Thank you Red Oak!

For the final 5th grade fundraising activity at Red Oak Elementary School in Highland Park, students ran an Everything Sale, donating items that they no longer need, want, or play with. The cafeteria was turned into a store and the rest of the school “shopped” during the day. Students voted to have RISE receive the proceeds from the Everything Sale, which will give a child the chance to go to school, this year and for many years to come. 

Throughout the year, the 5th grade committee voted for fundraisers and charities they wanted to support with each activity. One student, whose family has been involved, proposed RISE, explained what RISE does, and it was added to the list. The committee was invested in each of the fundraisers – making flyers, posters, and broadcasting on the morning announcements. It was exciting to see their desire to support the causes they chose and realize that they could make a tangible difference.

Thank you Red Oak 5th graders!

June trip to Angola

We arrived home Saturday afternoon after another good and productive trip. Travel to Angola is long, there were multiple delays resulting in missed flights, and though we arrived in Luanda our luggage did not. Delayed baggage does not get delivered in Angola, but requires that you or someone you officially designate, go to the airport to pick it up. Arriving on the next flight two days later, our bags were picked up by incredible friends (who have saved us many times in complex situations over the years), given to someone from RISE Angola who happened to be in Luanda for the day, and flown to Benguela where we were. Angola is a difficult country to navigate even with the wisdom and help of local friends and connections!

This is the dry season in Angola, illuminating a different beauty than that of the rainy season. Tall shoots of brown grass line the roads; warm breezes carry the dust over the vast landscapes. The economy continues to suffer – high inflation, devaluation of the local currency, limited materials which are available one day and not the next. Our teams do an incredible job in very challenging circumstances. Building teams live on the site, in tin “chapa” rooms, sleeping on foam mats under mosquito nets or in small tents. They are very grateful for jobs…a ripple effect of building schools.

We visited amazing schools under construction, several completed and awaiting dedication, and some in which kids are in class and learning is taking place! Our first days were spent at Gama, where 12 classrooms started by the community were completed by RISE, and dedicated May 29th. The government will provide desks and chalkboards, but as they do not yet have them, kids arrive with their own chair or stool, and the classrooms are being used! The Principal and Vice Principal are wonderfully supportive, and expressed their gratitude and that of the community, as they “never dreamt they would receive such an incredible gift.”

Tracking the enrollment and attendance data is a significant component of the project. Rachel, and Caleb, one of the M&E team members in Angola, went from classroom to classroom, both in the morning and afternoon sessions, explained the process, and handed out forms to be completed and returned the next day. The kids carefully put the form in their notebook as instructed. Rachel and Caleb returned to each class, collecting and reviewing the forms proudly handed to them by the children. The form data is verified against class lists, then entered into our database – a detailed and tedious process, which provides valuable information on the students and their families. There are over 2500 kids at Gama, meaning about half are in the new classrooms, some are in mud-block rooms that will remain, and many are in temporary tin structures and under trees. Given the need, RISE approved the construction of 8 more classrooms, the foundation was laid out, and construction began!

Upon arrival at Cambanda, a 15-classroom school dedicated in July 2018, we found hundreds of kids in class. The 4th graders were in gym (which is not the norm) – playing soccer, running relay races, and participating in group games. One in which two kids were blindfolded in the center kicking, as students in the circle around them shouted directions until one of them hits the cardboard box, and the cheering explodes. The principal is inspiring and effective, and the school is well-run, clean, orderly, and working beautifully.

Three RISE schools in Huambo are in poor neighborhoods, in which the one lane “road” winds between curved mud-block walls on both sides, metal gates open to homes, and small “shops” sell fruits, vegetables, soap, oil, and dried fish. Getting trucks to these sites can be impossible, meaning materials must be carried by hand. Fatima, a community longing for education for their children, contributed money to begin construction of 12 classrooms. RISE is partnering to complete them, and renovate an additional 8 on the site. Kids in temporary classrooms watched in fascination. We arrived to meet the building team, so Adriano could go over the plans…and as they were measuring and discussing the details, a truckload of sand was delivered; another with scaffolding, tools, and sleeping mats for the team; a goat on a motorcycle; a truckload of cement…and the work began.  

