CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan-- Service members of Task
Force Protector here have found a way to make a difference
for children in Afghanistan through Operation PENCIL.
Operation PENCIL, a volunteer program started in 2009,
promotes education throughout Afghanistan and encourages
children to learn. Volunteers distribute school supplies
and teach the fundamentals of writing. PENCIL, an acronym
for pencil, eraser, notebook, crayons, illustrations and
learn, says a lot about the program's mission.
The volunteer program originated as part of the family
visitation program within the Detention Facility in Parwan.
When families and their children came to visit detainees,
service members participating in the program would give
school supplies to the children as they left the
The program is now called Operation PENCIL and has expanded
to a weekly event, held at the DFIP entry control point,
where volunteers hand out supplies and encourage the
children to write and color.
"We use the toys to attract them and get them into
coloring and writing; the kids really enjoy it," said
Spc. Denise L. Brummett, entry control point specialist,
Task Force Hell Hound.
Operation PENCIL is comprised of more than 50 service
member and civilian volunteers who collect, organize and
prepare the supplies for distribution. They also work with
the children and encourage them to engage in the
"The parents are the hardest to get involved, so we
started putting things out that would attract them,"
said Brummett. "Once [the parents] warmed up to us,
the children [were] allowed to stop and play."
The service members are getting support from organizations
back home in the states. Operation PENCIL has received
donations from family members, churches, schools and other
organizations looking to help the volunteers in their
"The volunteers are taking advantage of the
opportunity to build relationships and assist in the
overall mission of winning the hearts and minds of the
Afghan people," said Capt. Mary E. Baars, chaplain to
the theater intelligence group, Combined Joint Interagency
Task Force 435.
The overwhelming responses from the U.S. allowed the
program to expand and open up the effort to a broader
Operation PENCIL has not stopped at school supplies. They
have distributed blankets, scarves, hats, gloves and other
warm clothing appropriate for the winter season.
"This boosts the morale of our volunteers and gives
them the opportunity to do something that makes a
difference in the lives of many people," said
"I have really enjoyed making a difference," said
The Service members volunteering their time with Operation
PENCIL have distributed more than 2000 bags of school
supplies to the local populace and 100 teacher supply
boxes. In the last six months, the volunteers have
coordinated seven Egyptian hospital visits, where they
distributed more than 700 bags filled with school supplies.