A new year of hope

Well…another year is upon us. The approach of a new year always brings such a mixture of emotions in me – beginning with New Years Eve. Every year is the same…trying to figure out what party to go to or what “event” to be at – all the while holding such incredible expectations that this will be THE event of the year…that it will somehow bring a perfect end to the year. And every year – without fail – I am disappointed. There is no single event that can bring such a satisfied end to a year that has been filled so richly with the numerous ups and downs that life brings our way. I arrived at 2009 breathing a sigh of relief. 2008 was a bit of a tumultuous year – for many people. This year, New Years Eve was a bit different for me. I went back to the U.S. for a couple weeks to do some fundraising for Nuru to meet some of the critical needs that we were experiencing here on the ground. Because of this, I was able to spend the night with my whole immediate family at my brother’s place in Florida. It was a rare blessing because it is very difficult to get all of us in the same place at the same time – ever. Being surrounded by those who love me so unconditionally always puts me in a very reflective mood. For the first time in many, many months, I was able to slow down and take stock of the events that had transpired in my life and in the lives of those close to me – both at home and here in Africa.

2008 was a year of tears and triumph… I learned the joy of real love for the first time and experienced new depths of pain and loss. As I sat with my family play a board game that night, I had so many emotions and thoughts rushing through my head. This past year I have learned so much about myself and the world around me, and I have been inspired this year as never before. This past year I learned the power of hope in the searching gaze of a 10 year old boy that lives next to us here in Kenya. Hope… we throw that word around all the time, but what does it really mean? What is hope? Hope is 500 men and women risking all that they have left in this world – risking everything with absolutely no guarantee or proof of success – to see a day when their children do not writhe in pain in the throws of malaria because the dispensary is out of medicine… a day where they don’t come home to crying babies empty-handed without food or money again because their tired land failed to produce a good crop yield… a day where their 8 year old daughter can actually stay in school and eagerly learn instead of spending those precious hours walking endlessly to collect dirty, infected water for her family.

I returned to the U.S. this holiday season with a very heavy burden on my heart. We were critically short on funding for our program here in Kuria, and I had returned to secure that funding so that we could continue our work into the new year. As I stepped off the plane at SFO, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the hopes and dreams of 3,000 brave souls bearing down on me. Such trust and faith they have innocently put in me and those working with me. All for what? For that irrational hope that has eluded the likes of me for years from the time when I set it aside to enter adulthood. I must confess that I longed to share their hope and optimism as I stepped off that plane, but the “realities” of a country in financial turmoil hit me the moment I arrived. I began to despair a bit. “How in the world am I going to do this? 500 families…” I just shook my head in silence as I waited on the curb for my buddy Grayson to pick me up. But over the next two weeks, something special occurred… I got over myself and my pre-conceived notions of self-importance, and got out of the way.

I watched my sister role the dice and cheer as she moved along the board in our game. I smiled to myself as I remembered the events that had transpired over the past two weeks. The first week had been miserable…a slew of meetings and conversations that resulted in absolutely nothing but reinforcement of my fears about raising funds in the current economic conditions. Then something happened… you happened.

to the readers of this blog…

to the many who have seen what is going on here in Kenya through the words and stories of my brave companions who are in this fight with me…

to those who looked at all they had been blessed with this past year and said, “I can get in this fight too…”

to those of you who struggled to pay the utilities month to month and yet still found a way to scrape together $50 to invest in hope…

to our family and friends, and friends of friends who truly felt in their hearts the pain of a mother walking 30 miles to get to the nearest medical facility to save her child and crying softly at mile 25 as her child breathed his last breath on her back…

to all of you I want to say…thank you.

Thank you for hearing the voice of the voiceless. For answering the call to action to end the senseless suffering and sadness of those who taught me what hope is.

Because of your incredible selflessness, we exceeded our funding goal that I came home to fill. We are now able to provide the farmers our farm loan program that will increase crop yields 400% to 500% this next season – enabling them to be sure of where the next meal for their family will come from every day next season. Your gift will help bring clean, accessible water to hundreds of families…enabling those young girls to envision a life of hope and not just of questionable survival.

“5…4…3…2…1.” I listened to my brother count down to the New Year. I shook my head in amazement as I reflected on your contributions to bring hope to our friends here in Kuria – over $125,000! 2008 brought many things to my life, but one of the most rewarding was the restoration of childlike faith and hope – and it was you who helped restore that for me. You restored my hope in the ability for us to selflessly love one another regardless of differences in country, culture, or politics. I am so hopeful now going into this new year. Thank you for teaching me…for teaching me to hope again. God bless you all. Here’s to 2009…

About Jake Harriman

Founder — Jake Harriman is a United States Naval Academy graduate and former Force Recon Marine combat veteran who became convinced that the “War on Terror” can’t be won on the battlefield alone; the contributing causes of violent extremism–specifically extreme poverty–must also be eradicated. After transitioning out of the Marine Corps, Jake enrolled in the Stanford Graduate School of Business to found Nuru International in 2007 with a mission to eradicate extreme poverty in some of the most fragile regions of the world in order to help stop the spread of groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Over the next twelve years, Jake and his team grew Nuru to become one of the premier organizations at the nexus of security and development - empowering over 130,000 people with lasting meaningful choices to permanently climb out of extreme poverty in some of the toughest places in the world.

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