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Pens and Paper for Peace makes shipment

Honoring a hero

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POSTED: September 1, 2010 1:57 p.m.
Photo by Katie McGurl/

Lisa Freeman points out her son, Capt. Matthew Freeman, in a photo with his fellow soldiers.

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The unsung story behind The Matthew Freeman Project: Pens & Paper for Peace is that of a mother’s grace and strength in the face of tragic loss.

Having just observed the anniversary of her son Capt. Matthew Freeman’s death, as well as made the project’s first official shipment, Lisa Freeman is comforted by the knowledge that she’s making a difference in Matthew’s honor.

Freeman’s ice-blue eyes echo those in the photos of her late son. Sitting in her Strathy Hall home overlooking the bank of the Ogeechee River, where Matthew loved to dive upon his return home from the U.S. Naval Academy, she said the project has helped her to cope.

“I have had to push myself through some things that weren’t easy … but Matthew would’ve just gone forward, so what I went forward with was thinking of him.”

Pens & Paper for Peace seeks to collect school supplies for children in countries where education has been disrupted by war, in order to improve education and literacy. Branches of the project are now popping up all over the nation, in cities like Jacksonville, San Antonio and Biloxi.

Just over a month ago, Freeman, along with a number of student volunteers from Richmond Hill High School, sorted, packed and sent a large shipment of school supplies to Afghanistan.

At the post office, the clerk surprised Freeman by paying for the shipment in full.

“People just have blown me away with the kindness,” she said. “Here I am, full of joy that we’re getting this stuff out, and it brought tears to my eyes because it was really more joyful, the goodness of these people.”

Weeks later, Michael Jordan, a local documentarian on assignment in Afghanistan, was able to take video of the children receiving the pens and paper.

“They were adorable,” said Freeman. “ … just excited and passing things out to each other, and immediately opening it and showing how they could write.” She said the children wrote their names, family members’ names, and sentences such as “I like to go to school.”
A teacher for over 30 years, Freeman hopes to raise awareness about the Afghan children’s dire need.

“It’s not just that we’re collecting, but that everyone understands who we’re collecting it for,” she explained. “These are kids who have had nothing. Matthew said that he would take out a pencil and paper and he’d write on it and they’d think it was magic.”

Freeman said that seeing the children receive the supplies was “remarkable.”

“When I think that it’s been just over a year (since Matthew’s death) … seeing (the project) come to be and actually start to work, it’s amazing. I guess I hope that someday I get to go over and see those same children and see if maybe Matthew made a difference in their lives.”

Freeman’s long-term hopes for the project include making shipments on a weekly basis, joining forces with other like-minded programs to build and stock Afghan schools and libraries, and expanding to other areas of the world where education has been disrupted by war.

“I truly believe – and I know Matthew did – that if we can educate these children who have been denied education for several decades now, especially the females … it could change the world.”

For more information on Pens & Paper for Peace, and to learn how you can help, visit www.freemanproject.org

 

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