Thursday, January 29, 2015

Djibouti Final Day,

As I wrap  up my Djibouti Adventure I am left with some thoughts.  First the incredible support I have been given by the Djibouti government.  Though I did not meet the President this time, he had to travel to Saudi, meet the Turkish President and visit in Ethiopia, his help was felt.  Colonel Mohamed Farah, my friend from his days at Central Command Coalition was given a government car that because it had the letter A on it, many thought I was a visiting Ambassador or dignitary.  We were also able to travel across the water to the other side of the county saving many hours in a car with a Coast Guard patrol boat.  And finally our meetings with the Minister of Agriculture were so productive.  We will have many agreements on working as partners in Solar Powered water all over the country. 
As for the people of Djibouti I have so much respect.  I have met from one end to the other.  One a  young man whose father is a Chief Advisor to the President took me to the 5 Star Hotel to see the other world that I had missed.  The other end of the continuum was the many Nomads I have met, whose life it lived totally in the now.  They know nothing of 9-11 and other world affairs, but of their camels, goats and other livestock, their families in their little huts and how each day they will survive.   That they are sending their children to schools is hope for the future of change for these people. One afternoon in Carta, a small village in the mountains where the winds always blow, I found myself kicking a plastic bottle in a makeshift soccer game.  Even here Messi is their hero.  I see that Global Action Coalition can really help here and our education efforts will be met with support from the World Food Bank and the Djibouti government.  Simple things like sweaters will help keep these children healthy.  In several schools if we supply the building materials, the new classrooms will be the catalyst for other great things.  I think with help we can be the change we want to see in the world.  This Muslim country is not a hot bed for extremism and I always felt welcome.  Many times people talked of the help they have been given by the United States.  I have collected many great photos and wish I could include them in todays blog, but I promise when I get back to add them.  I hope that I will have touched you to think when you are feeling generous to help us.  Your support will go far and not be wasted.   Rob

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Djibouti views

I came to Djibouti to see if I could be involved in helping this country in two ways.  Water and Education.  Well it looks like we will be partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture to supply solar powered water to both existing wells and newly drilled ones.  Also if the technology of solar powered desalination is efficient we will be helping the many wells that have salt water intrusion.  This is so exciting.  As for the education project.  The needs are huge.  There are two populations we will be addressing.  One are the ones that live full time in a town and the nomads.  As we will be working in the countryside and one of the pressing needs as much of the area is barren and has winds blowing 100% of the time will be sweaters for the children. I could distribute 5,000 sweaters tomorrow if I  had them.  In one very remote area Kalatbi San, we can be a catylyst to help.  Right now 100 children out of the 1,000 go to school.  Why is because the only school room is a tent.  The other blew away.  If I build a school room we add 100 children.  The teacher assured me that I supply the materials, they will build it and then he can get more teachers and the World Food Bank will feed them lunch.  I also have a commitment from the Army here to transport the materials to the site for free. Now that is partnering.  So now lets start finding the money for some buildings. Other needs are school supplies, a lunch program, and this is just in a few villages I have been.   Please check out some of the photos that I am unable to include in this blog on Global Action Coalition Facebook page and share it.  Rob,   #water, #education, #nomads, #solar power, #NGO, #Djibouti.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My second trip was to an entirely different landscape.  The small mountains Level out to a wind blown plateau peopled with some small villages, many wandering nomads and the village of Acta.  This is an Afar village with a small school and a clinic across from the makeshift homes.  They rely on the water truck each week to fill the barrels and a cistern.  There was another cistern that caught the running water and was a 4 month reservoir shared by the village and the nomads.  Not sure what it will take to repair but seems worthwhile.  All over this landscape are concrete cisterns regularly serviced by these water trucks.  You see nomads and their tents all along the highway.  They have their livestock wandering around seeking vegetation to eat.  One clever man put his goats up in a small tree to eat the leaves.  Nobody bothers anyone else's animals whether in the city or the rural countryside.  I visited with the school master and one of his teachers.  They teach French and Arabic and most teachers are working with 2 grades at one time.   One getting a lesson the other working on an assignment.  He finds out who is not doing well from the tests then they help them.  On my Facebook page I put photos from the school.  They need more food as the food program is always short.  They have few real school supplies and simple things like more plates, small chairs and tables for their lunches would be huge.  Their big need is two more small classroom buildings. This will enable the government to supply 2 more teachers.  They have 2 different groups of children taught each day, one in the morning and the second in the afternoon.
Maybe tomorrow we will meet with the Minister of Education to learn more.  Finally how we can make a huge initial difference is by supplying them with sweaters.  It is cold here in the evenings being at higher altitude and little shelter.  My friend Mohamad said we should try to get a few extra large sweaters and give them to the Nomads we see. I hope this keeps you entertained and informed.   I told Suzanne what a perspective on our lives and puts our everyday challenges in a different light.   

