Aiding Education One Backpack at a Time

ALI SABIEH, Djibouti (Jan. 16, 2012) -  U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Howard, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa radio transmission operator, passes out backpacks to children at Ali Sabieh Primary School 3 in Ali Sabieh, Djibouti, Jan. 16. The team delivered more than 5,000 backpacks to students in 16 schools in the Ali Sabieh area. CJTF-HOA Photo ALI SABIEH, Djibouti (Jan. 16, 2012) - U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Howard, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa radio transmission operator, passes out backpacks to children at Ali Sabieh Primary School 3 in Ali Sabieh, Djibouti, Jan. 16. The team delivered more than 5,000 backpacks to students in 16 schools in the Ali Sabieh area.

More than 800 students at Ali Sabieh Primary School 3 and Doudoubalalah Primary School 81 in Ali Sabieh, Djibouti, received backpacks Jan. 16.

The children were among more than 5,000 students at 16 schools in the Ali Sabieh area to receive backpacks from U.S. service members from the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, who spent two weeks delivering the backpacks.

The backpacks, which are inscribed with a phrase in French which means, "Education is a fundamental right of every citizen," were donated for distribution by the U.S. Embassy in cooperation with the Djiboutian Ministry of Education.

The Djiboutian Ministry of Education wanted to encourage the children to continue their education and send the message that it was their right and privilege to do so, said U.S. Army Major Edward Palacios, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion executive officer, CJTF-HOA.

"These backpacks are very beneficial to the children," said Aden Ismael Hersi, an Ali Sabieh resident. "Most children here come from very poor families."

Many of the children have to walk, sometimes for miles, to reach their school, Hersi explained, often while carrying their school supplies by hand or in makeshift backpacks.

Service members serving with CJTF-HOA civil affairs know what something as simple as a backpack means to the students.

"Things like this really motivate them to continue their education," said U.S. Army Specialist Leland Booher, Civil Affairs Team 4903 team member and a native of McKinney, Texas. "The amount of education each child receives drastically improves their chances for a better life."

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