Camp Lemonier Service Members Deliver Footwear in Djibouti
Service members from Camp Lemonnier and the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa delivered hundreds of shoes to children in Djibouti, September 18, 2009.
The shoes were donated by children from Manchester United Methodist Church in Manchester, Missouri and the 374th Comptroller Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan.
A total of 285 pairs of flip-flops were collected by Manchester United Methodist Church's Children's Summer Mission Project, a church group consisting of 150 children from ages two to 12 years old. The items were shipped to the Camp Lemonnier chapel by Linda Simino, a member of the church and mother of Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Simino, who was assigned to Camp Lemonnier until August 2009.
"This was such a great mission project for our children's Sunday school," said Simino. "Families brought in bags of flip-flops, which we collected in a large red wagon."
Camp Lemonnier's chapel receives many different types of donations, and distributes them to various organizations, churches and orphanages. The Missouri delivery was one of many.
"Service members who go on community outreach events usually inform their hometowns of donation needs," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Mills, a religious programs specialist.
The 374th Comptroller Squadron from Yokota Air Base also contributed to the total by collecting 714 pairs of shoes.
"It was definitely an experience I will never forget," said Keller-Griffin, president of Camp Lemonnier's Echo-6 Association of Hilo, Hawaii. "My heart went out to every person I came in contact with, especially the children."
Echo-6, an association of Camp Lemonnier service members at the paygrade of E-6, promotes a spirit of camaraderie amongst the four U.S. military services working together in Djibouti. The association plays a role in donating books, clothes and shoes, among other tangible items to the Djiboutian community.
"The highlight of the event for me was seeing a 4-year-old girl's face light up when I handed her a pair of flip-flops," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Sonia Liverpool. "She kept pointing amongst the shoes for the pair that caught her eye. When I finally grabbed the pair she wanted, her eyes lit up and there it was, the brightest smile ever."
Djiboutians living in Djibouti City's District Seven neighborhood live side-by-side with ethnic Somali and Ethiopian villagers. Kennedid Osman, a Djiboutian national, working as an interpreter on behalf of the Puerto Rico National Guard here, has been trying to help this neighborhood for several years.
"We would like to get more support for these families and others like them from anyone who can help," said Osman. "They are also in desperate need of clothes."
This donation comes at the end of Ramadan during the Eid when the Muslim families give gifts.
"We were helping them by not only providing foot protection, but hope for that moment," said Petty Officer 1st Class Cortez Y. Keel. "As they were waiving good-bye with a smile of appreciation, I felt proud to represent the United States."