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In a dusty, dog-hair-strewn world of silent, super-smart canines, lies one of the nation's fastest growing hobbies according to the Wall Street Journal. It's herding sheep with so-called "working dogs" - border collies and Australian shepherds known for speed and brainpower.

Recalling that there's nothing more frustrated than an unemployed working dog, I was reminded of some of my friends, now retired, who experienced the same level of frustration.

The personification of that "unemployed working dog" is my friend Bud MacKenzie, a semi-retired lawyer in Lafayette, who decided after having had brain surgery in 2003, to go start a school from scratch in Afghanistan. He knew nothing and nobody. All he needed to hear was that a school teacher in Afghanistan made about $30 a month and that it would cost about $20,000 to actually build a school.

About seven years later, after countless trips to that challenging country, Bud's efforts have resulted in an organization called Trust in Education that solicits funds in part from Bay Area school children and then builds and operates schools in Afghanistan.

How badly are these schools needed? Well for openers, the New York Times just reported that the security force that Afghanistan is building is hampered by the fact that only 10 percent of the men they hire can read or write. Policemen who cannot read an automobile license plate are sent out on the streets after a few months of training. And this is from a pool of males that would have been allowed to go to school if any had existed. By comparison, the female population is in the dark ages.

In this country, retirees with plenty of energy left can find lots to do to make themselves useful. Sharing business experience and organizational skills with the world of nonprofit organizations generates substantial value. In a small nonprofit organization, there is the satisfaction of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the work at hand and the impact of the result - a quality often lacking in large organizations where many spent their professional lives. The only downside is that nonprofits can, in some cases, get very political because "there is so little at stake." Be that as it may, the channeling of professional skills into nonprofits can be energizing for all parties.

But, getting back to Bud: Apart from the education projects, there is also an agricultural side of Trust in Education that provides seedlings for fruit trees and helps farmers develop better crops. The subtext of this ancillary effort is to gain better support for the school projects that meet continual resistance from male village elders. What Bud recognized early in his experience is that the huge amount of money funneled through government programs has trouble making it all the way down the food chain to where it will do some good.

"Do you have anywhere to go today?" If your spouse asks that question at the breakfast table once too often, a retiree feeling time hanging heavy in his or her hands might do well to think about what can be created out of nothing. Someone like Bud MacKenzie reinventing himself as the "Charlie Wilson of Lafayette" is probably beyond what most of us would consider, but short of that extreme, there's plenty of excitement out there in the non-profit community. So, go make it happen.

You can contact Trust in Education 925-299-2010. They deserve your time and money.

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