Ironhorses Haul Heavy Load for U.S. Embassy, Djibouti

By Wayne Campbell

DORRA, Djibouti (CJTFHOA) — In an effort to strengthen the friendship between the United States and Djibouti, Marines and Soldiers attached to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa helped the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti deliver construction materials here.

Servicemembers from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron – 461 and the 1-294th Infantry from Guam, delivered building supplies to rebuild the Dorra Youth Center as part of the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Program, according to Rachel Dorsey, self-help coordinator for the U.S. Embassy.

“Without the help from the military our only other option was to drive the materials for a portion of the distance to the town and then use camels for the rest of the distance,” said Dorsey.

Under the management of the ambassador, the self-help coordinators decide how to distribute U.S. Agency for International Development funds for projects usually ranging $3,000 to $5,000, according to Dorsey.

Each year in Djibouti hundreds of requests for funding are received and because there is a limited budget only a small number of projects are selected. The projects selected impact the greatest number of people, have a community contribution of materials, labor or cash amounting to no less than 25 percent of the total project value, be within the means of the community to operate and self-sustaining, Dorsey explained.

The primary goal of the program is to improve the quality of life through small-scale development projects that are implemented at the lowest level. A variety of projects have received Special Self-Help Funds including digging wells, building cisterns, funding sewing and computer workshops, funding vocational training for boys, agricultural reinforcement through purchase of water pumps, seeds and tools, as well as a variety of income generating and educational projects.

“Each year we try to reach out to the remote areas and fund projects in all the districts,” said Dorsey.

The Ambassadors’ Special Self-Help Program in Sub-Saharan Africa falls under the authority of the Development Assistance policy of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, with such assistance funds appropriated to USAID.

USAID’s delegation of authority can be to ambassadors, making it possible for them to respond to requests for assistance with small community projects that promise to have immediate impact and may add to the advancement of U.S. objectives.

This can often be done within the basic structure of currently established community programs. For example, under a road project, the community can construct an essential footbridge, which has been virtually unusable or nonexistent during rainy seasons or the financing of sewing machines or other equipment can be arranged for a vocational training project or an adult education organization.

Frequently, communities would like to improve their living quarters or community buildings but are unable to do so without SSH assistance in purchasing a brick-making machine.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to all those involved in making this delivery of supplies to Dorra a reality,” said Dorsey.