It’s the last few days of 2015 and I don’t think I could be more excited!

(Cassandra here! Taking over the final newsletter of 2015 with a little recap and why I'm so excited)  

We’ve had a great year, both with Justice Rising and personally (Edison and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary November 1st!)
The last 12 months were filled with joys and challenges but in a completely different way than I’ve experienced before. For the first time in… a long time, I stepped back to life in the states to establish new systems and build new programs for Justice Rising and to focus on marriage with my new husband.
During the year we worked hard to set up Justice Rising as a 501(c)(3) in the states, we ran two internships in Los Angeles, rebranded and re-launched our website, our JR team traveled the East Coast for our first University tour, speaking at colleges like Harvard, NYU, Columbia, Cornell and others. And to finish the year, we hosted two events; one in LA and one in NY showcasing photography from our Freedom Boys (rescued child soldiers) stories from survivors of war and a brand new video called "Louise's Story" (Click here to view if you haven't seen it yet)

I’m amazed at the shift my life took, though I found myself relishing the change in so many ways, more than anything I felt the challenge of missing the daily squeezes from our kids in Congo and the adventures on those bumpy back roads in the jungle. Though I may look the part, sometimes I feel like fish out of water being away from my life overseas!
During the year of course, my team and I still returned to the Congo to continue development and to check on the progress of our projects there. (Our local staff has done an incredible job in my absence!)
We’re thrilled looking back this year at the progress on we have made on the ground. In the village we built our first Vocational School for young boys as an alternative to the army, we expanded our Early Childhood Development School for children under 4 years old (we now have an extra 150 cutie pies there!) we trained more leaders, completed art therapy with classes, finally reached the 1,000 student mark in our attendance of Justice Rising students and expanded our work to the area of Beni, DRC to reach those hit by some horrendous violence and attacks.

As we list off so many developments from this year, all we can think to say is THANK YOU. It’s because of our community that believes in us and pours the resources in that we can successfully move forward in our work! It’s because we’re in this together that we’ve been able to do what we do!
This summer in Congo as I went through assessments and evaluations of the impact of our projects, I sat with the village chiefs and leaders in a tiny little hut in the middle of the village and asked them to share about their perspective on our work. With beaming smiles across their faces they said: 

“We have seen more success with what Justice Rising has brought to our village than any other organization that has passed on our roads.”

They went on around the circle, each taking time to share how they’ve seen their community transformed from the inside out by the work.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so with tears streaming down my face I giggled uncontrollably at each of their stories.

So if it was such a great 2015, back to my earlier statement, why am I so excited for the final week of the year? Well, it comes down to not what I’m leaving but what we’re moving towards!
After really digging into establishing more foundations, we’ve been able to expand quickly and see even more kids educated, create jobs for families, and provide training for community leaders through trauma care and mentorship.
As a new year approaches, it looks like 2016 is going to be our biggest year yet, with two major building projects in the works! (more details about those coming next month)
Please consider joining us with your year-end tax deductible contributions to see the impact in conflict zones expand.
And for those taking the challenge of New Years resolutions, we encourage you to make giving a part of your lifestyle. That the culture of your family would include partnering to see more lives transformed, whether through monthly giving or by becoming a Peace Advocate and creating a personal fundraiser to reach children in war zones.

Thank you again for being a part of our Justice Rising tribe. We are grateful for you and the impact you’re making! Happy 2016!

Cassandra, Edison and the Justice Rising Family