By Amber O’Steen, Team Leader, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti
I’ve been on site for almost four months in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. I wanted to share a quick peek into my work with Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) so folks have an idea of what it looks like to deploy overseas with the American Red Cross. Here’s what a recent day looked like in the camp.
Morning: Red Cross Emergency Communications
I started my day with a 0530 phone call requesting information about an emergency communication message. Full disclosure, I am by no means a morning person. Never have been, never suspect I will be. However, I hopped out of bed with vigor and a sense of determination to get to the office as soon as possible. I needed to log into my case management system and get message details for the service member right away. After everything was said and done, I zombie-walked back to my room to shower and actually get ready for the day’s events.
One thing to note about our quarters: our rooms are large metal shipping containers that have been converted into bedrooms and have a tendency to get intensely hot in the East African sun. To combat this scorching heat, most rooms have the window completely covered with newspapers, cardboard, or in my case, tin foil blocking all sunlight from entering the room.
Afternoon: The Value of Volunteers
After giving a briefing to newcomers on the base, I trained a new volunteer on daily office procedures. Working with volunteers is always the highlight of my day. There is something inspiring about a volunteer who works six to seven days a week, for up to twelve hours a day, and still finds the time to volunteer for the Red Cross. This particular volunteer was very interested in organizing our office and making it more user friendly for our clients. Wahoo!
On this particular day, my new volunteer even brought a friend! More help around the office is always appreciated and welcomed. I discovered that not only was he very organized, but he had an outgoing personality to provide a warm welcome to those service members who might stop by to use our canteen.
We weren’t conducting any trainings on this day, but I also wanted to introduce you to LS1 Christopher Stauffer, pictured above. Stauffer is another Red Cross volunteer I work with here at Camp Lemonnier. He’s a health and safety instructor.
Evening: Support and Farewells
Later in the day, I met with all of the helping agencies in the camp. This meeting always provides us with an excellent opportunity to support one another in morale events and resiliency for the service members.
Right after that meeting, I headed over to the officer’s club (a.k.a. The Ward Room) to send people home with a hail and farewell gathering. Even though I had only been at the camp a few months, I made some wonderful friends that I had to bid farewell. It is always bittersweet, but this is the life of an SAF member.