JustHope’s founder, Leslie Penrose, began working to address systemic poverty in Nicaragua in 1986. After Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998, Leslie and a small group established a partnership with leaders in Chacraseca, Nicaragua, a small farming community outside León with 1500 households (8000 people) and an average income of $2 per person per day, to engage together in long-term community development.
Over the next several years, this small but committed group worked side by side with the leadership of Chacraseca on projects to build schools and houses, initiate a school-lunch program, create a microlending program for farmers, and begin what would become a ten-year long project to bring clean water to the whole community. In 2007, Leslie established JustHope as a social-profit organization to strengthen and broaden the solidarity work being done in Chacraseca and expand it to other communities in Nicaragua. In 2008, a partnership was created with the small coffee-dependent community of Santa Emilia in the Department of Matagalpa, and in 2009, the mountaintop community of La Flor was added as a third partner community.
By the beginning of 2016, JustHope had grown to include over 50 US partnerships including colleges and universities, businesses, service groups, faith-based groups, other nonprofits, and two Nicaraguan governmental agencies, with integrated development programs focused on Health, Education, Social Enterprise, Agriculture, and Leadership Development in two communities, Chacraseca and La Flor. US Partners made 19 trips to in 2017.
Though the civil unrest in Nicaragua has prevented PartnerTrips from traveling since April 2018, JustHope's Nicaraguan staff has continued its mission and programs in the country.
Read a longer version of JustHope's history here.