Our Story

In 2012 Neil Holzapfel and Lesego Serolong founded Raise the Children (RTC). Lesego, being an orphan herself, has always had a deep desire to give back to the community that raised her, and so has Neil, who wanted to effectively and sustainably give back to the country. The couple, together with the RTC community, strive to empower the many orphans in South Africa that share Lesego's story.

Why Our Work is Needed

South Africa is one of the most challenging places to grow up in the world.
It's even more difficult if you are orphaned and live in a rural community.

global inequality 


(0,63 GINI co-efficient) in terms of wealth distribution and income 2022. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. 

NEET Rural Women


Rural women ages 20-24 are particularly vulnerable,. 68% are
not employed, in education, or
in training (NEET). 

rural child poverty


74% of rural South African children are deprived of  health, housing, nutrition, protection, education, information, water and sanitation.

missing parents 


14% of South African children have lost at least one parent. Another  26% of rural South African children have never know their fathers.




Neil Holzapfel is a founding member of an investment advisor called Pactorum and sits on the boards of various companies operating across the continent. He graduated magna cum laude in Government and Slavic Languages and Literature from Harvard University and completed a master’s degree at Cambridge University. He is based in Cape Town.



Lesego Serolong-Holzapfel is the CEO and founder of Bokamoso Impact Investments Bokamoso Foods, and Moedi Wines. Her Bokamoso companies work in the bee-keeping value chain to drive small-scale rural employment and income growth. Lesego holds a MSc in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and a BA in International Studies from the City College of New York. She is based in Cape Town.


Raise the Children is a registered charity in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and South Africa. The boards and trustees from the three different countries meet collectively under the guidance of one board chair.

Philip Giannecchini

global board chair

Philip Giannecchini is the Executive Director of a private charitable foundation supporting over 30 organizations globally, and Chief Financial Officer at a Hong Kong-based family office. Phil has more than ten years of experience in asset and wealth management. He is based in Los Angeles.

yolanda miya

director (ZA)

Yolanda Miya was the first woman to be appointed to Deutsche Bank SA as MD. In 2020 to join Mamo Property Holdings, a family-owned property development company founded by her late father, Jacob Motlogeloa, a successful Soweto entrepreneur. An advocate for inclusive growth and excellence and through her passion for development, She is based in Johannesburg.

ipek de vilder 

trustee (uk)

Ipek De Vilder has more than 25 years’ experience in Global Emerging Markets Equities. After beginning her career in Equity Research and Strategy at Société General and  Deutsche Bank (DB), Ipek has spent more than 16 years as Director of EM Equities at DB.  Ipek holds a BA and a Masters from Oxford University and Westminster Business School respectively. She is an experienced charity Governor and Trustee. Ipek is based in London. 

lisa thompson

director (USA)

Lisa Thompson is an equity portfolio manager at Capital Group. She has 34 years of investment industry experience and has been with Capital Group for 28 years. Earlier in her career, as an equity investment analyst at Capital, Lisa covered companies in Latin America, emerging Europe, West Asia and Africa. Before joining Capital, Lisa was a securities analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. She was also a securities analyst and quantitative analyst at the Nomura Research Institute in New York. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation. Lisa is based in New York.

Chris petzy 

director and treasurer (USA)

Chris Petzy owns a short-term rental real estate company. He also consults with entrepreneurs and operators looking to scale their small businesses. He is married with two young boys and enjoys spending time with his family, golfing and skiing. Chris serves as the Treasurer for Raise The Children International. He is based in New Hampshire.

bob lovejoy

director (USA)

Bob Lovejoy is a semi-retired pastor teaching small-group Bible studies and preaching virtually each month to a newly established church in Kathmandu, Nepal. Prior to retirement, Bob was pastor of Faith Community Church in Hampton, New Hampshire for 35 years. He has been married for nearly 40 years and was a founding member of Raise the Children International's board. Bob is based in South Carolina.

Programme Team



South Africa

keitumela 'smiley' gabonewe


Scholar Programme Manager
South Africa

thandolwethu thwala


Communications, Fundraising
and Research
South Africa