One Small Change: Nuru International

I’ve had been following Alise for a long time at her funny, insightful blog. She’s even better in real life. (I got to meet her last September at a conference in Chicago, and she was so. much. fun.) Today she’s writing about an organization that’s close to her heart, Nuru International. I always love hearing about the BIG ways that people are changing the world and about how my small changes can help make a difference… while at the same time pushing against my own sense of privilege. Enjoy!

nuru international
Photo from Nuru International website

This year I have three children in middle school and one in high school. When Christmas and birthdays come around, the list of acceptable gifts gets shorter and increasingly more expensive. There are more clubs to participate in, more trips to fund, more ways to spend up the money that seems to run out way. too. fast.

I hate to admit that I’m so greedy that I sigh when I sign the checks to give my child trumpet lessons or to send them out into the world to learn something new and exciting. And ultimately it’s because more money going to my kids means less money for me. The depths of my selfishness are frightening.

I like my stuff. I want an upgraded cell phone. I want the laptop that has all of the cache. I want that new shade of blue nail polish, even though I already have two other bottles sitting at home that are strikingly similar. I want, I want, I want.

I would love it if I could tell you one small change I have made that has helped me to be less selfish. But no. I haven’t even come close to figuring out how to do that. I thought maybe my time in Moldova would help. Maybe working with some of the poor in my own neighborhood. Nope, nope, nope. Give me my toys.

I haven’t figured out how to beat my desire for new things, but I have decided that if I get to have new things, so do people who have way less than me. And the things that they get actually save their lives.

Whenever I have any extra money, I make sure that a portion of it goes to Nuru International. Nuru is the brain child of a local West Virginia man who, as a member of the Marines, realized that when people didn’t have money, they didn’t have choices. Without money, they weren’t able to afford the education necessary to have a better life. Without money, they weren’t able to say no when they were recruited to terrorist groups. Without money, they had no future.

So Nuru makes loans to communities so that farmers are able to purchase good grain. They teach them planting and harvesting techniques so the farmers have a better yield. They work with local people and help discover and build up leaders in the communities. They give better information about hygiene so the communities are healthier. They give information about saving so that people are able to send their children to school.

And what they do works. In Kenya, the repayment of the loans is at 100%. The yield for most crops is up 123%. There have been 4500 children impacted by these changes.

I don’t have to give up much in order to help someone achieve a better life. I don’t have to go out of my way to make a donation.

But this small thing – remembering that there are people who don’t want things, but who have legitimate needs – helps me push back against the selfishness just a little bit. It helps me give my wants a bit of perspective.

The word nuru means “light.” When I make a choice to give the needs of others more weight than my own desires, I am light. When I make that choice, I am Nuru.


If you would like to support Nuru International, head here to donate. Be light. Be Nuru.


AliseHeadshotAlise is a wife, a mother of four, an eater of soup, and a lover of Oxford commas. You can generally find her sitting behind a keyboard of some kind: playing or teaching the piano, writing at her laptop, or texting her friends a random movie quote.

Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her blog.

3 thoughts on “One Small Change: Nuru International

  1. This sentence–“I haven’t figured out how to beat my desire for new things, but I have
    decided that if I get to have new things, so do people who have way less
    than me”–taught me something I’d never thought of before. Yes, we Christians are all about new mindsets and attitudes of heart, “being transformed by the renewing of our minds.” BUT, in the meantime, sometimes all we can do is turn our old mindsets and attitudes just a little bit toward a greater good. I love this idea. Thank you, Alise. (By the way, we devotees of the Oxford comma really need to stick together. There are so few of us these days. ; )

  2. Alise, I was just wondering through this series and saw your article on Nuru. Every Christmas we give the amount we would have for a BIG gift to a charity which is doing something worthwhile in this world. My brother chose Nuru and while I did go to their site and read a bit of what they do, but hearing of how and why you support them is an insightful response. thank you

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