Our Staff

neil and lesego family

Neil Holzapfel and Lesego Serolong, Founders and Directors

Neil and Lesego founded Raise the Children in 2008. Lesego, being a South African orphan herself, has always had a deep desire to give back to the community that raised her and to mentor and empower the many that share her story. Neil and Lesego live in Pretoria and have two energetic boys, Ben who’s 3 and Joel who’s 1!



Keaitumela “Smiley” Gabonewe, Program Manager

Smiley Gabonewe was a Teacher Fellow with Raise the Children at Edendale Independent School in 2013 and 2014. He hails from the Northwest Province, South Africa and loves traveling, cooking, and spending time with our learners. After matriculating from Tiger Kloof School, he spent a gap year in Thailand where he became a life-long devotee of Thai food and international exchange. He is always available for questions and encouragement!



Elise White, Director of Teacher Fellow Program

Elise White (right) was a teacher fellow with Raise the Children International in 2015 at Jabulane Christian Academy in Hammanskraal. She calls southwest Virginia home and received a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and African American Studies at the University of Virginia. After watching her mother, who has over three decades of experience as an educator, labor in the field with the aim of authentically supporting and developing children in a holistic way, she was inspired to do the same in South Africa. She enjoys reading, writing, singing, and unashamedly laughing out loud. Feel free to contact her about her experiences in South Africa as a teacher fellow!


meredith headshot

Meredith Dyer, Marketing and Recruitment Director 

Meredith grew up in central Virginia and attended the University of Virginia where she graduated with a degree in Biology. She currently lives in Charlottesville where she enjoys the outdoors: running, hiking, skiing; Ashtanga yoga; traveling: tasting , seeing, experiencing different cultures; reading and writing. She has an interest in human rights and international justice issues concerning advocacy, healthcare, and education with a particular focus in women’s empowerment. Meredith believes strongly in the empowering impact of education and enjoys promoting RTC Stateside as well as finding strong candidates for the Teacher Fellow program in South Africa. She is here to bridge all communication between the US and South Africa!

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