Leslie Penrose Farewell Address

JustHope Founder Leslie Penrose, with Wine for Water 2017 Honorary Chair Ted Campbell
JustHope Founder Leslie Penrose, with Wine for Water 2017 Honorary Chair Ted Campbell

Address delivered by JustHope Founder Leslie Penrose at Wine for Water 2017

Wow, was it really 32 years ago that I stood on that mountain top in Nicaragua with a small group of farmers who were joyfully showing me the amazing crops they had produced on the land that had been given to them by their new Revolutionary Government?

“What’s different now,” I asked… “What’s different than when your dictator owned this land and you farmed for him?” There was a long pause…

“We’ve always had hope,” one old farmer said firmly… “But now our Hope has the strong legs of Justice.”

Has it really been 32 years that I’ve been trying to figure out what it would mean for my life’s work, to try and “give hope the strong legs of justice… “?

What an amazing privilege the journey of that 32 years has been.  And there are no words for how much it has meant to spend the last ten years of that with you, birthing and nurturing JustHope together.  Thank you for every day you have supported us, and every dollar you’ve given to bring us to this day.

Over those last 10 years, I’ve had a wise and experienced mentor in Nicaragua – who’s been doing this work with and among his people for his whole life. One of the most important and meaningful things this man offered me was the challenge that I should never forget that “just because you are doing a good thing, doesn’t mean you are doing good.” (Dr. Elmer Zelaya)

I’ve seen it many times… groups that build schools or clinics in desperately poor communities, and return home having ‘done a good thing.’ But months later, the school is abandoned, the clinic stands empty because there are no teachers, no medical staff, no infrastructure of support.

“Doing good” as a development model and practice, requires a lot more than just a quick fix. It requires doing a good thing and then sticking around long enough to help the community create the structure to support that thing. The scholarships we give are a “good thing”… but they will only really do good long term, if we can also support Chacraseca and La Flor as they develop their schools into places where students don’t just attend school - but really learn. Opening women’s businesses like Stitching Hope and the Ferreteria are good things… but they will really “do good” when they become sustainable, profitable businesses run by women who have the capacity and confidence to manage every aspect of their businesses. The real hope of our model farm is not this year’s crop - or next year’s… it’s the potential it has to make farming a viable livelihood again for future generations.

Moving beyond “doing a good thing” to doing real good, takes time, and staff, and money. Our partners in Nicaragua HAVE HOPE… what they need from us — from each of you as partners with them — is the long-term, stubborn commitment to see that JustHope has the resources it needs to ensure that all the good things we have done across the years have the long term care and commitment they need to “do real good.”

I hope you will consider your part tonight in giving the hope that is alive in Chacraseca and La Flor the strong legs of Justice for the next ten years and beyond.