DR CONGO - Justice Rising

To see every war affected nation restored to peace

$151,481 raised
1527
donations

HOPE agent, Justice Rising, brings peace to communities affected by war by providing quality education to children at risk. Justice Rising works to build schools, develop programs, and raise up community leaders toward the goal of promoting peace and breaking the cycle of war.

 

Justice Rising Schools

There are over 3 million out-of-school children in the DRC today. We are looking to change that. Over the next five years, we plan on building 40 new schools in various war-affected communities, believing that schools will produce the future leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators of tomorrow.

 

Freedom Boys Project

Amidst armed conflict, a tragic common side effect is children being abducted into the army. After sitting with numerous parents who had lost their children to rebel armies or were in perpetual hiding after escaping abduction, we sought a homegrown solution.

The Freedom Boys program relocates boys into the city, organizing new and safe living situations for them - often foster housing with a relative. This geographical move frees these young men to focus on their education. The boys are paired with mentors to ensure that they receive holistic care: healthy bodies, minds, and souls.

 

Leadership League

We saw a significant increase in the number of teenage boys being abducted into the rebel army or, feeling powerless against this inevitability, choosing to join the army in order to protect their families from threats. Our response was Leadership League, a simple soccer league, in hopes of providing the boys a healthy outlet, as well as a community where they could learn to stick together and gain healthy vision for their futures. 

Our coaching aims to teach and model what it means to be an honest leader and play on the field is accompanied by group counseling. Both on the field and off, these young men are learning to cultivate lives of peace, taking hold of their futures without being backed into the corner of war.

Having grown beyond a soccer league, the program now extends opportunity to these young men to earn a GED and attend vocational programs, offering the hope of opportunity and good jobs in adult life.

 

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Project Updates

  • This year we graduated 2 more of our Freedom Boys, or ex-child soldiers, from high school! 

    Through education, our students have many opportunities other kids may simply lack - promising job prospects, confidence and self esteem, and strong relationships just to name a few. These opportunities mean that our students can become productive members of their communities and pass on what they have learned to the next generation. This is how peace is cultivated.

    For our Freedom Boys, right after abandoning their extremist views, our boys struggled with regards to what type of future they could have. After completing their secondary education, we’ve not only seen a transformation in their lives personally, but they now have job opportunities available to them due to their education.

  • Michel has been a Justice Rising student from the very beginning. We’ve watched him grow up these last several years and we are so proud of the bright young man he is becoming.

    This fall he will start his second year of high school in our Ndosho Secondary School in Goma. We are excited to continue following his journey as he goes on to get his diploma and achieve great things.

  • The Washington Post recently sat down with Cassandra Lee, Founder of HOPE agent ‘Justice Rising’ to speak about the organization’s work overseas, how its grown, and some of the challenges it faces. You can find an excerpt below along with a link to the full article:


     

    Cassandra Lee started Justice Rising, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building schools and providing quality education in areas affected by war, with her husband Edison Lee in 2015. The couple started with one school in the the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the organization has grown in size and scope since then: Today, Justice Rising works with communities to run seven schools in the country, employing more than 60 teachers and administrators. They’ve also expanded to Iraq and Syria, countries that have been affected by the battle against the Islamic State.

     

    I saw you recently took a trip to Syria and met with students and educators. How would you describe the state of education in the places you visited?

    We mainly visited schools in Aleppo and outside of Damascus. We met many incredible teachers, faculty and parents working hard to see that children receive an education. Many young people are still getting the opportunity to study, but not without risk and overwhelming difficulties. Post-conflict, even basic things like paying for school, school books [and] supplies can be challenging for many families who have lost everything. We saw schools that were devastated by bombs and canvassed by bullet holes. The students have either fled their homes or have crowded into remaining schools. It was validating to hear a headmaster in Aleppo tell us, “To end terrorism, we must educate our children.” Our response to the crisis in Syria is to support existing schools and to partner with local educators to see that all students have access to a quality education and that teachers feel supported in their work.


