DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - The Community Development Center (CDC) 5 stairwell in downtown Djibouti City was packed tight Sept. 13 as more than 180 children rushed out of the building. Each child carried a bundle of school supplies, a T-shirt and a smile passed on to them by the U.S. Army 418th Civil Affairs Battalion (CABN).
The distribution of the welcome supplies resulted from a close collaboration between U.S. Army Maj. Michael Guiles, 418th CABN, and director of School District 5, Mariam Youssouf.
"The people come to me and tell me what problems there are in the community," said Youssouf. "I relay that to Civil Affairs when they come to see me." Youssouf has been in contact with the Army for three months, and when the CA team stops by, they always ask how they can help, she said.
Word went out through local media in Djibouti City that children from School District 5 could come to the center for school supplies. The particular CDC was chosen for the distribution to reach the most people possible.
Donations were collected by several organizations within Combined Joint Task-Horn of Africa as well as from stateside organizations. Supplies came from as far away as Oshkosh, Wis., hometown of 418th CABN executive officer, Lt. Col. Michael Hert.
"Education and health care are big priorities here," said Hert. "Donating school supplies is an opportunity for people back home to reach out and connect internationally."
District 5 children sang Frere Jacques before thanking the soldiers and going outside for a lesson on playing Frisbee with the 418th CABN. Asked if the children were always this lively, Youssouf replied, "There is always excitement when the Army comes."