An hour inland on a rutted, dirt road, we reached Denda to find students in their white batas (school uniforms) lined up, singing and clapping in welcome. Parents, teachers, and community leaders joined the children to express joy and immense gratitude for the school, and gave us bananas, beans, tangerines, avocados and a goat in thanks!

Our last day was spent at Njele, a school dedicated a year ago, where over 800 students are in new classrooms, and 1200 more kids still long for one. The principal and teachers are dedicated and grateful beyond words. Students shared that they like the quiet of the classroom where they can concentrate without distraction, that they don’t have to carry chairs from their homes, and that even if it is raining, they don’t get wet. One 5th grader added, “…we like your work, and ask that you please continue. Thank you!”

Through your generosity, multiplied by our partnership with Educate A Child and the ExxonMobil Foundation, 10 schools have been completed, and 10 more are under construction in less than two years, with the start of 5 – 6 more projected by the end of the year! Thousands of kids will have the chance to go to school, and yet there are over 2 million kids without access to primary education…and I am stirred to continue to work together to give more kids that opportunity. Thanks for your part in making a tangible difference in the lives of others!

Students helping students

Wheeling High School’s Interact with Africa Club celebrated graduating seniors and the impact they have made in Angola during the final meeting of the school year – thank you Interact!

The Angola Experience

Crow Island Elementary School students and parents learned about the similarities and differences between their lives and those of children in Angola during “The Angola Experience.” Fourth graders did a great job helping to set up and facilitate the event.

Walk Through Africa

Students at Crystal Lake South hosted a Walk Through Africa, raising awareness and money to help kids in Angola go to school. The Walk “logically and convincingly showed how education is the solution for so many hardships.” Thank you!

Travel to Angola… January/February 2019

Leaving the heat and humidity of Luanda behind, we arrived home yesterday afternoon to a cold and wintery Chicago. It’s always strange to be in Angola one day, and in the US the next… albeit after three flights, and hours in airports, waiting.

The trip began with an early arrival in Luanda on Tuesday morning 1/29; RISE participated in an event highlighting ExxonMobil’s social engagement projects that afternoon, and the announcement of the ExxonMobil Foundation’s investment in Angola for 2019. “An important focus of the ExxonMobil Foundation has been to help improve education outcomes around the world,” said Kevin Murphy, President of the ExxonMobil Foundation. “Our partnership with the government of Angola, Educate A Child and RISE International is helping provide new educational opportunities for thousands of children in Angola.” Exxon’s strategic partnerships in Angola focus on women’s empowerment, malaria prevention, conservation, and education, and I had the opportunity to share the RISE story and give an overview of our co-funding partnership with Educate A Child (EAC) and ExxonMobil, with guests including several from various Government Ministries, the US Embassy, the ExxonMobil team in Angola, and other ExxonMobil partners.

Dr. Mary Joy Pigozzi, Executive Director of EAC, and Mr. Kevin Murphy, President of the ExxonMobil Foundation, traveled to Angola for three days to join the local ExxonMobil team and RISE to share in the dedication of two schools that are the result our co-funding partnership, and see the impact of their investment. I had the privilege of joining them on an 8-seat private flight to Kuito Wednesday morning (not the way we generally travel; Rachel took a commercial flight Tuesday afternoon as there wasn’t room, and there were no other options in order to make it to the dedication on time). An ExxonMobil photographer, and a doctor (as is their practice should anything happen to ExxonMobil guests) accompanied the group.

