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, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to RISE.

To participate, simply go to 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.