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Mike Radice, KSL TV

Former Marine fights extreme poverty in unique way

By Kathryn May Brown  |  Posted Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 6:16pm


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PROVO — A former Marine says extreme poverty is the greatest crisis in our world today. He talked about the poverty he's seen and how he's fighting it at TEDxBYU on Friday.

Jake Harriman is on a mission to change the number of people who die from causes related to extreme poverty. So Harriman left the Marines to fight terrorism by fighting poverty. He started Nuru International — the world's first self-sustaining, self-scaling integrated development model.

Nuru goes into extremely poor communities, identifies entrepreneurs, and helps them start for-profit businesses. Those businesses eventually fund the nonprofit side of the organization.

“Nobody else is doing this,” Harriman said. “Nobody else is building a for-profit company to fund the work independent of donations.”

On the nonprofit side, Nuru trains leaders in the community to design effective programs in agriculture, health, education and economic development. Nuru leaves the communities operating and funding the programs on their own in seven years.


For whatever reason, I was in a certain place at a certain time on highway seven, and it changed my life forever, and there's no turning back. You have one life. You have one shot to make a difference.

–Jake Harriman


Harriman was a Marine, serving as a special operations platoon commander. He was even awarded the bronze star for actions in combat. He recalls weeping with an Iraqi farmer after his wife and children were slaughtered because he refused to join the terrorist army. That moment ignited a passion for ending extreme poverty.

“For whatever reason, I was in a certain place at a certain time on highway seven, and it changed my life forever, and there’s no turning back,” Harriman said. “You have one life. You have one shot to make a difference.

“I saw the desperation in the eyes of a lot of the people we were fighting,” Harriman said. “That awoke this strong anger in me because it just wasn’t fair.”

Harriman sees a future where every man, woman, and child has choices and opportunities to improve their lives.

“Absolutely it’s possible,” Harriman said. “It’s ridiculous for us in our world today not to think this problem is solvable. But it’s going to take all of us. We can’t have the status quo, we can’t be bystanders.

Nuru International currently operates in Eastern Africa. Harriman hopes to expand to areas where other organizations can't or won't go, such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen.

For more information visitNuru International's website.

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