Friday, January 23, 2015

What makes a country? Is it the people, the resources, or the land.  Why do people live clinging to a precarious life?   Here is Djibouti I was struck by the resourcefulness and determination of these people.  I spent the day with Issa people, they are similar to Somali, but proud of their uniqueness. I arrive with my friends Mohamad and Teth?, not sure his spelling but an active Army Colonel responsible for logistics and assigned to help by the President of Djibouti.  I can see this is important to him too.  As we pull up the village of Grand Douda meeting room and kitchen a line of beautifully dressed women welcome me. An old lady with a strong well lined face, who is the head of the Coop at here wants to know if I can help their children.  Some of the families are barely surviving and the coop tries to help, but those children would benefit from lunches every day.  If I remember there are 1200 that live here and survive from the few wells that they have.   I learn that when the children get to high school age only the ones who have family that they can live with in the city can continue to finish their education.   Travel the moderately short distance for about 70 children is unthinkable financially.  This is something I think we can do help them.  Does it mean finding transportation to rent, or buying them a bus?  Not sure, but In another area we travel to Small Douda to a farm where a retired Army Colonel has successful dug some wells and is growing many things plus raising livestock.  He employs 8 right now to work his farm.  He tried to help his neighbor dig a well, but a flash flood washed away all the work.    If we can drill a well and supply the water with our solar powered pumps we can create a mini coop of 15 families that can survive off this arid land.  The Colonel's farm is a model that we can use as it exponentially creates a lifestyle for those families and more that will be hired to help.  We also find another coop of 32 families that have made the land lush around them.  They live off a well drilled by the government 30 years ago, but it is not enough for all and their needs are additional water and fencing to keep their area sealed off from wild animals eating their plants and fruits.  The old man is proud of how they have done, but I can tell it is not easy for him and his responsibility to the coop is taken very seriously.  One man says so many come and promise to help and are never seen again.  This strikes me to the core.  I hope we can be the one he says did not let them down.    I hope this blog gives you a taste of my experiences as I am just sharing part of them and this is just the first day out.  Rob

Thursday, January 22, 2015

 There and Back Again.   Djibouti  A new country, new challenges new experiences.
      As I fly over the Atlantic Ocean, I have been reflecting why I do this.  There is an old African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone, If you want to go far go together”.  I watched a movie on the flight called the Good Lie, starring Reese Witherspoon.  It is the story of the journey of several Sudanese children from watching this families and village be destroyed and their remarkable journey to the US.   I will not lie it brought me to tears and also reaffirmed what I am doing.  I have been blessed over the last years with meeting many officers and their families serving at CENTRAL COMMAND from many countries.  This in a strange way led me on this dance.  First it was a request to help in Bangladesh and then on to Nepal with the amazing help of the friends and board members of Global Action Coalition.   Hemu Adhikari, who already had many contacts in Nepal and April Brinks Bailey and Dennis Meyers.   Of course the support of my wife Suzanne Golden has been essential.  I know she worries for me traveling like this, but I know she has my back and I think she believes in my abilities that help when I doubt.  When I arrive in Djibouti my friend who served at CENTCOM, Retired Colonel Mohamad Farah will be there.  He has arranged a meeting with the President and a car and help finding a safe and affordable hotel.  We will have many adventures and in our search for the beginning of a huge project.  What exactly it will end up being remains to be seen.  I know after watching that movie and remembering the children of Nepal that we have helped and will continue to watch over that the only way is for us to go together.  If you follow my blog and it touches your heart, help us.   Rob, #humanitarian, #Africa, #Djibouti, #Sudanese Lost boys