San Clemente, CA…what an epic place. Of all the crazy places in the world, I always seem to end up here at the end of each year. It is certainly a beautiful, peaceful place to reflect and be thankful for the many amazing people and blessings in my life. This time, as I sit here and watch the sun go down over the Pacific, looking back on the year is pretty bittersweet.

2013 was a sobering year that reminded me that we are definitely in an ongoing fight. We took some heavy hits in the past twelve months. A new maize disease called Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) threatened food security throughout East Africa; the worst drought in fifty years devastated maize crops in southwest Kenya on top of MLND; terrible hunger threatened our farmers for the first time in four years; and Nuru lost committed funding and experienced major unanticipated team challenges. But in spite of all the challenges, obstacles and hardships for team members, family members, Kenyans and Ethiopians, Nuru grew and experienced one of our most significant years of progress to date.

I was humbled and amazed by the resiliency that our team, our farmers, and our support base demonstrated this year. It was truly incredible to be a part of. With each and every challenge, we just kept coming back with stubborn perseverance and determination. 2013 opened my eyes to appreciate the power of the culture of feedback and innovation that we have worked so hard to build over the last five years. I saw that over the years, our team has built an organization that can adapt and change quickly as challenges and setbacks arise. This confirmed that we are innovative; we can handle crisis management and rapid problem solving; and we can admit when we have taken a wrong turn—and turn on a dime to go another direction quickly. Together, our team responded to the shocks that were presented to us with impressive speed and determination.

MLND and the drought taught our agriculture team and farmers how to diversify our crop package to hedge against the risk of weather and disease-related crop failure. Our supporters provided $230,000 of emergency funding that enabled our team to complete rapid R&D with various crop types, insurance products, and marketing messages to prevent widespread hunger and financial loss in Nuru Kenya.

This year was a big year for progress toward impact for the Nuru Model. For the first time, we have data showing that all four impact programs (Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Healthcare, and Education) are creating verifiable, positive impact in the communities we work with in Kuria West. The data show that farmers are saving their money during both good and bad seasons and using it to cope with economic shocks; healthy behaviors known to improve mother and child health are increasing among households; and child literacy is improving in the public schools where Nuru works. Nuru members are experiencing a lasting, holistic transformation.

In Ethiopia, we successfully tested our leadership process and curriculum for co-creating programs with the local leaders we work with in a project. Together with our expat Foundation Team, the local Nuru Ethiopia leaders created the Agriculture Program model for Ethiopia. Farmers will plant with Nuru for the first time in March 2014.

In Kenya, after five incredible years of service to his people, Philip Mohochi is preparing to transition to the Nuru Kenya Board of Directors. We hired and on-boarded an extraordinarily capable leader to take his place—Pauline Wambeti. Pauline will become the new Executive Director of Nuru Kenya to usher the organization through this next aggressive phase of growth and the exit of the expat team.

2013 marked a year of great gains in our financial sustainability strategy as well. We successfully incorporated a for-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary holding company that will own the social enterprises initiatives in each country where Nuru operates. We successfully created two separate legal entities for social enterprises in Kenya and Ethiopia. As the social enterprises grow to profitability, the profits will fund the impact programs to continue Nuru’s ongoing poverty-fighting initiatives independent of further donations.

As an organization, we also made great progress this year: we hired and on-boarded an experienced Monitoring and Evaluation Director, executed a much more robust budgeting and strategic planning process for the organization, launched the official search for our COO and crushed our $300,000 goal for our annual holiday campaign at the end of the year!

I’m blown away by what we have accomplished together against all odds this year. Thanks for fighting next to us in 2013. I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together in the coming year!