DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti -- Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) engineers and civil affairs service members delivered refurbished desks and chairs to schools throughout Djibouti as part of their Desk Rejuvenation Project (DRP).
The DRP is a small, yet self-sustaining mission that’s been carried out by the civil affairs and engineering battalions of CJTF-HOA during the past year. The project focuses on creating a comfortable learning experience for students across Djibouti.
U.S. Army SFC Josh Barnett, 294th Engineer Support Company (ESC) member, was the project lead for the ESC’s portion of the desk program. Barnett led ESC service members on rebuilding broken chairs and refurbishing and sanding desk pieces to help make the desks they gather look good as new.
“It’s easy, it doesn't cost too much and it really helps the city out,” said Barnett. “The kids love the work we do and so do the teachers”.
The 294th ESC and former Alpha Company Civil Affairs Battalion refurbished and delivered approximately 400 desks to four schools across the country.
Earlier this month, they passed their mission and the DRP to the 1782nd ESC, who began making desk deliveries to both the Hali English Institute and the Annex 3 School. Their most recent delivery took place in October during which they delivered 15 refurbished desks for children at the Annex 3 School in the Balbala district of Djibouti City.
“We’ve delivered a lot of desks already,” said Barnett. “At Annex 3, we were even able to help build new swings for their playground to really help these kids have a more enjoyable learning environment. The headmasters’ are always super thankful when we come by, which makes it all the more worthwhile.”
Kamil Mohumed, Hali English Language Center CEO and Headmaster, shared this sentiment. Kamil works with Civil Affairs as a translator and hosts English Discussion groups for all ages out of his school. He’s been outspoken within the Djibouti community about the positive work that comes from the presence of U.S. military personnel in the country.
“I started my center off very small and provided some of my own chairs and desks for the students,” said Kamil. “ Now, thanks to Civil Affairs, I’m able to see my school grow. The work they do is really good for my community.”
U.S. Army Civil Affairs personnel work as the primary liaison between the Army and non-U.S. populations. In Djibouti, the Civil Affairs East Africa Team spends their weeks planning and organizing ways to engage and coordinate cross-national events and cultural exchanges between CJTF-HOA’s partners and the Djiboutian community.
U.S. Army Sgt. Allan Jefferies, CJTF-HOA Civil Affairs East Africa Team member, explained that while dropping off new desks might seem like a small win, these projects have helped improve conditions at local schools considerably and helped foster a bond between U.S. personnel and the local community.
“When we see there’s a need at these schools, it’s always great to be able to help fill that need,” said Jefferies. “As civil affairs personnel we try to really get involved in these communities and especially try to do things for the youth since they are the future.”
When their deployment is up, the 1782nd ESC and the current Civil Affairs East Africa Team will be replaced by new companies and personnel just as they replaced the 294th ESC and previous Civil Affairs team. However, just as each new team has made their own mark on Camp Lemonnier and the region, the DRP will remain an enduring legacy of Camp Lemonnier’s ongoing humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa.
Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa conducts operations to enhance partner nation capacity, promote regional stability, dissuade conflict, and protect U.S. and partner interests.