Photo: All rights are to Nuru International.
A small white car flew over Iraq’s terrain toward Special Operations Platoon Commander Jake Harriman.A man emerged from the vehicle, and ran toward Harriman and his men, waving his arms in the air. Harriman fired several warning shots over head. It was 5 a.m. and the shots whizzed through the air.
He knew this crazed man was a suicide bomber.
Harriman, now the CEO and founder of Nuru International, used this terrifying moment of his military career as inspiration to created Nuru to help make a difference in war-torn countries that need assistance after a regime has been tossed out.
During that terrifying moment he described to us, in the distance, a larger army vehicle pulled behind the bomber. They were waiting to ensure he finished the job.
At the last second, the bomber veered off course and toward the car where his family was. Before he could flee and make an escape, the Iraqi army had shot his wife and two children dead.
Harriman watched as the man wept. And wept. He did not have any choices that morning in the conflict-stricken country of Iraq, circa 2003.
“I saw the heartbreak and helplessness in his eyes,” Harriman said. “And I never wanted to see that again.”
After that tour, Harriman, now 37, left the military and went back to graduate school. There he created and found ways to fund Nuru International.
Nuru assimilates into countries to fix some of the basic issues they suffer after war has come through.
- Education: Nuru helps communities set up writing workshops, reading hours, and a drop-in centre that allows children to come in for extra help to increase their literacy levels. This is run by the local community to supplement current government projects.
- Agriculture: Nuru teaches the locals how to deal with loans, how to maximise their farming efforts, and stabilise the harvests.
- Water: Nuru facilitates ideas from the locals that help them create a purifying system for the water.
Nuru International spawned from Harriman’s research and became an institution that teaches the struggling population of a civilisation how to take control of their economy, water, education, and agriculture with ideas they form themselves, in a way that doesn’t leave them reliant and dependent on the western helpers because they run it themselves.
“When the military comes in and removes a regime, you also remove the infrastructure,” Harriman said. “Things fell apart in Afghanistan because we didn’t simultaneously install a new infrastructure when creating a new regime.
“If you can stabilise the poor, who suffer the most during this time, and give them choices during the regime shift, you can effectively facilitate change.”
Harriman set out to give people choices and to give them freedom when their government collapses, so a situation like he saw in Iraq didn’t happen again.
“We took a holistic approach to the situation,” Harriman said. “If you want to save kids from malnutrition, you have to also clean up their water, and with out education they have no real future.
“The model Nuru provides is just a foundation. The leadership we get from the people in the community is
Photo: All rights are to Nuru International
the key to what makes it work.”THE WAY IT WORKS
Nuru plans to set up in politically unstable and volatile cultures, helping communities start fresh in the future. But while the model is in its infancy, the nonprofit chose Kenya to start and launched the pilot program there in 2008.
The program lasts five years, consisting of multiple stages. When Nuru arrives, they scout potential leaders from the community. Nuru’s mission and success rests on the leaders emerging to not only care for their community with out the help of the westerners, but being able to move to another location and duplicate the process with out Nuru.
“I wanted to tap into the craze that westerns go on these trips to Africa as a part of a vacation, almost,” Harriman said. “These people don’t need westerners to build a building. It creates an unhealthy dynamic of dependency when westerns come in like that.”
After recruitment, comes development. The first six months is a probation, and Nuru assesses the workers. No one is paid during this time.
Nuru provides access to farm inputs, loans, fertiliser, seeds, and credit to the farmers. Nuru supervises the use of these things and educates the workers on the skills need to use them effectively.
So the western staff initiates the program, but these things become Kenyan-run businesses, and the profit and revenue are all self-generated.
Leaders emerged from the local population: a field worker named Milika was among the most inspiring stories. She had one acre of land and was making about seven bags of grains to feed herself and her six children. She enrolled in Nuru’s agricultural project, followed the guidelines and started making 18 bags on that same one acre.
She stuck with the program and her peers recommended her to field officer. She now manages more than 500 workers.
“Milika has an understanding of the community, so she can do her job in a way only she can,” Harriman said. “Seeing her unlock her potential has meant the world to me.”
Photo: All rights are to Nuru International
To prove that Nuru’s model actually works, they have to pull out of Kenya by 2014. The United Nations is interested in partnering with them, but Nuru must go into another location for two more years to prove the plan works.
As the company grows they hope to be in more and more volatile places. The second district they choose will be run by the current leaders from that emerged from the Kenyan community and with some of the revenue from the project.
“These folks that we are working with are incredibly brave. Poverty can be solved. We can beat this, but must include poor apart of the solution in a real way where they can own it. We in the west don’t have all the answers. A lot of the answers is in their background and that’s what Nuru is trying to extract.”
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