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With boxes and bags of donations piled high on his Lafayette front porch, Budd MacKenzie is undeterred by the pandemic when it comes to sending an annual shipment of donations to Afghanistan.
In its eleventh year, the annual donation collection by Trust in Education — a grassroots organization that provides educational, economic and health care assistance to villages in Afghanistan — gathers clean clothes, shoes, school supplies, pots, pans and more before shipping off the items.
In past years, a group of nearly 100 people gathered to sort and pack all the donated items; however, the pandemic intervened to make this task a challenge. MacKenzie, Trust in Education’s founder, entertained a few ways for the packing party to go as planned while remaining COVID-friendly and finally decided to turn his home into a drop-off and packing arena.
“From now until Halloween, the driveway outside my house is open for all donations,” he said. “We won’t sort this year. They can sort in Afghanistan.”
Through the Denton Program — a U.S. government initiative that allows citizens and organizations to send humanitarian assistance items aboard U.S. military cargo airplanes — the shipment will go from Travis Air Force Base in Solano County to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. While not all countries are eligible for the program, Afghanistan is on the Department of Defense’s list of approved countries.
Seventeen years ago, when MacKenzie started raising money for a school in Afghanistan, he didn’t even know where the country was located on a map. Since then he has visited more than 20 times, and each time he returns with a renewed sense of purpose.
“Afghans have suffered through 40 years of war, 29 of which we have helped finance or waged ourselves,” he said. “I feel we have an obligation to help Afghans rebuild their lives and country.” He adds that this view is not widely shared because most Americans are not aware of the history behind U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
In 2005, MacKenzie left his private law practice and made a full-time commitment to help Afghan children and their families. He was so moved by the people and stories in Afghanistan that he wrote a book about his experiences, “Off the Couch: Into the War for Hearts and Minds.”
MacKenzie is particularly proud of the work his organization does to help children working in the streets.
“In exchange for $50 a month, their parents agree that they will go to school and no longer work on the streets,” he said. “We’ve sponsored 140 children over the past nine years. Twenty-eight are either college graduates or in college now.”
He says the biggest lesson he’s learned is how little it takes to affect the lives of children and their families.
“An educated woman,” he said, “is less dependent upon a man for her support, and an educated man is much more likely to support equal rights for women.”
For a list of recommended donations, the drop off location or how to volunteer, visit here.