1. Continuity: Our American volunteers and our Kabul staff are dedicated to this mission, and we work only in Afghanistan. Our representatives visit the villages regularly, including our founder, Budd MacKenzie, who has travelled to Afghanistan twice a year for 10 years as of 2005, 20 visits in all.
2. Trust: The trust of the villagers must be earned, but once earned, we become partners. We have learned over time who can be trusted and work through them. We find diplomatic ways to work around people who are only interested in benefiting themselves, their families and friends. We learned that we can trust our teachers to work toward the common good. They, like teachers everywhere, are passionate about helping children and those in need. Afghan teachers, who educate girls, are not only passionate, they are putting themselves at risk.
3. Small and flexible: Because our projects are small, we have not encountered the oversight problems that plague many larger projects in Afghanistan. We’re very adept at making certain our funds are spent as they were intended, while minimizing costs, self dealing and corruption. We quickly adapt to changing circumstances and we respond lightning fast to requests, often on the spot.
4. Low overhead: Since we are fortunate enough to be able to call upon our ever increasing number of volunteers, we are able to maximize the number of dollars spent in Afghanistan. The villagers know we are small and grassroots, so they willingly agree to volunteer their labor for construction projects without being asked.
5. Low security costs: Because Trust in Education is small and trusted by the community, we are their “guests.” Consequently we have not had to devote any of our funds to security, other than providing a guard at our office in Kabul.
6. Afghan priorities: Rather than providing what we think they need, the work we do emerges from the bottom up – they ask, we listen, and then work with the villagers to fulfill their needs in the priority they establish. The projects become less ours and more “theirs.” The best way to discover what villages need is to ask them.
7. Help girls by helping all children: We have been able to directly help educate girls, but we recognize that it is equally important to educate boys. Changing the status of women in Afghan society will occur only by educating both girls and boys. Educated men are much more likely to recognize the rights of women. Moreover, Afghan communities are more supportive because we support the education of all children. By including programs for boys, Afghans are more open to allowing educational opportunities for girls.
8. Hopeful, positive messenger between Afghans and Americans: We have become a messenger between Afghans and Americans. We present a positive view of Americans to Afghan people, who are often jaded by years of broken promises and the thirty years of war they have had to endure. And we enlist Americans—from school children to senior citizens—to join in the work we are doing. Through many speaking engagements and social media outreach, packing and work parties, we have been able to educate thousands of Americans who are now directly involved and connected. We deliver the simple, unencumbered message to Afghan communities that Trust In Education represents thousands of Americans who care, and that number is growing. In turn, we are asked to let families in the United States know how much Afghans appreciate their support.
9. Focus on education in both worlds: Finally, and most importantly, people in both worlds learn more about one another. Everyone discovers that they share more in common than not. We all are concerned about the future of our children, and can strive together to make their future better than the past.