On Monday, January 10, 2011, the Honors College at the University of South Florida introduced many “Major Works, Major Issues” courses for the students to make their selection for the semester. There were many interesting courses to choose from, my top choice was actually a psychology class called “The Mind and the Brain.” To be completely honest, it was appealing to me and many other students because of its content and the fact that there was not much work involved to achieve an A. But as Dean Kleine was describing each course, there was one that stuck out to me not because it seemed easy, but because it seemed like a great opportunity that only comes once in a while. The course is called“Social Media, Social Change – One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace.”
The opportunity to have a hand in bettering the lives of children while simultaneously fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is an offer I could simply not refuse. That same day when we chose our course, our class was one of the only classes to actually get to meet our professor and talk about what we were going to accomplish this semester. Our Professor, Mrs. Liisa Temple explained the importance of literally one pen that her husband, SMSgt Rex Temple, gave a young Afghan boy during his deployment in Afghanistan. This pen not only signified a chance to have an education for the little boy, but also a chance for the United States soldiers to forge a bond with the Afghan communities through education. And so the School Supplies for Afghan Children project began.
During our second class meeting of the semester, SMSgt Rex Temple came to speak and present a slide show of his time in Afghanistan where he showed pictures he took and explained their significance. He also told us everything that the little boy told him in return for pen including information about where the Taliban were hiding their ammunition and other vital information. As I was listening to him speak, I was amazed at the amount of power that the pen had and that people were willing to take such huge risks to learn. I also thought about how some of the students in the U.S. take for granted all the educational opportunity here and the security of knowing that they are not on someone’s “hit list” for wanting an education. Seeing the atrocities of the world really helped me put things in perspective.
We started the course hitting the ground running as we began to pack the first shipment of supplies during our second class meeting. Looking at the amount of supplies at first glance, the task seemed a little daunting but with the help of the entire class we managed to get it all packed in a short period of time! I helped by writing out the customs forms for the shipments to be sent to certain people and then I got my hands in there with the unwrapping of the supplies and the packaging. We packaged and loaded about 32 boxes that day! It was actually a lot of fun and a great way to bond with our classmates. Did I mention that was for a great cause too? This class just has it all!
We had some visitors join us also that day that were from a local news station. I was very excited when we were first told that they were coming and the thought of being interviewed was thrilling. Humorously when I actually saw them starting to take video and asking students questions I became terrified! I found it funny when some of my classmates felt the same way and decided to become extremely concentrated in writing up the paper work for the shipments. At one point I had the camera guy literally over my shoulder videotaping what I was doing and I had to tell myself not to laugh about a million times before he moved on! That experience taught me that I am not as comfortable around cameras as I previously thought!
In reflection of our class that day, I must say that it has only made me extremely excited to learn what more we are going to be doing and what more I will be learning through this extraordinary course. I so enjoyed SMSgt Rex Temple’s presentation and just being able to speak to the soldier that started it all was so amazing. I also am very excited that Professor Temple will be our instructor as she appears to be completely enthused with this course and us as her students which seems to be contagious. After I left the class on Monday, I still wanted more and I predict that will be the way it is for the rest of the semester. I am overjoyed that I ended up choosing “Social Media, Social Change – One Pencil Can Help Bring Peace” and I cannot wait to see what myself, along with my classmates are able to offer this organization and to children and future of Afghanistan.