It’s not about changing a culture, it’s not about borders — it’s about education.
At least that’s how Budd MacKenzie views it. To bring education and schools to the places that need and want it is the goal of the non-profit he founded in January 2004, Trust in Education. Educating children in impoverished and war-torn villages in Afghanistan is where he’s set his sights.
“The solution to damn near everything is education,” MacKenzie said. “And so there could come a time, there should come a time, when you have a sufficiently educated population to bootstrap a village up above survival mode.”
To date Trust in Education has donated materials for schools in 10 villages where citizens of those villages volunteered to build the structures themselves. Those schools have educated over 500 boys and 750 girls and a new school for 350 girls is almost finished in the village of Farza.
Trust in Education is run out of Lafayette, Calif. where MacKenzie was a lawyer and lives full-time. He has a summer home on Swan Lake and recently spoke at a Bigfork Rotary Club meeting to help bring awareness of the non-profit to the area.
Helping build schools is one way for MacKenzie to help make up for some of the damage he feels the United States has done throughout the war and over the last four decades.
“I’ve seen the impact of 32 years of war,” MacKenzie said. “When you realize that the conditions in Afghanistan, a significant measure of it, not all of it, are a product of our being involved in Afghanistan, then I feel that we have an obligation to rebuild their lives.”
It should be done directly, person-to-person, is how MacKenzie puts it. One of the ways Trust in Education works person-to-person is by having families in the United States sponsor a street child’s education.
It costs $40 a month.
MacKenzie said $40 is about the income a child can bring in per month for their family by selling wares, playing music or doing other work. That street income is replaced by the sponsor family, and the child gets paid to go to school.
One of the children that received a sponsorship was selling pencils on the street three years ago. MacKenzie said the child graduated at the top of his class and is now enrolled at a college.
“It’s just amazing how little it takes to be a life altering factor in a kid’s life,” MacKenzie said. “It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life, other than raising a family.”
The work MacKenzie does with Trust in Education takes up about 80 percent of his time. He travels to Afghanistan at least twice a year and has been able to get a full-time office in Kabul, staffed by Afghanis, and believes it’s important to try to address the needs identified by the people his organization is trying to help.
His non-profit only supplies building materials because MacKenzie feels that if a village wants a school badly enough to volunteer their time to build it, than those villagers will make the school successful.
What’s more, Trust in Education rarely does a project they aren’t asked to do. A good example is the school for girls in Farza, which a woman asked them to help build.
“This is going to be a project that is generated by a woman,” MacKenzie said. “Villagers are doing 100 percent of the labor.”
Girls are already being taught in the area, so MacKenzie said there’s already central government support and funding from the village. With that central government support already in place, the school has a much higher chance of being successful.
MacKenzie is especially proud of the girls his group has been able to help educate. Education helps them gain economic independence and brings them greater personal knowledge about the world and the things that can be done by women. But MacKenzie also said it’s equally important to educate the boys.
“The rights of women are going to come through men,” MacKenzie said. “An educated man is much more likely to recognize women’s rights than an uneducated man.”