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. 

RISE Benefit 2018

Thanks to all who attended the benefit on Saturday, October 20th at the Evanston Art Center. It was a delightful evening, as we celebrated 15 years of building schools! Guests enjoyed delicious appetizers and drinks, took part in a silent auction with crafts from Angola and Zambia, and participated in our first Wine Pull. The journey has been amazing, as is The Ripple Effect created over the years, and our amazing opportunity to give more kids in Angola the chance to go to school!


Partnership = kids in school!

Three schools have been completed, dedicated, and children are in class learning because of your generosity and our co-funding partnership with Educate A Child, and resource partner ExxonMobil. Six additional schools are under construction. Rachel Cole, Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator for the project, is again traveling to Angola, 9/30 through 10/17, to collect and track enrollment and attendance data for students at the completed schools.

TEAM RISE Half Marathon

Thank you to our 2018 TEAM RISE Chicago Half Marathon runners, supporters and donors! Because of the commitment and dedication of our TEAM RISE runners, 6300 children in Angola have been given access to education since 2009. Our next TEAM RISE event is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2018. Specific details about cheering on TEAM RISE will be sent via email and general spectator information about the marathon can be found here. 

Annual Benefit – The Ripple Effect

This year’s benefit will be held on Saturday, October 20th at the Evanston Art Center. The evenng will explore the ripple effect education has on children, families and communities in Angola.

Learn more and register here


2018 Brewery Tour

Participants in the Brewery Tour enjoyed a fun day touring Revolution Brewing in Chicago and Temperance Beer Company in Evanston topped off with fabulous Chicago pizza generously donated by Lou Malnati’s. Thanks to all involved for helping give kids in Angola a chance to go to school. This is an annual event, so if you could not attend this year, keep an eye out for announcements next summer.


RISE International joined Educate A Child, a program of Education Above All, and other partners in New York City on April 27-28 to celebrate the achievement of securing commitments to provide education to 10 million out of school children around the world. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, UN SDG advocate and Founder & Chairperson of Education Above All (EAA) Foundation promised in 2012 to reach out to 10 million of the world’s most marginalized children, as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

RISE is an implementing partner with Educate A Child (EAC),  and will construct approximately 25 new schools and enroll 24,000 out of school children (OOSC) by 2020 in the provinces of Benguela, Bié and Luanda. This is made possible through co-funding from EAC, ExxonMobil and RISE donors. Education Above All and RISE have common goals in providing school infrastructure to children who have been impacted by war and its aftermath, poverty, disease and a lack of basic social services.

The NYC event was attended by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, UN Secretary General António Guterres and leaders from the United Nations, UNICEF, NGOs, and global industry, including President of Ghana and model philanthropist Naomi Campbell, to celebrate this important milestone. Executive Director Lynn Cole, Board President Dan Paustian, and Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator Rachel Cole were privileged to participate in both celebratory events and partner meetings.

Speaking on the power of education at the event, United Nations Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Antonio Guterres, said: “Our dream of a sustainable future cannot be realized if we do not support children’s dreams to gain an education. When we educate a child we give her more than books, papers, pencils or a calculator. We give her the tools, skills and imagination she needs to shape the world around her and to make her community, and her society, better, more prosperous and more peaceful.”

RISE International’s Executive Director, Lynn Cole, shared: “It was powerful to be part of an event like this, with global leaders, individuals and organizations committed to the goal of giving all children access to education. We are in this crucial phase of fundraising to ensure that 24,000 more OOSC in Angola are able to attend school, and I am incredibly grateful for our generous supporters, invested in being part of this larger vision to give kids in Angola and around the world, the primary education they deserve.”

Volunteer Center Honor

Executive Director, Lynn Cole, was honored by the Volunteer Center at their Annual Volunteer Center Recognition Event on April 19, 2018. The Mission of The Volunteer Center is to promote volunteerism, support nonprofit organizations, and engage people in meaningful volunteer service in the communities they serve. This year’s event was held at the Michigan Shores Club and honorees represented four organizations, RISE International, Grace House Mentors, Go Green Winnetka, and Keystone Alliance.

Barbara Tubekis, Executive Director at the Volunteer Center, spoke about each recipient and the organizational mission, and presented each honoree with a keepsake. Lynn’s family attended the event to celebrate the recognition. Lynn said, “I am grateful to the Volunteer Center and its Board, and for the work you do, and thank you for the opportunity to share our story, and that of the children of Angola. I am honored to be among a group of people committed to impacting the world for good, truly making a difference.”