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

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