You Can Build a School in Africa for $12,500

It doesn’t have to cost the $40 million that Oprah Winfrey spent. Illinois North Shore resident Lynn Cole heads up RISE International.  She can show you how you can build a school in Angola for $12,500. RISE, by the way comes from  Isaiah 58:10:

Lynn Cole poses with some Angolan students.

“…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will RISE in he darkness…”

Actually, the residents in Angola do the construction. You provide the financing. Groups associated with high schools like New Trier, Wheeling and West Chicago, plus churches have done the heavy lifting to raise the $1.3 million spent so far. When the Angolan school year begins in February, 150 schools built with help from RISE will be staffed with Angolan Ministry of Education teachers. Naturally, I had to ask what could be done with $40 million. Cole’s answer:

“With $40 million we could do amazing things. I think we could change a country with $40 million.”

A close-up of happy children.

Cole and her husband Andrew were inspired when they went to Angola, her husband’s birth place, as part of their 25th wedding anniversary celebration. And in case the last name sounds familiar, Andrew’s father is Moody Bible Institute’s Pastor Donald Cole. But, let me let her tell the story. . .

Celebrating the opening of a school in Angola in 2006.

The civil war continued in Angola for 27 years. The infrastructure lay in ruins, schools were destroyed or non-existent, and an entire generation has grown up unable to read and write. Our vision is to work together to rebuild lives and communities, reflecting Jesus’ charge to love others as we love ourselves.

Andrew, my husband was born and raised in Angola, the son of Don and Naomi Cole, missionaries there for 18 years.

After a 31 year absence, he returned with his Dad for a one time visit in 1997—they were moved by the people and the involvement could not end, but began anew.

This is the first school that was built in rural Angola.

This journey began for me in May of 1998, as Andrew and I traveled to Angola to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I had never been out of the US, never to a third world war-torn country, never to a place that gripped me like Angola.

Amidst the devastation, Andrew dreamed of building a school at Chilonda, the place he had grown up.

More children happy to be given the opportunity to learn.

But in 1999, the war escalated and unable to enter Angola, we found Angolan refugees with whom we could be involved in the Osire Refugee Camp in Namibia, and thought it would be great to bring a “few friends” to join us.

A teacher and kids wave at the camera.

Those “friends” became the first Pilgrimage of Service team in May of 2000, a group of 19 that traveled to Osire to work and serve.

Their experience and the relationships that were built moved that group to form a non-profit organization just one year later.

Subsequent mission trips to refugee camps in Zambia inspired passion and action. And when the war ended in 2002, the journey led RISE back to Angola, with a commitment to bring encouragement and hope through education.

We couldn’t get in so we went to refugee camps. When the war ended in 2002, we decided that we wanted to focus our efforts on rebuilding Angola.

The most effective way to do that was through education.

In the spring of 2003 a group of us sat in our living room to think about how this might unfold.

Local villagers gathered for the dedication of the school they built.

The first school was built just three and a half years ago and highlights what can happen when we take a small step. Our mission is to partner with Angolan churches, community leaders and government officials to build primary schools in rural Angola.

It is a very simple partnership where we raised the funds in the United States to provide building materials and books and local villages in Angola are chosen by local leadership teams we have established. This is based on a partnership agreement.

Then the village volunteers the labor and the oversight.

The youngest children gather outside for a photo op.

February is the start of their school year. There will be about 45,000 kids in 105 schools that would not have had schools yet.

The reason is that we are building schools in various rural areas where they have not schools or the schools were destroyed. They haven’t had schools for 25 or 30 years in some of these villages and in some villages there never was a school.

The places where we are working are where there was a lot of fighting during the war. So the entire infrastructure was destroyed.

Another close-up of the children who will attend the school.

We partner with a local village and a local church within the village and they provide labor and oversight.

The beauty of that is that the school belongs to them. They have ownership and investment.

The third part of the partnership is that the Angolan Ministry of Education provides and pays the teachers.

It’s really an effort to jump-start the educational system.

The task of rebuilding is so enormous when a country is destroyed. The government is beginning to build schools in the cities and towns, but it will be years before they will be able to get to the rural areas as well.

We have begun in the rural areas and will meet in the middle.

