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Monday’s “Live Your Story Series”- Alissa Hollimon

June 13, 2011

Alissa Hollimon lives in Dallas, Texas, and runs her photography business, Hollimon Photography. Alissa works mainly for Zachry Group and the NBA. During the NBA offseason, Alissa began taking photos for many aid organizations throughout Africa. After a few years, Alissa felt a need to give back more than just images. With the overwhelming generosity and help from others, Alissa founded Arise Africa. Arise Africa is a ministry based in Zambia, Africa that helps individuals live a life that God desires for them. Arise Africa works in communities and schools and help pay for education for kids, feed them, provide clothing and school supplies, and give micro finance loans to adults. To learn more about Arise Africa please visit www.ariseafrica.org

              Alissa Hollimon                                 Photographer                                  Dallas, Texas

1.  Name a person, book, and moment that served as a catalyst for the pursuit of your passion?

I had spent years working in Africa doing photography for various aid and governmental organizations.  But the moment I knew that I would always be committed to and wanted to help long term when I was in the country of Zambia. I was riding in a car with my good Zambian friend, Bwalya.  We had spent all day out in the slums and visiting children and families that I had known for years at that point.  It had been a tough day, seeing people you love suffering of extreme poverty because of lack of opportunity or education.  Bwalya and I began talking about things that could change that and what it would look like.  And there is no doubt God was directing both of us to work together and provide opportunity for our friends there.  We both felt the Lord’s presence and said that God was working in us, and we needed to listen.  It was one of the most clear times in my life that I felt God was right there with us in that car.  I went back to the states and prayed about it as Bwalya did in Zambia.  And a few months later, we started Arise Africa, and Bwalya is our head Zambian today. 

2.  What risks did you have to take along the way and how did they interact with your fears?

We faced a lot of risks when we started Arise Africa.  We first of all had to really trust our Zambians on the ground to know what they were doing and communicate with us.  I think that was the first tough part initially for me, was giving that to God and knowing He was in control and working through them. 

I was also scared we wouldn’t have any support in America.  There are many great charities and non-profits and I didn’t know if we would have people who would invest in us.  It has been a huge blessing to watch people volunteer to help or give money to our projects.  We are always blown away at individual’s generosity. 

Another risk we have taken is starting our child sponsorship program.  I had seen these programs not run well, and was very concerned we would not be able to watch our kids and communicate enough with their sponsors.  Once again, I had to trust our Zambians to make sure this would work, and am pleased to say we have actually grown our program and have a fantastic group of kids and sponsors!  Seeing the difference it makes in those kids lives makes all the concern and work well worth it. 

 3. What was the biggest and most unexpected pain (a blind side moment) in your journey?  How has it changed you and your process?

One of our blind side moments has been when we purchased land to help with one of our projects in Zambia.  We ended up with some issues with the government and the land being zoned for different use than we had been told.  This stumbling block actually was a GREAT learning experience for all of us.  We learned a lot about communication between our African and American team and how to handle situations like this.  We learned how to work better as a team and make sure to help each other out and to seek advice from top experts and officials in any area we are working in.  We also formed great relationships with government officials and attorneys who are all now our friends and have helped us on other projects.  Working through that conflict no doubt made our team stronger and more confident in each other.  There will ALWAYS be unexpected pains or blind side moments, and it is all about how you handle them and other individuals in the process.

4. What has been the most joyful part of your journey that needs to be celebrated?

By far the most impactful and joyful part for me has been witnessing our Zambian staff serving God and the difference that has made in their country.  I am constantly amazed at their love and spirit.  When I am over there I see our folks loving on kids and encouraging adults and being so committed to our cause.  I watched one of our staff members use her bus money to buy a child with AIDS on the street some food.  She then had to walk home for three hours.  She never even hesitated to do that.  I see kids at the schools we work with having opportunity to learn who had never seen the inside of a classroom before we came and paid their school fees.  Watching children grow and have energy because they have received healthy food through our feeding program has also been very impactful.  By far God has taught me and blessed through our Zambian staff and the people’s lives that I get to witness being changed. 

5.  What is a question that you don’t get asked but wish you would?  Now, please answer that desired question.

What is one thing you have learned in your life that has helped you in all areas?

I have learned that there is more to life than living it for yourself.  The only thing you have to understand on this earth is that our lives are about serving God, that’s it.  This might seem like a simple concept but when you truly put that in effect, you will be blessed in more ways than you can imagine.  When you serve others or try to help people less fortunate, God does amazing things in your life too.  I try to do this with everything I am involved in.  From my photography business in the USA to our Africa projects, I have seen my life become so much better and whole because of this.  I am also more relaxed about my life because I am not stressed out about me or what my life looks like or what will happen or what people think of me.  Because it isn’t about me, it is about God and serving.

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