid intervention information.
The information would prepare caretakers to assist children in emergency situations, instead of panicking when faced with a serious injury, explained Mohamade Ali, a head administrator for SOS Village d' Enfants in Tadjourah.
"SOS caretakers look after vulnerable children who can injure themselves whilst playing or at home," Ali said. "And it is important that our staff have the necessary skills to intervene and assist while waiting for an ambulance or medical intervention."
Ali said coordinating the discussion with the U.S. military was easy. They established a solid plan that would allow participants to observe and ask questions, making sure the "mothers" could comprehend what was taught.
With local governments and citizens struggling under the burden of rising medical care costs, areas like Tadjouri are susceptible to outside influence from forces who might take advantage of the poor.
As U.S. military forces continue to work with contributing nations to counter violent extremist organizations throughout the Horn of Africa, they do so by partnering with various nongovernmental agencies such as SOS Children's Villages.
These human capacity building projects are instrumental in promoting regional stability, especially when it means protecting those vulnerable to violent extremist organizations.
"It is important for the SOS to establish reliable partners that share the same vision and fight for the rights of the oppressed and the most vulnerable," Ali said.
The discussion group not only provided Djiboutians with a chance to learn the basics of first aid but also gave the U.S. Soldiers the opportunity to connect with host nation partners, a long-term benefit for everyone involved.
"These kinds of missions, in my opinion, are some of the best … that we can do for virtually no money or equipment, as we're able to connect with people personally and to help build stronger partners," Duckworth said.
"All of these community members, administrators, teachers, and caregivers were genuinely grateful for our time," he added. "I have no doubt in my mind [they left] with a very positive and personal sense that the U.S. really cares about them."