That’s where this idea (comes from) that these kids would not have been in schools for years to come without outside assistance.

The schools we are building are about $12,500 apiece. They are in places where there is no electricity, no running water. The local village builds outhouses for the use of the schools.

And where does the money come from?

The financing to this point has been primarily relationally based.

By that I mean, people who have known us or people who have traveled with us to Angola are touched by the story and the need and want to make a difference.

American youngsters play with legos. This Angolan lad uses the real thing.

Individuals, small groups, schools, churches and businesses have joined together.

It’s been an amazing process as well.

Initially we are involved in a number of schools. And there are several more becoming involved, including Prosser Academy, a Chicago public school.

The ones who have been involved to date have been New Trier, Wheeling High School and West Chicago Community High School.

The kids have been involved to raise money to build schools and to send shipping containers filled with school supplies and clothing.

We have very committed people in these schools.

They are engaged because they see the money they raise actually makes a difference.

Loading materials to be sent by ship to Angola.

These are the entities listed as partnering with the organization on its web site:

-Christian Heritage Academy in Northfield, IL
-Grace Community Church in Tucson, AZ
-Moody Broadcasting
-New Trier High School
-West Chicago Community High School
-Wheeling High School
-Willow Creek Community Church – North Shore in Northfield

Pilgrims and Angolans, one with a building block, pose for photo in 2006.

In addition to raising money stateside, the group sends people to Angola, for one of the unique elements of RISE is its focus on relationships.

We take teams in the summer and those teams (including some teens) participate in both building schools and teacher training workshops.

So they are personally involved and take pictures and we get stories and we get input.

They bring that back to the U.S. so that the kids in the schools see the schools they are actually building and the kids they are helping.

We have taken teams since May of 2000.

These teams, we call them a “Pilgrimage of Service.”

Another view of the people the American pilgrims worked beside to build a school.

The idea is that we go to work and serve along side Angolans, but it is often those who go that are most deeply impacted.

The cost?

Last summer’s cost was $4,700.

And the future?

Over the next five years RISE wants to impact 100,000 additional students, building 250 more schools, and work to help the schools provide the best learning environment in rural Angola.

Education empowers people—we will remain focused on rebuilding lives and communities through education.

The schools and churches offer a network to disperse knowledge.

Exciting partnerships continue to unfold, with a plan to provide training and materials to educate about life skills, literacy and the prevention of AIDS. Angola is unique, having the lowest rate of AIDS in southern Africa because of the isolation of war. We can and must make a difference–education can save lives.

This map of Angola shows locations of schools in 2006.

Contributions to RISE International can be made via its web page.

Images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

= = = = =

The top photo is of excited students at school in village of Kambiambia, Benguela Province. Beneath to the left is a close-up of some of the waving children.

On the right is the 2006 Pilgrimage Team helping build school at village of Balambi. The funds to pay for the school were raised by New Trier High School students.

Below, Lynn Cole is seen with students at school in Lomako, Benguela Province.

The photo on the right is a closeup of the children standing in front of the school at Essoquela, Benguela Province.

Next appears a teacher with his students at school in village of Kunje, Bie Province. A closer look at the teacher and some of his students can been seen directly below. To that picture’s upper right is another close-up of children in front of a school.

The three men are standing in the door of a school in Essoquela, Benguela Province. Did they helped build the school? Is that a hopeful mother in front of them?

Both the adults and the students below are from a school in Essoquela, Benguela Province. In the column of kids from the school, the tallest, dressed in blue, has a somber look on her face.

The little boy with his hands on the big brick is from the village of Balambi. This close-up was taken from the third picture from the top of the story.

Below the boy is a shipping container being filled with school supplies and clothing by those in the New Trier High School area. Besides raising money to pay for the building of schools, RISE International also encourages groups to donate such goods and material.

Next are enlargements of those who went to Angola to help build the school in Balambi, along with some residents whom they assisted in turning New Trier’s contribution into a school.

The young folks you see pictured among the photo credits are from the village of Kahondo, province of Benguela. This is the site of the new school being built with funds raised by Wheeling High School.

Finally, there is a map of Angola which shows the number of schools RISE expects to be ready for February classes.

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