Special Delivery: Much-Needed Supplies Donated to Ali Sabieh Deaf School
Service members from Camp Lemonnier's Friends of Africa Volunteers group partnered with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's Ali Sabieh, Djibouti, Joint Civil Affairs Team and the district's Volunteer Association of Education to deliver several boxes of school supplies to the Deaf and Speechless School of Ali Sabieh, Oct. 20, 2012.
The partnership, a first between the three organizations, helps to build and strengthen the U.S. relationship with Djiboutian institutions and enhance the school's ability to serve nearly 35 students daily.
"People are coming from Camp Lemonnier to bring this equipment; it will [allow] the them [to] learn more," said Souleiman Omar Bouh, the school's headmaster and sole instructor. "This relationship is good."
U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Eric Estes, JCAT Team Sergeant, noted the importance of the donations.
"The students don't have any supplies to begin with," he said. "You'll see the students just sitting in class and all they can do is listen to the teacher. They can't take notes. There's nothing to read. There's no pencils, paper, anything like that. This initial supply drop off keeps them on track."
The supplies included general everyday school items.
"We're donating notebooks, composition books, pens, paper, pencil sharpeners, erasers and a few toys," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Brown, FAV liaison to the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti. "The supplies come from a company called Operation International Children. They donate these supplies."
Unfortunately, the four large boxes of supplies will only last a short while and are very hard to acquire, according to Bouh.
"They have supplies here for the next couple of school months," he said. "[Now] they have the equipment to play and it's very important to the structure of the school. It's very difficult for us to have access or get funds to buy even a school book or pen because we don't have the funds for it."
According to Estes, the JCAT only recently began partnering to support the school, and the initial encounter was simply accidental.
"We were at the primary school right next to [this deaf and speechless school] and just happened to ask 'What is this building here?'" Estes said. "After the initial visit we came to find out that no [previous] civil affairs team had ever visited before."
Since finding the school, Estes has formed a special bond with the institute, its students and its teacher. He also learned an important fact about the school's headmaster and sole instructor.
"I work as a volunteer here," Bouh said. "No one pays me anything to do this job. I'm just doing this to contribute to those kids."
The school, which opened its doors five years ago, is staffed only by Bouh, who felt the need to bridge an education gap within his community.
"In my neighborhood every morning I saw a little deaf girl. She didn't go to school and she cried every morning," said Bouh. "When people asked her why she was crying she said because she wants to go to school."
So Bouh, with the help of the Volunteer Association of Education in his village, founded the school.
"Without the school, those kids probably would be home," Bouh said. "It's very beneficial. The students are happy and we are happy. It's something new and they're learning. They're learning how to read and write. It's very good for the community."
For the future, the JCAT plans to continue partnering with the FAV and Volunteer Association of Education to better the learning environment for the students.
"The bigger project we're looking at doing is building a wall around their play area," Estes said. "Behind us there's a road that cuts through their playground … it's very dangerous for them. Our idea is to actually build a wall for them. These kids deserve recess just like all the other kids and they also deserve the safety too. The school's number one priority is to get that wall buiLieutenant They've asked for our help and we're going to do everything we can to help them."
For Bouh, he hopes to stretch the school's reach by developing a transportation system.
"We want to bring all the deaf kids from Djibouti City and Dikhil here to make a bigger place," Bouh said. "This will be like a center for deaf children in all of Djibouti."