Service women teach English to orphanage girls in Horn of Africa

Published 5:07 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2007

By By JENNIFER REDENTE / Air Force Staff Sgt.
DJIBOUTI, Djibouti – Volunteers from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's English as a Second Language Team handed out various school supplies to girls at the largest female Djiboutian orphanage before starting their class Oct. 17.
The school supplies, which included spiral notebooks, notebook paper and pencil boxes containing pencils, pencil sharpeners and erasers, were for 100 students learning English.
The items were donated by the non-profit organization Spirit of America, which assists military members overseas to help people in need.
Donations such as these are important in assisting the team of female servicemembers who donate their off-time to teaching girls at the orphanage twice a week.
"Prior to these donations, all of the volunteer teachers did their best to develop lesson plans in order to teach our girls English, but the girls could not retain the information or do their homework as there were no materials," said Army Capt. Lucy K. Huff, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa training officer-in-charge and English as a Second Language Team leader.
"We now can give the girls books to read for homework as well as written homework assignments. This will make a huge difference."
The goal for Camp Lemonier service members is the same – to help the girls speak English, but what each person takes away is a different experience.
"I enjoy helping others and experiencing different cultures," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Danielle L. Saunders, Camp Lemonier operations emergency management officer.
For one Airman, it's being able to see the excitement the girls have when the servicemembers drive up to the building.
"The girls are so full of life and energy," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristi N. Gillespie, 81st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron aerospace ground equipment journeyman.
Gillespie, a Dowagiac native, added, "They are very enthusiastic about learning."
Another volunteer is excited to be able to participate in teaching young Djiboutian women a trade.
"Teaching English as a second language to our girls at the orphanage is what I look forward to all week," said Huff. "All of the girls at the orphanage look up to all of the volunteers, and it means a lot to them that people from Camp Lemonier are giving up their time to visit and teach a life skill, English."
The English as a Second Language Team originally began as a discussion group, but changed because lesson plans are created before each session. Girls are broken up into classes based on their level of knowledge. Currently, there are four beginner classes and one intermediate class.
The girls' orphanage is the largest in Djibouti with nearly 350 young women between the ages of 2 and 22 years old.