    Justice Rising has achieved complete gender parity in the classrooms you work in. What are some overlapping challenges you had to overcome to make . . . Click HERE

     

    Click HERE to learn more about Justice Rising and how you can support their work.

  • The fighting in Eastern Congo has reignited and many of our students have been forced to flee and hide in the jungle at night to avoid danger. However, our teachers only continue to rise higher during times of crisis.

    “People know our school is different. We are here for the children even when there is war. We will keep teaching so the children don’t lose their future to the war.”

  • Our staff meets with families, teaching them the power of education and the importance of sending children to school. Many families don’t want to pay for the schooling or buy a uniform.

    In the midst of conflict however, education helps create strong social bonds that help keep the family together. It also reduces the trauma in children and encourages stability in the midst of so much unknown.

    War is not a respecter of persons; either old, young, man or woman. When war enters a village, it affects the entire community.

  • At the beginning we didn’t dream for 50 schools. At the beginning we dreamt for one school we started for children displaced by the war. But over time we saw the transformation happening in that community as a result of our programs and we started to dream for another school and then another.

    We feel like we are in a race against time. Build schools before the next conflict or war breaks out and the army takes the kids before we can. We don’t move in fear or panic but with purpose. We look at the region and select where to base ourselves determined by the greatest need and how we can bring the biggest change. In the face of so much war, we want to be the group that responds with action and stands with others to bring change.

    We have traveled deeper into the UN classified red zone looking for communities desperate for schools and places where we know we can replicate our model.

    Our dreams grow with the construction of each school. We now have seven schools in the DRC and 1,500 students. Fifty schools still sounds optimistic but we believe our impact won’t stop there. Our dream would be that others would catch the dream as well and together, as a global community, we can work to see every child living in conflict transformed by education and empowered to bring peace for the next generation.

  • Education is one of the most powerful tools to transform a community. By building schools we are reducing the chance of young boys being abducted into the army, young girls being taken as child brides and bringing stability to families so they can de-traumatize and be empowered to create change.  Schools are a catalyst for transformation and the Kingdom lived out.

    Every year all of the teachers in our schools attend a three-day training intensive where they revisit Justice Rising’s core values. They learn teaching best practices, obtain new techniques for classroom management and review our pedagogical framework. This past summer we had over 60 teachers attend the training.

  • With every school we build there is a Leadership League that accompanies the school. The boys are encouraged to lay down their weapons in exchange for a soccer ball and soccer gear. The League is an extra curricular group that teaches young people how to talk about their trauma through the Storytelling Movement.

    By sharing painful memories from their past and hard things they’re facing in the present, the group inspires locally led discussions in the pursuit of wholeness and healing.

    “The League has taught me how to forgive. When you live in the same neighborhood as the man you saw kill your friend, you want to respond with hate. But together, we’ve learned not to respond to hate with more hate but instead to deal with our anger. Sharing your life story with the group is important because we all understand what the other is going through. This league, my brothers here, have changed my life.”

  • Seeing the desperate need in war zones, we knew we needed to respond.  How do you even begin to make a dent on the years of conflict and crisis in these very complicated nations?

     “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For us, our step was education. Education is one of the best ways to transform communities living in conflict. When educated, young boys are less likely to join the army or be taken as child soldiers. Young girls are less at risk of becoming child brides and giving birth at a young age. Not only is it the best way to fight extremism, it’s the best way to promote stability and keep families together on a grassroots level. If you want to end war, reduce poverty and fight the orphan crisis…get kids into schools.

    This is one of our new schools built this summer in Mgunga.

  • “Teachers from other villages started asking us how we were able to enroll so many girls in our schools. We have become known in our district as leaders in girls’ education.” Kambale, Justice Rising Primary School Teacher in Kalembe

    We are extremely proud of the fact that our schools have achieved complete gender parity inside the classroom, a rare feat in rural contexts!

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$151,481 raised
1527
donations
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