Djibouti School Tent Project 2017

With Amazing Help We accomplished something very important

In 2015, I went to Djibouti as a guest of Colonel Mohammad Farah, the previous Senior National Representative to CENTRAL COMMAND from that country. I was there to investigate possible solar water programs, but we also visited most of the country and met with people involved in education. One small isolated village above Lake Assal left a deep impression with me. The people surviving by sheer grit lived on this barren plateau where the wind was always blowing. This was their land and that was why they stayed. I met with the village elders in the battered remains of a UNICEF tent which was also the school for the hundreds of children that lived there. They asked if I could help replace that tent with something more substantial. I thought of the many durable tents that the US military were bringing back from Iraq and Afghanistan and thought that would be the first step in helping them. So I said yes and of course they wondered if I was just another visitor with promises that would fade in the future.

It took me a year and a half contacting all my friends at various military organizations, at first with no luck. CENTCOM, SOCOM, AFRICOM, SOCCENT….. before cycling back to CENTCOM where I mentioned it to the Commander of J4, Logistics, General Ed Dorman. He said he thought he could find some tents and he ended up finding 6 Blue Med Shelters made by Alaska Structures that were new and sitting in a warehouse in Dubai. Then he helped find free shipping with American President Lines who loaded them on a freighter that traveled to Indonesia before dropping them at the port of Djibouti. There the Djibouti Army took ownership and I had to find some help to get them assembled. This was no easy task and the two men from Alaska Structures had to leave before we could get everyone trained so I reached out to Camp Lemonier, the American base there. I found help in the Sea Bees stationed there.

At first I was told they could not help a NGO. After a some talking the Naval officer realized I was only there to help and they could make this a training exercise with the Djibouti Army.

Three of the tents went to Kalatbisan the village, one we gifted the Djibouti Army to use as a medical tent to help the many refugees arriving from Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, on went to a school for street children in the city of Djibouti and the final one went to the village of Douda for a school there. With all the tents came hospital cots, some we used at the clinic, some at the schools, and the rest donated to another clinic.

“I want to again thank General Ed Dorman, Alaska Structures, and American President Lines for their help —without which this would not have happened. This was an incredible story of help from many amazing people and I am glad to share the photos with you.” 

—Rob Rowen, President