CAMP LEMONIER, DJIBOUTI -- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) recently provided assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the receipt of some 15,000 pairs of footwear donated to the people of Djibouti by Payless ShoeSource, Inc. of Topeka, Kan.
CJTF-HOA, in cooperation with the Salesians Missions charity organization and former Alabama Senator Jeremiah A. Denton Jr.'s National Forum Foundation, Project TRANSFORM, served as the receiving and transfer agent for the Payless ShoeSource donation, valued at nearly (U.S.) $200,000.
United States Navy Capt. Donald F. Lerow, CJTF-HOA chaplain, who assisted in overseeing the effort, explained the process saying, "Payless had a bunch of shoes they wanted to give to the people in Djibouti, so they got in contact with a Catholic charity called Salesians. Then the Salesians contacted the National Forum Foundation to help with shipping. The shoes were brought to the Djibouti Port and delivered to us."
Upon delivery of the footwear from the Port of Djibouti to CJTF-HOA facilities at Camp Lemonier, and on the recommendation of the Salesians Missions, Lerow contacted the Djibouti office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), who assisted in determining which NGOs would ultimately receive the Payless Shoe Source donation.
"We thought it best to let two charities have the shoes so that it doesn't seem any religious group is being favored," said Roger L. Botralahy, Djibouti UNICEF program commander. "We chose Caritas, a Catholic NGO, and Bender Djedid, a Muslim NGO."
Botralahy added that he is very pleased with the generous donation and noted that the footwear will benefit many of the people of Djibouti, as well as local refugee populations.
Payless ShoeSource, Inc. is North America's largest family footwear retailer and through the Payless ShoeSource Foundation, is dedicated to improving quality of life, regularly providing donations to the United Way among other charitable organizations.
The Denton Program is a non-profit transportation venture, coordinating the use of space-available U.S. military transportation, enabling donor organizations to ship millions of pounds of cargo at low or no cost to countries around the globe. The National Forum Foundation's Project TRANSFORM (Transportation for the Relief of Mankind) arranges for commercial air, land and sea transportation for United States donor groups to deliver goods to final destinations.
Prior to terms in the U.S. Senate, Denton served 34 years as a naval aviator, retiring as a Rear Admiral. Notably, he spent seven years, seven months as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was released on February 12, 1973, and received international attention as the spokesman for the first group of POWs returning from Hanoi to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.
Lerow plans to expand the CJTF relationship with NGOs, commenting, "Since this is the first time we've worked with these NGOs, we want to make sure everything works out well. Then, hopefully, we'll be able to work with them again in the future to further help the Djiboutian people."
The CJTF headquarters was formed to oversee counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa region for U.S. Central Command. In addition to detecting, disrupting and defeating transnational terrorism in the region, CJTF-HOA also is countering the reemergence of terrorism through civil-military operations and support of NGO operations to assist in enhancing the long-term stability of the region.