I first traveled to Djibouti to scout out sites for solar powered water pump sites in January, 2015. With Colonel Mohamed Farah, who previously had served at CENTCOM as the Djibouti Senior National Representative as my guide we traveled most of the country. One of my trips we headed above Lake Assal, a beautiful salt water lake west of Djibouti City, the capital. It was a rough road but after 4 hours we reached a small village on a windswept plateau. The people of Kalatbisan had seen us coming for many miles on the torturous rocky and broken road and the women and many children were waiting for us, or rather for me. I was coming and there was hope that I would bring some help to a people living on the edge. There were many small yurt like homes dotting the landscape and a tattered UNICEF tent and a dome. The dome contained food that the World Food Program sent to feed the children that attended school. The tent was the last remaining one as the others had been blown away by the unremitting winds. In that tent we met with the village elders.
Their biggest issue was that many of their children were not attending school. They asked me for help and said if I was to help them build school rooms they would do the labor. They also asked if I was serious or just like many of the others someone they would never see or hear from again. I was determined to help and not let them down. They also need a well drilled to help them have clean drinking water rather than the water hole they share with the camels. Their other source of water was a cistern that had been used to catch water and it had been partially destroyed by the violence of the water sweeping through the Wadi carrying large rocks. I have put forth a proposal to work with the Ministry of Agriculture to bring their well drilling unit up there and to install a submersible solar powered pump to supply them with their own clean water supply.
The problem of the school weighed on my mind and I had an idea that for a start we could find some used tents returning from Iraq or Afghanistan and set up temporary school rooms. I contacted CENTCOM, AFRICOM, SOCOM, and UNICEF and was unable to find any. Finally with the help of a friend at CENTCOM with a big heart we found a supplier of new tents willing to donate 6 state of the art tents with a generator. Alaska Structures, a 40 year old company based in Anchorage, Alaska, bills itself as the world’s leader in Fabric Shelter Systems. They realized that their tents could make a huge impact in this region and agreed to donate them. The next step was finding transportation for the tents. American President Lines was also willing to transport these tents to Djibouti City for free. APL has been around for 160 years and working with our military is only one of the many shipping works it does internationally.
Once the tents arrive at the port of Djibouti City, the work of transporting them will be done by the Djibouti Army. Our liaison Colonel Mohamed Farah has arranged for truck transportation to the village and for a team to assemble the tents working with technicians from Alaska Structures who will be there to assemble the generation equipment. These two technicians are being flown to Djibouti by Global Action Coalition and their stay is being covered by the Djibouti government. There is interest from a major US Television network to do a national story on this project to help get the children of Kalatbisan back to school.
The Ministry of Education will send desks and chairs and teachers to bring the children back to school and the World Food Bank will feed any children attending school. This simple start begins a returning to school of hundreds of children.