News: CJTF-HOA team supports English program
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and Camp Lemonnier service members joined hundreds of Djiboutians to recognize students' successful completion of an institute's English program during a graduation ceremony held at the Bender Djedid community building in Djibouti, July 7, 2013.
The Institute of Languages and Information Technology's English program, called Nour Al-Iman, teaches students how to write, read and speak the language through a variety of science, math and computer science classes. Thirty-eight students completed the program and received certificates at the graduation ceremony.
Nearly two dozen U.S. service members attended the ceremony to congratulate the students.
"We came to recognize the achievements and hard work by these students," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Berenson, who is the English Discussion Group program co-coordinator for CJTF-HOA and camp personnel with U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Todd Kenagy, a religious program specialist at the camp's chapel.
The English Discussion Group, or EDG, is a U.S. Embassy-sponsored program that gives CJTF-HOA and camp service members volunteer opportunities on several nights weekly to help Djiboutian students improve their English language skills, strengthen partnerships and learn about Djiboutian culture.
"Students always tell us they appreciate our help, but I benefit as much from EDG as them," said U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Arbour, an animal care specialist with the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion. "I've learned so much from the students. It's why I enjoy EDG.
"I'm very happy the students stuck with the program and graduated," added Arbour, a Monson, Mass., resident and frequent EDG volunteer. I'm proud of them."
The school’s headmaster and director, Mohamed Cheik Abdi Youssouf, said the institute was the first organization to participate in EDG.
"It started as a simple request from the U.S. Embassy as an experiment in culture and language," Mohamed said. "What happened became history. It was meant to learn English, but meanwhile we became friends."
Houssein Djama Omar, a former English teacher at the institute, attended the graduation ceremony. He said EDG plays a major role in helping students.
"EDG encourages students to learn English," Huessein said. "Most Djiboutians believe English is too hard to learn, but EDG changed that. After conversations with native speakers, the students feel comfortable using English and discover the language is easier to use than they thought."
Many Djiboutians are eager to learn English, Houssein said.
"With English, Djiboutians can pursue their dreams," Huessein said. "One of first questions universities from around the world ask students applying at their schools is, do you know English? And with many Americans in Djibouti, knowing English increases job opportunities."
Berenson, a 411th CA BN operations officer and a Washington, D.C., resident, was a guest speaker at the graduation ceremony.
"There's an African proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together," Berenson told to the graduating class. "We're in this together and proud to have played a role in helping you reach your goals."