News: Operation School Supplies wields power of pencils
Story by Sgt. Andrea Merritt
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Aristotle once said, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.”
As part of Operation School Supplies Afghanistan, members of the Regional Command- East’s female engagement team program provided children with a few tools to assist in educational success.
At the Egyptian Field Hospital Nov. 10 and the Korean Hospital, Nov. 14, both at Bagram Air Field, volunteers distributed 350 kits filled with paper, pencils, rulers and other school supplies to children.
“We’re here to hand out school supplies to children and encourage them in terms of education and give them a sense of hope and empowerment,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Linda Holloway, RC-East FET program manager.
Holloway, a U.S. Army Reservist, believes deeply in the power of a good education and the hope it can bring, especially in war-torn countries.
“I actually am a college professor, so I really thrive on education,” said Holloway, a Huntsville, Ala., native. “I know that when a child is educated and a mother is educated, it not only changes the dynamic of that family, but it also impacts the dynamic of the community or that village.”
Holloway, currently on her third deployment, began her efforts to bring school supplies to children in 2007 during her first tour in Iraq.
Using kits provided by Operation International Children, she has been able to give out supplies each time she deployed.
OIC provided Holloway’s team with 900 school kits for her current rotation. To date, 650 kits have been distributed to children across the country.
In households where parents struggle to buy food, school supplies can be a low priority purchase and many of the children expressed excitement once they had their own kits in hand.
After receiving the kits, some children raced up to their parents with smiles on their faces, while others wasted no time rummaging through the bags.
“I like it,” said 5 year old Zainab, a first grader who hopes to one day be a doctor. “I don’t have this at home.”
Although Operation School Supplies was intended to give hope to children, it also has a profound effect on the people handing out the kits.
Many volunteers are Afghan natives who don’t see the mission as simply providing school supplies to children, but as a chance to provide hope to the future leaders of Afghanistan.
“Whenever I come here, I advise the children and tell them to go to school,” said Zarghoona Azizi, RC-East FET program women’s affairs advisor. “I tell them they will be engineer, they will be doctor, they can be a politician, or they can even be the president of Afghanistan.”
“When I see smiles and hope in a child, it is priceless ... I see hope on a child’s face and it’s like giving me a reward,” Azizi said.