Thursday, January 20, 2011

It all Started in the back of this minibus...

I've been asked many times how Arise Africa started. And the story is a bit unconventional, which shouldn't surprise you if you know us!

In 2009 I was in Sudan and Uganda doing a photo shoot for the United Nations and after the shoot, I decided to go back to Zambia and see my old friends. I wanted to check in on kids and families that I had worked with the previous year on a photography project. I had asked an old friend, Bwalya, to take off work to help me locate the folks and work with me for the week. Bwalya and I hadn't talked much in the previous year and we can only say that God really brought us back together.

We hired Joe, the driver of this minibus to drive us and we spent the week visiting homes and playing with kids and talking to parents about their year. They were grateful to see me and know that I hadn't forgotten about them. They kept saying that to me, that they thought I would never come back or help again. And it really resonated with me. Bwalya was a natural with the kids and parents and his love for his country was really inspiring.

After each visit we would get in the minibus and Bwalya would begin to talk about how we could help those families get out of poverty for good, through his business ideas and educating the kids. And they were legit! He was throwing out business terms and numbers that I was impressed with. (not that I knew exactly what they meant, but I knew he did)

One evening we went to the US Embassy in Zambia to see my American friend, Jordan, who was working there at the time. We had spent the day in some pretty tough slums and had seen kids who weren't doing very well. As we pulled out from the embassy (Bwalya was frustrated he wasn't allowed inside the embassy gates since he isn't a U.S. citizen!) and we sat in the back of the minibus while we drove down a dusty dirt road it just happened. It was almost too perfect, the sun was setting and it was so pretty. And we started talking...(note: when you hear this you know something big is gonna happen in Arise)

We dreamed of being able to help the people long term whom we had been visiting. Bwalya threw out a few ideas of businesses he would like to open which the profits made could help fund the non profit. I talked about wanting to help with education in schools and work in the slums. We could feel God in that bus, and we were excited! We somewhat decided then and there to both go our ways and try to make something happen.

I returned to America in September of 2009 thinking about what I could do. I read alot of books about non profits and ministries and what worked and what didn't. I researched and took from my own experiences from working with various Non Profits. And I prayed, alot. And I kept feeling like God wanted us to do something.

In November I received a phone call from an old friend, John, who I had known in Zambia years earlier. He lived in Austin and said he had heard that I was still doing some work in Zambia and was interested. We talked about the trip I had just taken and Bwalya's ambitions and our dreams. By the end of our conversation John was encouraging me and helped me take the next steps to form a non profit.

We came up with the name Arise Africa from Isaiah 60:1-9 which reads, "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall be acceptable on my altar, and I will glorify my glorious house. Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows?

For the coastlands shall wait for me, the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your children from far away, their silver and gold with them, for the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you."

We then started the process of filing for a 501C3 in America. Which by the way is extremely daunting! I kinda feel like if you can achieve 501C3 status than you are ready for anything! Luckily we had a great attorney help us, and a cousin of mine who helped fill out alot of the forms to save us money. We filed in late March and were told that it would take 6 to 9 months to hear back from the IRS.

On April 20th 2010 I received a phone call from our attorney informing me we had received 501C3 status! It was the fastest he or anyone had ever seen. And we were pumped!

It hasn't even been a year since we received that 501C3 status. And so much has happened!

Take a look at some of our highlights:

We have a child sponsorship program where 21 kids receive clothes, school fees paid for, discipleship, medical attention and even food.

We had our first mission trip where 15 Americans came and built an entire additional wing on a school. The school now has three more classrooms and an office, providing a better education for 160 kids.

We also held a kids Vacation bible School for 170 orphan and vulnerable children and taught them about God's unconditional love. We fed them three meals and played many soccer games!

We delivered over 2000 pounds of school supplies and computers.

We have started a growing program and provided funds for a school to grow corn to feed their 500 kids that attend.

We have one of our Zambian staff members in college.

We have purchased land and are working on multiple business investments.

The coolest part of Arise Africa is seeing everyone involved. It takes MANY people to support us through sponsoring a child, giving to the school supply fund, going on a trip, and even praying for us. Watching people become involved and support us has been the biggest blessing for me.

We have learned alot this first year and have seen God's hand in all of it. We are learning how to grow well. We are learning what it means to take care of one another. And we are learning about patience (this one kills me!).

As 2010 wraps up we can't help but thank God for everyone's support and encouragement throughout this year. Who knows where Arise Africa will be in a few years. But if it is anything like this one, it will surely be quite a trip with alot of blessings.

God Bless!

