What started out as a son’s simple request is blossoming into a national campaign to supply pens and paper to school children in war-torn countries.
The Matthew Freeman Project: Pens and Paper for Peace was announced Thursday by Richmond Hill resident Lisa Freeman, the mother of U.S. Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman who was killed Aug. 7, 2009, in action in Afghanistan.
“If you knew Matthew, you know he was always wanting to help others,” Freeman said of her son during the Richmond Hill Rotary meeting at the Quality Inn.
In what would prove to be their last conversation, the Marine said, ‘“Mom, these kids are so cute and so nice, but all they want is pens and paper – more than anything, even food or water. Can you set up a fundraiser?’” recalled Freeman, a 30-year veteran school teacher.
Shortly after his death, Richmond Hill Boy Scouts honored Matthew Freeman, a former Eagle Scout himself, by organizing a collection drive of pens and paper that were distributed through soldiers at Fort Stewart Army Base to school children in Afghanistan.
Furthermore, around $12,000 was raised by the high school class of Lisa Freeman’s sister. That money, Freeman said, helped build seven schools and libraries in Afghanistan and gave more than 2,000 children there access to books.
One of the school mates that helped raise that money was Jim Bunn, an award-winning journalist with MSNBC who was embedded during the invasion of Afghanistan following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Bunn was on hand Thursday to introduce Freeman. He spoke briefly on the role of embedded journalists in Afghanistan before talking about his role in the Freeman Project.
“Last summer after our 40th high school reunion, I got an e-mail from a classmate about the death of her nephew,” Bunn said.
He helped raise the money that would later help build schools in Afghanistan and said he became increasingly interested in Matthew Freeman and his story.
“As I learned more about this young man, there was more I wanted to do,” he said.
“His was not a life lost. His was a life given.”
To help promote the national campaign, Bunn is creating a documentary on Freeman’s life, the creation of the Matthew Freeman Project: Pens and Paper for Peace and Richmond Hill’s response to the fallen Marine’s request.
“The community support was so overwhelming,” Lisa Freeman said. “Who would have thought that a community like this would come back with such a response.”
She said Pens and Paper for Peace will be registered as a 501 3(c) not-for-profit organization and will official launch, along with its Web site, on Memorial Day, May 31, though the location for this event has not been finalized.
With its headquarters in Richmond Hill, the Matthew Freeman Project will collect pens, paper and other school supplies in cities and towns across the country to be sent to U.S. military personnel for distribution in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn countries where children’s education has been disrupted by armed conflict.
While Pens and Paper for Peace organization is being established, Freeman said the help the project needs now is funding to get it off the ground. To get things started, she said the Freeman family will be making the organization’s first donation in the amount of $10,000.
Freeman said she feels everyday as though her son is sitting on her shoulder giving her encouragement as she feels her way through this new endeavor.
“A little bit can go a long way,” she said. “I really believe we can change the world by educating children.”
An account for the project has been set up at the Bryan Bank and Trust. Donations can be made to the Matthew Freeman Memorial Fund at the bank or can be mailed to P.O. Box 1299, Richmond Hill, GA 31324.