Upon arrival in Kuito, we met with the new Bie Provincial Governor, Vice-Governor, and other officials, and then headed outside of town to Caluco. A muddy road, with water-filled ruts from the heavy overnight rain, led us to a huge awaiting crowd, lining the path. Village leaders in their khaki outfits and hats, women singing and dancing, children, parents, the community, teachers, and officials, greeting and shaking hands, all ready to celebrate the dedication of their beautiful new 6-classroom school. The ribbon was cut, speeches delivered (always including one from a student), special performances, cake, and gifts… baskets of pineapple, lettuce, potatoes, chickens, and a goat, given in gratitude. Two additional ExxonMobil projects were visited, and then to the RISE-built school at Njele – the first completed as part of the partnership last year and dedicated June 1st. Pedro, the Principal, teachers, and several village leaders were thrilled to express their thanks first hand. Over 900 kids are enrolled, and they gratefully shared that learning in classrooms is making a difference.

The next day, we met at 6 am at the Governor’s office to go by caravan to Nharea, (2 1/2 hours north) for the dedication of two schools, one built by the government, and the other as part of our partnership. Though dry when we left, it poured much of the day, and a line of 20 plus vehicles arrived to find another huge crowd for the dedication. The day marked the official opening of the 2019 school year. We were on the porch of the school and protected, but the kids, teachers, and community were standing in the downpour as the ceremony went on. The pouring rain did not dampen the joy and gratitude for their new school! Though unfortunate, the rain tangibly demonstrated the critical need for a school, and for protection, from the wind, heat, cold, and rain.

We spent a lot of time on the road visiting schools, which are fantastic… Kateke is beautiful and ready to be dedicated – the village leaders and principal were there to greet us, and are so incredibly thankful, as they “never dreamt they would have a school like this!” Sope is also ready to be dedicated, and the Administrator shared, “You gave happiness to our kids when the school was started, and you can’t imagine their happiness now that it is complete!” Hundreds of kids at Mitcha started the school year with class under several huge trees, carrying their own chairs and stools to sit on. The teachers talked about the challenges of rain, wind, mud, distraction and noise, and shared their excitement, as well as that of the students, as they anticipate real classrooms once their new school across the dirt “road” is complete in a couple months. I loved seeing kids and teachers in their new classrooms at Cambanda and 17th of September! Several others are under construction, and are impressive. The building teams are committed, grateful to have work, and love their new RISE Angola shirts, which we carried.

Rachel met with the principals of several schools under construction, to introduce herself, explain the Monitoring and Evaluation, and what would be needed. She also spent time with the principals of the three schools completed last year, getting class lists for 2019, and discussing the tracking of attendance that is needed.

The school year in Angola is underway. You see children heading to class, in cities and rural areas, walking on dirt paths, and alongside the road – some school in beautiful new classrooms, some under trees or in temporary structures, and two million have no school at all. However, several thousand more kids are in school this year because of your generosity, multiplied by our partnerships… and they are grateful beyond words. We are part of telling their story, of giving them access to education, of helping make their dreams a reality. Thank you for making a difference!

Lynn Cole, Executive Director

January 27 – February 13, 2019

International Day of Education

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed today as International Day of Education and UNESCO is calling on governments and partners to make universal quality education a leading priority. We believe education is a human right and in Angola alone, over 2 million primary-age children are still out of school. Thanks to YOU, RISE has built 177 schools impacting 124,000 children every year. {Pictured are 4 boys who will be starting school next month at Kateke!} 

Home from Angola – December 2018

Chicago was in the midst of a snowstorm the night I left, with my flight delayed a couple hours as we waited for de-icing; it was one of the last to be cleared amidst hundreds of cancellations. In stark contrast, I was met with hot, humid temperatures upon reaching Luanda. I arrived home yesterday afternoon, departing Luanda on Tuesday night, flying through Paris and London to Chicago, which was the most cost effective route this time.

It is the rainy season, and much of the country is lush and green, though several southern, dry and dusty areas through which we drove, long for precipitation. Angola has spectacular landscapes and variety, huge rock formations and mountains, valleys and rolling highlands, oceanfront and rivers, blue sky with puffs of white clouds especially in the rainy season, and huge baobab trees. As the focus of this trip was to meet with local administrators and officials, and visit schools under construction and potential sites, we spent hours on the road. Jamba, the young man who was injured in a bad accident when we were in Angola a year ago, has recovered and was driving us again. He is an excellent driver, for which I feel very grateful, as the potential for accidents on the brutal roads is an unsettling reality. There are stretches of tarred roads, many with huge potholes forcing the cars to snake back and forth between both lanes. Some areas are impassable, so a new path has been carved next to the existing road. Periodically, kids armed with shovels fill the holes, and then hold out their hands hoping for a “donation” as you pass.

