CAMP HARBI, Djibouti (Jan 9, 2012) -- Locals, dignitaries and Djiboutian and U.S. servicemembers gathered at Camp Harbi, December 29, 2011, to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the Alo Aska Library, which is located near the camp in Ali Sabieh, Djibouti.
"This library helps a lot," said Omar Idriss, Alo Aska Library board member and local middle school English teacher. "It is one of, if not the only source, here in Ali Sabieh where the students can go and read something."
The event featured guest speakers, singing, skits performed by local youth and a dinner. Additionally, donations were accepted during the dinner to purchase more books and supplies to enable the library to continue its support to the community.
Idiiss Iftin, a secondary school student who has used the library for three years, is one of many citizens of Ali Sabieh that has benefited from the library.
"I go every day. It is my second house," Iftin said. "When I go to the library I am very happy. I read English books, French books and Arabic books."
Among the supporters helping to make the Alo Aska Library a fixture in the community are members of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Team 4903, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, which is part of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.
"The team has been working with the library for a long time," said Idriss. "They are one of, if not the biggest partners, of the Alo Aska. They are a part of Alo."
Over the past few years civil affairs teams have built long-standing relationships with the Alo Aska Library.
"We helped buy some basic supplies such as paint, cement and such, and the civil affairs team at the time donated their own labor in conjunction with the local community," U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Xochitl Barragan, CAT 4903 team chief. "Here tonight, we donated some books."
The civil affairs team supports the library because it knows what it means for the community.
"We know education is key to a country's fruition, so we really support the library," said Barragan. "If we help them help themselves ... they can be a stronger people, a stronger community, a stronger country."