U.S. Army Soldiers with Civil Affairs East Africa (CA-EA), a forward deployed element of Southern European Task Force - Africa (SETAF-AF) in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), participated in information exchanges called English discussion groups (EDG) at schools and learning centers in Djibouti.
Civil Affairs soldiers helped create an environment that encourages continued learning and potential economic growth in the local populace.
“Locals have been able to get jobs, even become teachers, with the English language skills they worked on during the EDGs held here,” said native Djiboutian Turki Ismail, a public engagement coordinator with the U.S. Embassy and an instructor at the American Corner, a learning center funded by the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti.
The soldiers conduct intermediate and advanced courses at the American Corner, helping students practice their new English language skills with native speakers.
“Topics of discussion are different for every class,” said U.S. Army Capt. Charles Fuks, a team leader with CA-EA. “English is encouraged during these discussions to help with fluency.”
At the Sunny Hill Hospitality School, where students train in the areas of housekeeping, reception, cooking and serving, the soldiers went over beginner to intermediate English with them by discussing key words and phrases focused on the students’ specialties.
“By being able to speak fluently in English helps build our confidence when speaking to others,” said Bahdon Ismael, an EDG student. “Groups like this open doors for us.”
The discussion groups aren’t purely about education; it is also a chance for military members and Djiboutian locals to learn about each other on a personal level by sharing similarities and differences.
During the discussion groups, U.S. Army Sgt. Wilnelia Moralez, a medic with CA-EA, told the students about her experience growing up in Puerto Rico and learning English as an adult.
“It was difficult, but not impossible to learn,” said Moralez. “Speak to one another in English. Practice, practice, practice; it’s key.”
The Civil Affairs soldiers concluded the final EDG courses with the Sunny Hill Hospitality School in Arta, May 20, 2021, and the American Corner, in Djibouti City, May 25, 2021. They hope to continue future EDG’s with other schools and learning centers in the area.