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CJTF-HOA chaplain spreads goodwill to Djiboutians;

By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald | | May 26, 2003

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The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa chaplain facilitated a delivery of books, medical supplies and clothes to Bender Djedid, a Muslim non-government organization here, May 21.

A key element of CJTF-HOA's counter-terrorism mission lies in making a positive difference in the lives of the people in the region as well as their environment.

The items were donated by the U.S. Navy's Project Handclasp, which is an official program established in 1962 to promote mutual understanding, respect and goodwill through direct person-to-person contact between Americans and citizens from other countries.

Project Handclasp collects materials of goodwill from private donors then transports the items to foreign areas where U.S. service members distribute the goods to the needy.

"We received all of the materials from the Handclasp warehouse located at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy," said Navy Capt. Donald F. Lerow, CJTF-HOA chaplain. "After getting together with representatives from the task force, we were able to decide the best place to take the stuff."

During the visit to Bender Djedid, Lerow and Petty Officer 1st Class John J. Caudle, religious program specialist supporting CJTF-HOA, dropped off a truckload of materials.

Mohamed Mahyoub Hatem, the NGO's president, said, "We rely very heavily on the donations of outside entities. Most all of our projects are funded by charities of different countries."

According to Hatem, the mission of Bender Djedid is "to rid Djibouti of poverty."

In order to accomplish this mission, Hatem said the books will be used to teach many of the local children and adults. Approximately, 50 preschool-age kids attend school inside the Bender Djedid building.

As Lerow and Hatem agreed during their meeting, "The single best way to make the future of Djibouti bright is to educate her people."

The medical supplies will be used to treat the residents living near the facility.

In the end, the chaplain explained that this visit benefited both CJTF-HOA and the people of Djibouti.

Lerow said, "Community relations projects like Handclasp show the residents of Djibouti that we want to be good neighbors and we want to help them because then they genuinely want to help us when we need it.

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