From Our Founder, Cassandra Lee
I will never forget the first time I sat listening to war stories in an internally displaced persons (“IDP”) camp in Goma, the provincial capital in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”). Sitting on a rock for a chair, the jagged stone edges digging deep into my hip. As I sat there listening to story after story, I tried desperately to wrap my mind around some of the horrors that far too many children and families had been exposed to.
So many stories, a boy abducted into a rebel army, barely big enough to hold a gun. Another of a young girl forced to marry at just eight years old. A story of a father constantly fighting fatigue as he kept watch for rebels, hidden deep in the jungle with his frightened wife and children.
My heart had already been stirred as a ten year old girl living in Saskatoon, Canada listening to news stories of the Rwandan genocide but now these stories had faces.
I had no early ambitions of starting a non-profit organization – all I wanted was to take care of children affected by, and displaced by war. After graduating from high school, I set out for Mozambique with that mission in mind. Later that year, I would take my first trip into DRC.
“What can I do to bring lasting peace to conflict areas?” I know, ambitious. But after meeting so many people caught in the everyday effects of war, I had to dream for something more. I traveled from Eastern Congo, to Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda and everywhere I went I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was hope amidst the chaos and that the story of these blood soaked lands wasn’t over.
It was from that place of passion that the idea of education programs in areas of conflict could make the difference in the lives of so many and the transformation of torn communities could begin. After researching the impact of education during times of war, I wanted to invest in something that wasn’t just a quick fix but would affect generations on a larger scale. We wanted to raise up leaders, individuals who knew their value and worth and cared enough about others to lay their lives down for peace.
Our Justice Rising schools started small. It took clearing out my bank account to first educate just under a hundred children in a small school in Congo. My dreams have expanded greatly from that first trip many years ago but the heartbeat remains the same. How can we bring lasting transformation to conflict zones by investing in future generations?
Now I have the honor of hearing from the children we’ve been working with for years telling me not their stories of war, but rather their dreams of how they plan to impact their community. From a hundred children, to now hundreds as we together dream for thousands more.
Hope is contagious and our growing team is constantly seeking out the extreme war torn areas to move into as we know that treasure is hidden in these places.
Thank you for visiting our site and for hearing our passion.
We hope you get as excited as we do about the potential in these mighty children, though war-affected, not defeated individuals. Join with us and share our dreams!