The President has now been in office for over a year, and continues to make bold changes, committed to eliminating corruption, and working to bring transparency and accountability. The few at the top enjoyed enormous wealth and prosperity for years, the prior President and his family among them, while the majority of the population suffered. People feel hopeful, as the goal is to bring greater equity, though change will take time.

RISE efforts and your generous gifts have been multiplied as a result of our partnership with Educate A Child and ExxonMobil – there are seven schools under construction, with more ready to begin. Adriano Huambo, our Country Director, and our leadership teams, have masterfully scaled to manage the multiple projects. Craftsmen and laborers are grateful for jobs, moving from one school upon completion to the next. They live on site, generally in small tin structures. Provision of employment continues to have a powerful ripple effect in a harsh economy. Three workers were at Sope completing final details when we visited – Adriano explained that they could go home for the weekend and then travel to the school in Lubango to join the bricklayers; they were thrilled!

Kateke, a school for which the first stone was laid on July 13th, is beautiful! One of the village leaders beamed sharing, “We never imagined we would have a school like this. We cannot adequately express our joy; sometimes we drop tears. We are so grateful!” A group of kids showed up, including several boys with fantastic “cars” made of the fruit from the baobab tree which serve as wheels, and a long stick to drive the car. The kids are excited for their “grande” new school – the first time to attend in real classrooms!

RISE has two amazing schools under construction in the Huambo Province – a 12-classroom school at Santa Teresinha Camussamba, with over 2000 primary age kids in need, and Cacilhas Norte, a community committed to education for their children whose story was shared at our benefit. It is in an urban, poor area – to access the school you wind through rutted, mud “streets” lined with block and tin structures, small shops, lots of people, chickens, goats and pigs. For years, the Principal has advocated for the kids, for more than education under trees and in tin rooms, and now said she “feels like someone who is dreaming, or watching tv, as it is too good to be true! At the last meeting with the community, I shared that the project was approved, and the community members were jumping with joy. At moments like this, you don’t find words. Kids will be different – with a building like this, the students, community and country will start changing.”

We met with several truly inspiring principals, committed to fighting for education for the children. They lack infrastructure, resources and materials, but are passionate and persistent. Many parents too, are desperate for education for their children, wanting their kids to have what they did not. Pedro, the Principal at Njele which was dedicated June 1st, talked about the difference they see already, in the students’ motivation, attendance, and ability to complete their coursework because they have classrooms. Sitting in his new office, I noticed fantastic paper/cardboard models of the school and a house that the 6th graders had made – classrooms allow students to be creative, providing protection from rain, mud and wind.

In addition to spending time at each construction site, we visited numerous places in need of a school, both rural and semi-urban, including temporary “classrooms” for some of the more than 2300 kids at Gama. Families living in poverty, most making a living as street-sellers, without access to healthcare, clean water or education, have contributed toward classrooms in hope of a better future for their children.

Hours along the road gave me time to reflect on our journey, the highs and lows, the fifteen years of building schools, with gratitude for the privilege of being involved in something that really matters. My first trip to Angola with Andrew, my late husband, was 20 years ago… hard to believe as time passes so quickly. Huge challenges remain, yet the forward progress is amazing and significant, giving thousands of kids access to education each year – thank you for your part!

Lynn Cole, Executive Director

Give on #GivingTuesday!

Join us to give children in Angola the gift of education! GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S., Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy. 

 

AmazonSmile Gives Back

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support RISE International every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to RISE.

To participate, simply go to smile.amazon.com and choose RISE International NFP as your charity. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5%* of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases.

If you have questions about AmazonSmile, you can learn more here.

*Sometimes, Amazon will announce higher donation periods and we will communicate this information via social media and email.