In the spring of 2003, when his hometown of Lafayette, California began buzzing about the impending invasion of Iraq, attorney Budd MacKenzie became concerned that America would once again be torn apart over a war in a far-off land. Reminiscent of his college days during the Vietnam War, Budd decided to look for something his neighbors and friends might do that wouldn’t be divisive. He came across a Parade magazine article about the work of Greg Mortenson, who was building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Budd reasoned that everyone could agree that building schools and providing children with an education was the best long-term solution to solving problems in the region. He felt that he and his neighbors could come together to raise money to build a school.
He called Greg and learned about his plan to build a school in the village of Lalander, Afghanistan, that would educate both boys and girls. Greg said he needed to raise $25,000 to build the school, so Budd agreed to raise the funds. A few friends pitched in and over time they were able to raise $60,000 for Greg’s nonprofit organization, Central Asia Institute.
While spearheading the fundraising effort, Budd educated himself about America’s historical role in Afghanistan. After reading the book Charlie Wilson’s War, Budd concluded that we have a moral obligation to the Afghan people to help them rebuild their lives and country. (see Why Afghanistan?). At that point, he became personally committed to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, and in January 2004 he formed Trust in Education to continue that work.
In March 2005 Budd traveled to Lalander to see the school that his friends and neighbors had financed. After personally seeing the effects of almost thirty years of war (see Basics), there was no turning back. Helping Afghanistan was no longer a part time activity. It began and continues to consume the vast majority of his time.
Budd had an enlightening encounter during his second visit to Lalander. As he was talking, a village leader reached into his pocket, and pulled out a large stack of cards from other organizations. He said, “All these people came to my home and never came back. I thought you would be the same.” Budd understood right then that help in Afghanistan would have to be a long term proposition, based on trust and building relationships over time. He pledged to himself and the village leader that he would be back, and that he would be in it for the long haul. There are no quick fixes to bringing about meaningful change. Budd has gone to Afghanistan twice a year for six and one half years, a total of 13 times. Trust in Education is a highly regarded and respected organization in several Afghan villages. We keep coming back!
Over the past seven years, Trust in Education has expanded from one school of 120 children, to supporting classes in 10 villages that in 2010 helped educate more than 1,250 children. We have worked with the villagers to jointly prioritize their other needs, funding economic development projects and other wish list items, so they can better support their families. We have found sponsors for more than 75 street children, and we have helped some of the poorest Afghan families have food on the table and clothes on their backs. We have instituted pilot projects such as microcredit financing and solar ovens. We have supported improved health care, both through direct care and through providing supplies to hospitals. And we have a “play strategy” which supports playgrounds and soccer programs, both to improve school attendance and because we recognize how important it is to incorporate fun into a child’s day.
Our Afghan program directors provide daily oversight to the programs, allowing us to expand to several villages adjoining Lalander. With Budd serving as the messenger between American communities and Afghan villages, sharing what he has seen and learned through his many visits, thousands of Americans have become transformed into supporters. For those Americans who want to make a difference, Trust in Education has earned their trust. Trust in Education now has a solid base of supporters who understand that this work in Afghanistan requires a commitment over time. As Budd is fond of saying, “We can’t be short distance runners.”
We are absolutely convinced that the grassroots, human-to-human approach to humanitarian aid is the way to go. Small is beautiful. How do we know? The proof lies in the results, which are described throughout this website. Once you’re as convinced as we are, get out of the bleachers and join us on the field. We and they need all the help we can get.