Servicemembers visit African orphanage

  • Published
  • By Marine Corps Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald
  • Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa
A group of primarily female servicemembers from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa recently spent some time with the youngsters of an all-female orphanage here.

The troops, including a few former Girl Scouts, handed out candy which was donated by Girl Scouts from Lebanon, Conn., sang songs and even showed what the hokeypokey is really all about.

"This was really a great visit because it shows the girls here that there are people outside of the country that care about them," said Yonis Awad, the center's director.

The orphanage is home to nearly 300 girls ranging from ages 5 to 25 years old.

"These kids have no mother and no father. Usually, the parents are killed or the babies are found abandoned in a hospital," explained Awad. "Sometimes the mother and father have no job and can't take care of a child, so they send her here."

At the orphanage, girls learn practical skills such as baking and sewing. Once they leave the center, they are able to get jobs in town.

The girls also attend public school.

"It used to be that the kids went to school here (at the orphanage), but we realized that they were being cut off from everyone else. Now they go to school with other children so they can meet other friends," Awad said.

He went on to so say that it is great to have outsiders come to the orphanage and interact with the children because it allows the girls to see that there is much more to the world than Djibouti.

The candy was originally going to be given to the schoolhouse here. However, it was thought having female servicemembers with the task force deliver the candy to the orphanage would be more fulfilling.

"The visit was for the girls at the orphanage as much as it was for the women here at (Camp Lemonier)," said Army Sgt. Joseph N. Kilmer, civil affairs sergeant with CJTF-HOA. "Plus, the Girl Scouts who sent the candy will see that it went for a good cause."

During the visit, Senior Airman Jamie Grampp, a finance clerk from the 436th Comptroller Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, Del., said she had fun spending time with the children but wished she could do more.

"Being able to come and hang out at the orphanage gave me a feeling (of) purpose because it showed me who it was we're protecting by being in the military," said Grampp.

"Seeing how these kids have basically nothing, it makes me feel very grateful for what I have at home," she said. "It even makes me feel completely absurd for wanting a lot of stuff I thought I needed."