Rural schoolhouse renovation, Djibouti, March 2011
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Gabriel Zisk scrubs the walls of the Nagad Schoolhouse in Djibouti’s Atta Region on March 26, 2011.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Austin M. May, CJTF-Horn of Africa Public Affairs
Saturday mornings are filled with all the commotion one would rightfully expect on a forward-deployed military installation, and while most service members here have reported for duty, a select few may have the luxury of slumbering through the chronic high temperature of the typical Djibouti morning.
Not so, however, for the camp’s Community Assistance Volunteers (CAV), who braved the pestiferous heat and began their weekend at 7:30 a.m., when they boarded a bus for the nearby Atta Region to begin renovating the area’s only schoolhouse within a six-mile radius.
As for a facility in need of CAV elbow grease, the Ecole de Basede Nagad — or, Nagad Schoolhouse — is a perfect candidate. According to Sameh Ali Ahmed, schoolhouse director, the three-room, one-story schoolhouse has existed in a state of neglect for years.
“It’s been like this for a long time, so we’re very excited about this project — about having the Americans here,” said Sameh. “We’ve been trying to schedule this for a long time.”
Following a friendly huddle with Sameh and interpreter Mohamed Kamal Hamadou, the 14 volunteers went to work filling buckets with water and spent three hours scrubbing dirt and graffiti from the building’s exterior walls. Soon the sidewalk lining the front of the school turned blue as spatters of water, stained from traces of the facility’s previous indigo and white paint scheme, streamed across the cement.
“The entire outside of the school needs to be cleaned, wiped down and prepped for painting,” said U.S. Navy Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Sara Liming. “It’s going to be painted in accordance with locally approved colors – light blue on the bottom and white on top.”
The Nagad project is currently scheduled to last two months and, while the CAV must limit its volunteer work to Saturday mornings, the team appears to have given serious thought to their course of action.
“We’ll start with the cleaning of the exterior and then weekend by weekend, paint each section,” said Liming.
There are other projects associated with the school that the CAV is mulling over: constructing an edifice for students and teachers to cook under; building benches for students to sit on while eating; and coming to grips with a feasible way to improve the school’s plumbing system, or lack thereof. Currently, the institution’s only water supply consists of two cracked garden hoses attached to an ancient pump from which a thin stream of water dribbles into a communal sinkhole.
“These jobs have not been approved yet, but we’re very excited about the possibilities,” Liming said.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Matt Sullivan said he looked forward to the effort CAV projects demand.
“I’m prepared to get dirty,” said Sullivan. “I took it for granted that I had access to a good, clean school. Hopefully this volunteer work will give a child the opportunity for an education. The CAV is making sure they have a clean place to acquire the knowledge that will propel them through life.”
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