“The Oshkosh, Mid-Morning Kiwanis Club recognizes all children, whether they’re located in Wisconsin or Africa. Members understand they live in a global community.”
Past club President Michael Hert certainly understands. He is deployed in Djibouti as a lieutenant colonel in the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade of the United States Army Reserve. Part of his mission involves interacting with local communities, and a little help all the way from Wisconsin enabled him to bring Kiwanis’ mission of serving children along for a day’s work.
Hert’s unit supports the Combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and is part of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
“We are here at the invitation of the Government of Djibouti and remain committed to assisting our African partners in protecting their borders, assisting with matters of national security, counter piracy, humanitarian assistance and other efforts important to the Djiboutians,” Hert explains.
A Kiwanian for nearly 13 years, Hert has been deployed five times in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa since 2001 as a Civil Affairs Soldier. Support from his club members ensures his enthusiasm for serving others travels with him.
“As a club we have always made an effort to not only support children locally, but we’ve also wanted to be ‘international’ as well,” explains club President Michelle Wihlm. “We’ve had the opportunity to support the dedication of Mike Hert as he’s serving our nation. We’ve also supported a club member's wife who does a lot of work over in Kenya. We recognize the impact we have locally, but also believe we can have a really big impact, without a huge financial commitment, when we support some international projects.”
Hert has seen that impact firsthand. “While I was deployed in Afghanistan in 2012, the club sent children’s clothing which was distributed to Afghan children,” he says. “This was conducted in the women’s and children section of a hospital in the Paktya Province.”
This time around, Hert made the Kiwanis club aware of a different need: school supplies. Wihlm explains how a few members searched for sales on coloring books, colored pencils, balls, temporary tattoos and chalk. Others used business connections to reduce the cost of shipping. “We really had a team effort to complete this project,” she says.
Their generosity enabled Hert’s unit to visit a primary school in the village of Chebelley to distribute the supplies to the school’s children and director.
“The visit with the school was part of our continuing ongoing relations with multiple organizations in the area,” Hert says. “The citizens are very appreciative of the items received. Like parents anywhere, they want to see the best for their children and to have the opportunity for a good life. Whether provided with clothes or school items, people have been very grateful. The smiles on their faces and the friendliness that was conveyed, communicated to me that it was time and energy well spent.” — Courtney Meyer
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