For more than three decades, Lafayette-based lawyer Budd MacKenzie has advised all kinds of aspiring entrepreneurs, including Saint Mary's business students.
Today, MacKenzie's most important clients live in the small Afghani village of Lalander, where his Trust in Education organization provides financial assistance and counsel to local leaders.
"The key is to ask village leaders what they need and then give them what they ask for," MacKenzie told a Jan. 15 audience of students and supporters in the Soda Center. "We need to pool resources and go into areas to fix things permanently to end the cycle of poverty."
Exasperated with U.S. political divisions on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, MacKenzie turned his attention to Afghanistan. U.S. military forces had recently ended the repressive rule of the Taliban there, but major reconstruction work remained.
"I figured there ought to be something we could do there that we all could agree on," MacKenzie explained.
Turning to his neighbors in Lafayette, MacKenzie raised $25,000 to fund a secular elementary school in Afghanistan, which opened in 2005. The students include girls, who were forbidden to attend school during the Taliban's rule.
"Education gives them a sense of self-worth," MacKenzie noted. "There's not a single one absent - they love it."
Trust in Education continues to expand its efforts in Lalander, making micro-credit loans to support farmers, infrastructure projects and small business owners. It also regularly brings a doctor to the village, where access to health care has been virtually nonexistent.
"Education, economic development and health care are the three legs of the stool," MacKenzie said. "We need all three in the village to make it work."
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Photo by Gorbachev Lingad '10