Saturday, September 26, 2015

Happy Birthday to Nuru International And Jake Harriman

Nuru CEO Jake Harriman and board chair John Hancox discuss Nuru during the summer of 2007
This week, as the world turns its focus to the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the visit of Pope Francis, I thought it would be a great time to write a short reflection on the last seven years of Nuru and wish Jake and Nuru a Happy Birthday!

Although Jake and I have known each other for more than half of our lives, it was during the summer of 2007 that I first learned about and was able to discuss in detail the idea Jake had developed for creating a nonprofit that could sustainably, scalably, and holistically address the challenges of our global neighbors living in extreme poverty with a particular emphasis on addressing those challenges in remote, rural areas—the areas of the world where 85% of those in extreme poverty call home.

During the beginning of September 2008, a small team went through a two-week intensive training in northern California before a short period of saying goodbye to friends and family as they made their way to southwestern Kenya. This team represented the beginnings of Nuru’s work in Kuria West. The first day in Kuria also happened to be Jake’s birthday (and he was struck by lightning, but that’s another story).

I can remember so clearly how excited we were that this idea was launching and even early on we were seeing higher than anticipated participation levels in programs. I believe that is because from the beginning, we were building Nuru on the belief that we should be working with, working through, and building capacity with local leaders, and that they would be the ones best equipped to bring lasting change long-term to their communities and their country. That first year alone, 450 farmers joined Nuru’s efforts and saw incredible increases to crop yield, food security, and economic income.

Over these last seven years, more than 80,000 lives have been changed in Kenya and Ethiopia. Local Kenyan staff are now preparing to scale impact to neighboring communities, and the Western staff have exited—which was also a key ingredient to the plan all along. At the same time Jake has been able to share Nuru’s story and encourage thousands of other people to join the fight to end extreme poverty. He’s been honored by the Dalai Lama, received awards for Social Entrepreneurship, named a White House Champion of Change, and even addressed two former U.S. Presidents at a gathering in Texas. And in the next week, he will be among a small convergence of global leaders participating in the Clinton Global Initiative in NYC.

As Jake celebrates his birthday, I hope each of us can take a moment to reflect and celebrate with him the amazing journey he has given us the privilege of joining as together we work tenaciously toward being the generation that sees the end of extreme poverty. The United Nations just committed to the Sustainable Development Goals as an early birthday present. World leaders are rallying to the call to see the END of extreme poverty. And together, we will keep pressing onward toward our goal. These last seven years have been amazing, but today, as a birthday gift to Jake, and as a commitment to our global neighbors, may we each set our sights even higher for what we can accomplish together to see end of extreme poverty in our lifetime. Happy birthday Nuru! Happy birthday Jake Harriman! And, your death knell is near, extreme poverty!!!

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