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Meet Alissa Rosebrough of Arise Africa in Fort Worth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alissa Rosebrough.

Alissa grew up in San Antonio Texas and attended Texas A&M University. Arise Africa all began Alissa (who was Alissa Hollimon at the time) graduated from A&M with a communications degree and began working as an assistant photographer for the San Antonio Spurs. This launched her freelance photography career with the National Basketball Association, and she was also working for a large industrial construction company as their in-house photographer. During the basketball offseason, Alissa began taking photos for various aid organizations around the world, particularly in Africa.

From 2007 to 2014, Alissa photographed in America and traveled around Africa, documenting the progress being made – and not being made – in governmental and aid organizations. After spending an extended amount of time in Zambia in 2008 and 2009, she felt a calling to do more than just chronicle the nation’s plight through her photos. She wanted to make a difference on a much deeper level.

Alissa met fellow American John Rosacker on that trip to Zambia, and they hatched the idea of doing something for Zambian children. John didn’t mince words with his offer: “I’ll pay if you do the work to start a nonprofit.” Alissa immediately accepted.

Alissa and John established Arise Africa as a 501(c) (3) in 2010, while she lived in Dallas. What began as collecting and donating books to children in Zambia once a year has grown into a much larger mission. The big change came three years later, when Alissa met her soon-to-be husband, Asher Rosebrough. She moved the organization’s office to Fort Worth in 2015 when they got married and retired from her photography career to dedicate her full efforts to the burgeoning organization. Arise Africa has purchased and fully renovated a 3500 square foot building in Fairmount which is their USA headquarters.

“Our original idea when we started was to hold one annual fundraiser and buy books for children we knew in Zambia,” says Alissa. “As we invited friends to join us in supporting these children, many of them began committing $30, $50 and even more every month to educate them.” That initial group of 15 friends has grown to over 700 people with a monthly commitment to children we work with. “Ten years later clearly God had much bigger plans for the ministry than a book drive!” Laughs Alissa. “We now receive over $1,000,000 in donations annually.” Most of these supporters are from Dallas.

Today, Arise Africa has generated some impressive metrics: 475 students are in a child sponsorship program where they are educated, given medical care, clothed and fed by the organization daily. The children are being led by 17 local Zambians hired by Arise Africa, and the student-to-discipleship ratio is 30:1. Arise also operates two orphanages, the Arise Homes, where 18 children live in full-time care. The children in the homes were abandoned, living on the streets or in the city dump, abused, and some were on the verge of death due to illnesses. The organization has a paid staff of 45, including the teachers, administrators, cooks and support staff. Of this number, three are in Fort Worth and 42 are Zambian nationals. “We firmly believe in hiring local Zambians, they know what is best for their country and children, we just need to give them the resources, support, and love. We recently hired a Zambian headmaster and he is outstanding. He is helping educate our teachers, which elevates the quality of what they can teach the children. God is doing big things and my job is just to facilitate and support.”

Arise Africa’s programs include serving a hot meal each day, teaching students to read, write and perform math, daily Bible study and, of course, play time – every child needs to have a release for pent-up energy.

Alissa was approached by her friends Clayton and Ellen Kershaw, who wanted to help through their foundation, Kershaw’s Challenge. Alissa attended college with Ellen’s older sister, which led to the connection. Clayton and Ellen grew up in Highland Park. Clayton, the two-time Cy Young Award winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Ellen have traveled to Africa multiple times with Arise and volunteered. This all began when Ellen reached out after learning about the mission trips to Zambia and asked if she and Clayton could join the volunteers.

They also announced that Kershaw’s Challenge is providing $1 million to build a school where 700 Zambian students will learn to read, write and develop critical thinking skills. The school will also provide evening classes to help educate the community’s adults in hopes of elevating the quality of life for the entire immediate area.

The major project is the new school, which will eventually accommodate 700 students. Due to Zambia’s fragile economy, the federal government has imposed new fees for zoning and construction permits. The approval process is slow, but it has been expedited somewhat because Arise Africa utilizes Zambian contractors and buys materials locally whenever possible.

The organization has already received the first $250,000 installment and will begin construction of phase one this August, which should accommodate over 150 students starting in January 2019.

Arise Africa has already built two homes and a central Zambia headquarters called The Complex. The two homes, called the Arise Homes, house 18 children from ages 5 to 18 that are in Arise’s full-time care. The students retain their own given names, which range such African names as Mukonda, Armon and Shadrack, to more Americanized names like Fred and Mary. Many of the Africanized names refer to the season of life when the children were born, such as joy, pain, blessings and trouble.

The Complex, which can sleep 30, is self-sustaining. When not housing Arise mission trippers, children or staff, organizations such as USAid rent the bedrooms to stay during their missionary trips. Some larger nonprofits rent out the entire complex for a week at a time to accommodate their mission groups as well. The Complex is constructed from repurposed metal shipping containers that have been converted with windows and doors.

The next step? “Improving the educations we offer in Zambia and advancing some of our best and brightest kids to great universities in America and elsewhere in the world,” continues Alissa. “We already have one student whose SAT score qualifies for TCU. If we can find scholarship money for these children, we’ll be able to make enormous changes in the trajectory of their lives. The goal is not for them to live in America – the goal is to build and grow leaders for Zambia. But we have to be realistic about the higher levels of educations America and other countries offer.”

Alissa and her husband, Asher, live in Ridgelea Hills with their young daughter Annie, and their chocolate lab, Ella. When not in Africa, they can be found at their favorite restaurants such as HG Supply or Salsa Limon. They love to be outdoors on the Trinity trails.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Ha ha not at all!

Learning how to run a non-profit and operating on a small budget at first was very difficult. But every single step of the way someone has helped us and given great advice and support. You can clearly see God’s hand in our growth. Churches such as Highland Park United Methodist Church and Park Cities Presbyterian Church have been very instrumental in our positive growth.

Please tell us about Arise Africa.
We work with orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia. Our goal is to help them have a life that God desires for all mankind. This means providing discipleship education, feeding, and medical care as needed. We provide the basic needs for life to over 700 children daily.

We are known for wanting to go deep and making an impact. We strive to build up leaders for the continent of Africa. We care for a child all the way to university if possible.

I am most proud of our Zambian staff as a company. We work so well together. The amount of sacrifice and passion our staff has for our children is incredible. I am most proud of looking at children who are now teenagers whom when we started working with them ten years ago we thought they were going to die. They had HIV and AIDS and were malnourished and literally skeletons. They are now healthy and have a passion for life they had never had.

What sets Arise apart from other ministries is that we are very “hands on” with our supporters and children. If you sponsor a child through us, you get updates and photos of them constantly. You have the opportunity to write them multiple times a year and they write you back. We build the relationship between the supporter and the child much more than other sponsorship programs.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I grew up going to our ranch in South Texas and I think my most favorite memories are being down there and working with my dad on various projects from welding, fixing trucks, working cattle and other ranch jobs. It got me prepared to work in Africa! I learned to adapt and be able to fix anything with duct tape!

Pricing:

  • Child sponsorship starts at $35 monthly

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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