- Alissa, John, and Bwalya

Monday, January 17, 2011

Goodbyes and Arrivals

So the blog ended abruptly and we apologize for that! We lost internet the last few days at our lodge and then we were gone!

The last day of camp was amazing and saying goodbye to our kiddos was no easy task. There were lots of tears and sad goodbyes for both Americans and Zambian kids. The kids received a book bag and a pencil which were huge hits! Super thanks to Texas Wildlife Association for the bags!

We had a great team dinner Friday night at the local Mexican food restaurant in Lusaka. Don’t worry it is run by a friend from Texas so it is legit! Our Zambians had never experienced Mexican Food and they were very surprised. We had some issues with it being too spicy for our Zambian team and many glasses of ice water were consumed. But all in all they liked it, or at least acted like they did!

Some of our Americans left Saturday and other did a Victoria Falls trip and headed out Monday for the states.

We have been home for about a week now and miss Zambia a lot. I think everyone is struggling with re entry into the States and fully processing what they just experienced. But it is good struggles to be having, and God is working in everyone in different ways.

This trip went AMAZINGLY well. And I have to give credit to God foremost and then all the amazing people who participated on both continents to make this happen.

We were able to build three classrooms and an office that will help 156 kids receive an education.

We held a Vacation Bible School to 170 kids and taught them about God’s unconditional love, AIDS, and many other important topics.

We delivered about 2000 pounds worth of school supplies and clothes to two community schools.

We fed about 650 healthy meals to children and adults who were hungry.

God is working in Arise Africa, and we are blessed to be a part of it. Without your help and donations none of this would have happened!

THANK YOU for your support!!

- Alissa Hollimon

Thursday, January 6, 2011


There is nothing like the feeling of driving into Destiny School our first morning and being welcomed by 170 ecstatic Zambian children singing God’s praises. Each member of the team was paired up with a Zambian partner, either from our Arise staff, or a teacher from the school. Later on, we were each given 10 children to spend the next three days with. In these three days, we are focusing on unconditional love, knowing what a rare experience it is for these kids. We are instilling that the Lord loves them no matter who they are, no matter what circumstances they face, and no matter what they do. Our hope is for each of these kids to leave with these truths by the end of the week!

One of the more interesting moments of the day:
Sharing with 170 kids their first experience with Peanut butter and Jelly and a local Zambian “Super Shake”!!
Unlike many American kids, they will eat whatever is put in front of them, although not always to their liking; in need to fill their empty stomachs. Because their bodies often receive only one meal per day, our provided lunch of a PBJ gives them protein, and the super shake loads with vitamins and nutrients to give them energy. Let’s just say they preferred the Super Shake!

Just as we did at Greenhill, through donated items and the work of our team, we were able to better equip Destiny school with the tools to give each of their students a better education. The teachers sang to God in praise as they looked through the items, and we are exited about getting to organize and prepare them for the opening of the new school year! They are continuously amazed by all the fancy creations the United States has come up with for teaching!

Most of these children have never experienced the love we get to feel on a daily basis. We were quick to realize the impact a simple hug could have on the lives of these kids. Grasping at our arms and holding tightly to each of us, looking down at these smiling faces brings tears to your eyes. We are teaching these kids unconditional love, and yet they love us unconditionally. No matter who we are, no matter what circumstances we face, and no matter what we do.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Goodbye Greenhill!

Today was another long, hard, exciting, & eventful day as we finished up our time at Greenhill School.

We finished 4 new classrooms for the school, complete with colorful paint, new chalkboards, and plenty of brand new school supplies to fill them!

Presenting the school supplies to the Greenhill teachers and students was an incredibly moving moment. The teachers were overwhelmed by the generosity of all donors! They couldn’t believe all the new supplies. New flashcards, magnetic boards, and an endless supply of writing utensils blew them out of the water! The Zambians were fascinated by the new concept of a “dry erase” board, magnetic board, and tic tac toe. We had fun explaining these new concepts to the Greenhill staff, and they assured us they would be invaluable in their classroom teaching. ☺

After putting the finishing touches on everything, we had a dedication ceremony with the Greenhill teachers and students and our Arise Africa team. We dedicated the 4 rooms and tried to offer some words of encouragement, but we were completely outdone by Mrs. Tembo when she thanked our team and expressed the ways the classrooms would impact the students of Greenhill and their futures for many years to come.

We grabbed a few “snaps” (Zambian for pics) of the finished product and our team before saying our goodbyes, passing out hugs, and listening to our kids sing us a goodbye song as we pulled out in the mini-bus.

