Bazaar enriches bond between US, local community
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — Who hasn’t bought a souvenir from a place they have traveled? Trinkets that remind them of somewhere they visited during their military career.
For some people, making and selling souvenirs is a livelihood, and it is how they provide for their families.
In an effort to bring a taste of Africa to camp and boost morale for those deployed here, the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion worked with the local community to bring 12 vendors to sell their wares during a camp bazaar Oct. 27, 2013.
Bazaars like this have been brought to camp for years with vendors selling anything from carved animals, totems and masks to intricate handmade jewelry, rugs and clothes.
It is a convenient way to shop and interact with the Djiboutian people without having to arrange off-base transportation, but this year had a bit of a twist.
Along with the vendors there was a group of traditional dancers who performed several shows for those in attendance.
“With this new initiative, the civil affairs battalion is trying to bring a little more culture to camp in order to share and exchange with the Djiboutian people and build a stronger bond with the host nation,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jackson Hau, project officer for the battalion.
He said this wasn’t only a way for the camp to help out the local economy but also give back to some nongovernmental organizations that raise money for those less fortunate outside the gates.
Local Initiatives for Education International had several booths at the bazaar where they were selling goods to help fund their non-profit organization.
The organization helps teach the eldest daughter in a family a vocational skill—like tailoring, basket weaving or rug making—and with these skills they are able to make items that can be used to sell as souvenirs, Hau said. The money the organization makes goes toward teaching more women different skills.
With shopping, people are going to spend money, but Hau said he hopes that greenbacks aren’t the only things the event brought to camp.
“We want there to be something with longer effects from this, and we want to have some kind of impact on the community,” he said.
Community involvement is an important part of any deployment, Hau said. Through economic support one can build stronger ties with the host nation and have a long-lasting effect on the people who live outside the camp’s gates.
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa remains mission focused on enriching host nation relationships to strengthen its bond.