As I was training for my Lake Tahoe swim in 2009, I was also tutoring 3 Afghan refugee kids whose family was resettled in the San Francisco bay area. It was through a string of coincidences that I learned of Budd KcKenzie and his non-profit organization called Trust in Education.
He and a small staff have provides education and health services to women and children in Afghanistan. Its one of the poorest countries after 35+ years of war. Afghan kids live in desperate circumstances, especially girls.
Over the past ten years, Trust in Education has expanded from one school of 120 children, to supporting classes in 10 villages that by 2017 helped educate more than 1,300 children, 50% are girls.
Budd McKenzie just published a book about his journey from the couch to Kabul. He has inspired so many folks along the way to help in the struggle against suffering, repression and hopelessness. Im blown away by the number of elementary and middle school kids who are helping.
Im one of the many people who Budd has touched and I use my swims as a way to try to make a difference. I know that there is suffering in my own backyard. The level of desperation in Afghanistan far exceeds anything we have in the US or most wealthy countries. It is acute for kids, especially girls. It was through the tutoring of local Afghan refugee kids that I realized how the brutality and suffering within Afghanistan robes kids of the opportunity to fulfill their potential, let alone find hope.
What I face during hours of training or swimming 22+ miles is nothing compared to the dire conditions Afghan children face every day. I’m inspired by the tenacity of the kids to navigate their hardships and to learn when given a chance.
Budd is fond of saying, “we can’t be short distance runners” when injecting hope into the lives of those who have so little. And that goes for this swimmer as well.