Even though we were exhausted when we got back to the Lodge, we managed to be lured in by the neighborhood kids hanging out outside the gates of the hotel. Within minutes, the guys had baseballs and gloves out and were introducing the local Zambian children to American’s favorite pastime. The guys played catch, Clayton helped with mechanics, and all were thoroughly impressed with the kids’ natural skills, seeing to how none of them had ever seen a baseball before today!

It was another fabulous day in Zambia! We continue to be so thankful for the ways the Lord is providing for us and how much fun we’re having! Today especially, we are reminded of all our supporters and donors back home who made this possible. The finished product at Greenhill School was certainly a blessing to both them and us.

Monday, January 3, 2011


We are exhausted. EXHAUSTED! This morning we went to Greenhill School and saw the classrooms that we raised funds to build. And they are amazing. Our Zambian friends worked hard to do the bricks and mortar and finish the roof before rainy season. And WOW were we happy to have a roof today! Because it hailed! On us, in Zambia. And the Zambians loved it and were delighted at the sight of “ice” and were trying to eat it.

We painted, measured doors, cut wood, made cement, layed cinder blocks, installed window frames, blew up our power tool charger, bought new power tools, made two paint runs, and began to work on the chalkboards. We are exhausted! We hope to paint a lot more tomorrow, hand out school supplies, and hang out with kiddos.

One of our favorite parts of the day was when some of the kids danced for us, and then we had to jump in! They loved it and we certainly can’t dance like them, but we do look funny trying!

In the late afternoon the rain came and it was impressive. We were able to take cover in our new building and the roof is very well built! We all made a mad dash to get into the mini bus and drove home soaking wet.

The dinner crew tonight had fun at the grocery store trying to make a Mexican food casserole until they realized that they didn’t have any ingredients. They quickly changed their recipe and improvised and we had a great meal!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday

Today we woke up and headed to church. We had a great time and met a lot of amazing Zambians, including many of the children that will be attending the kids camp this week. We loved the singing and had quite an experience learning the songs. They had visiting bishops; governmental representatives and even the local TV station came! This was a BIG deal for them!!

There were about 150 people that attended the church. Families and children from the community gathered to worship and they are “lively” for God to say the least! Their energy for Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that you cannot help but overflow with emotion and praise.

After church, they have a tradition of greeting every person that attended the service that day. Members made an incredible collage of authentic Zambian cuisine in our honor. It is unreal to see that these families come from such hardship and were concerned with making us feel at home. We were able to fellowship with everyone and the PRECIOUS children of Zambia.

We then headed to Arcades, a shopping center where we were able to purchase some souvenirs and eat a great meal. We ate at a local restaurant called La Mimosa or better known as “La Musungu” among the Zambians because that is where all the white people like to eat. (Musungu means white in their tribal language) After Arcades we had some time in the afternoon at our lodge to hang out, throw the Frisbees and football and watch Clayton throw some pitches. A few of our other guys attempted to throw and we ended up having to get our guard to help us retrieve baseballs that were in a yard over the fence. We also got experience a massive rainstorm that Charlotte managed to sleep through!

Dinner was great and chefs David, Kasey and Katie are rocking it in the kitchen. We introduced our Zambian kitchen friends to brownies and chicken Parmesan. They were impressed we know how to wash dishes despite the fact that we have dishwashers.

The Gilliams and the Sayles led our devotional tonight as we talked about Galatians 4, being one in Christ, and being adopted as heirs of the King. Through these conversations, we also had the opportunity to share our own stories of God’s sovereignty through this trip, the preparations before the departure, and our time here in Zambia so far. We continue to see the mighty ways that the Lord is working and continue to pray boldly against any ways that anyone or anything might try to slow down the great things He is doing.

Day two, we can already see the love of the Lord spilling over into our lives, and the selflessness of these beautiful people.

Arrived and doing well!

We arrived!( loud applause and cheer appreciated) After 24hrs of air travel, the 16 member team is here, a bit droggy and excited, but fully present with all 2300 lbs. of bags. Katie and Nate even made it through a touch and go with the customs agent. It was a New Years miracle!

Upon arrival, we made no waste of time and got to seeing Zambia. Via bus, we traveled to compounds, markets, grocery stores and more. We even had an opportunity to play with the African children; their game of choice: Red Rover. IT was an amazing opportunity to our elementary playground days.

We spent the afternoon sorting supplies and preparing for the week. We definitely were EXHAUSTED and wanted to sleep but stayed awake. David made great pizzas for dinner and then we all crashed hard.

Some fun “Africanisms” that we have experienced so far is that the lodge does not have enough keys for every room! So Kim and Rob and Nate and Katie crawl through their windows. Ellen and Clayton were woken up in the middle of the night to thinking a machine gun was going off in their room to discover their air conditioner was breaking.

We will post more later!
- the team