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Opening Up the Future in the Horn of Africa

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Tom Jones, Country Leader, Djibouti


Doing world-class education with refugees is never easy. One of the big issues we face in maintaining standards of quality in education is filling all the gaps due to language acquisition and missed time in school. In the Horn of Africa where we work, REI has partnered with the International School of Djibouti (ISD) for the last seven years. ISD was founded by a consortium of non-profits at the direction of the president’s office in Djibouti. English-based education had been a huge hole in the Djiboutian landscape until hard-working REI staff stepped in.


As a charitable organization, we are not just interested in a certain type of family or student who can afford high-priced, private education. We believe that, if we have space and can maintain the quality of the education we offer, we need to provide elite education for as many as possible. This is how we can include a young girl like Raeda.


Riyaad (right) with Zach Wells

Raeda came to Djibouti in 2015 with her father and mother because of civil war and instability in Yemen. She is their only child. Raeda’s father, Riyaad, works with REI staff Zach Wells developing a carpentry business. When they came to Djibouti in 2015, they lived in a refugee camp about six hours away from the capital city where we’re located. In a rural area, it is very difficult to access markets and educational opportunities for families. Additionally, education in the refugee camp can be difficult, a challenge to find qualified teachers, curriculum adapted to their needs, and quality educational materials (libraries, sports and activities, etc.).


When I asked her dad why he wanted her to go to school at ISD, Mr. Riyaad said, “We want Raeda to attend ISD because it will provide good opportunities for her future. We want her to learn English. We see English is the number one language in the world and we want her [to have] this chance to receive a good education. She does not get these types of opportunities at the camp school.”


Ms. Rylee with Raeda (middle) and a classmate

Raeda’s teacher and REI staff, Rylee Marchbanks got to see the development of this student over the course of this year. She fondly remembers: “Raeda was a joy to have in class. From the beginning she took ownership of her learning and always tried her best despite the language barrier. She continues to progress and comes in with a smile on her face and ready to work! It's a privilege to be able to teach and encourage her.

Raeda is why REI works diligently with partners and financial backers to raise scholarship funds to be able to accept students who would otherwise be excluded from private education. Imagine the future of children significantly impacted by REI teachers, administrators and staff who can give them an opportunity to grow and develop?

Raeda sitting at a teacher's desk at ISD




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