Save the Date for RISE's 2nd Annual Fundraiser,
A Night of Nations!

On April 6, 2019, join us at the SKY Armory to celebrate the work of RISE! At the event, a keynote address will be given by New York State Assemblywoman Pamela J. Hunt, and RISE will honor Meg O’Connell from the Allyn Foundation and Pastor Bhim Biswa for their continuous support of refugees and immigrants in Syracuse. Dinner will be provided, with cuisine inspired by the communities we serve, including Africa, Southeast Asia, and Middle Eastern specialties. 

TICKETS NOW ON SALE! Tickets can be purchased for $75 each through Eventbrite by following this link. If you would like to purchase the tickets offline, checks can be sent to 302 Burt St., Syracuse, NY, 13202. If you have any further questions or concerns, please reach out to Associate Executive Director Isabelle Kallman at or call 315-214-4480.  

Sponsorship Opportunities: If you are interested in exploring sponsorship opportunities, follow this link to learn more about contributing to this wonderful event. Checks can be sent to RISE, 302 Burt St. Syracuse, NY 13202, or contact Isabelle Kallman at or call 315-214-4480. 

We can’t wait to see you all there!

Distinguished Honorees

Margaret “Meg” O’Connell

Meg O’Connell is the Executive Director of the Allyn Family Foundation, serving in such capacity since 2001. 

Meg received a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Dartmouth College, and began her successful career in non-profit development and outreach. Before beginning at the Allyn Foundation, she worked for a number of non-profit organizations, including the Shelter for Help in Emergency, which provides help and services for victims of domestic violence, and Planned Parenthood of Syracuse. Additionally, she served as the Interim President of Onondaga Community College from 2012-2013.

Alongside her breadth of professional experience, Meg has a demonstrated history of working to better the Syracuse community. She currently serves as the Chair of various community initiatives, including the Early Childhood Alliance, ABC Cayuga Play Space, and the Work Train program, and serves on the executive committee of the HOPE Initiative. She has also served as a board member of numerous non-profit organizations, including Onondaga Community College, Skaneateles Library Association, and Syracuse 20/20. 

Meg has shown herself to be an avid advocate for women, working on intiatives that seek to alleviate the pressing issues women face. In 2017, she was the Campaign Chair for the American Heart Assocation’s Go Red for Women Campaign, which seeks to raise awareness among womens about their risk for heart disease. Under Meg’s leadership, the Allyn Foundation has also helped to support RISE’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative, which seeks to instill confidence within refugee and immigrant women so they can empower themselves in a new country. 

Meg lives in Skaneateles with her husband and three daughters. 

Bhim Biswa

Bhim Biswa was born in Bhutan in 1980, but was forced to flee to Nepal in 1992. Bhim finished high school and lived for 20 years in a Bhutanese refugee camp, and in 2003 he began his work as a leader of the faith community by establishing churches across Nepal. 

In 2009, Bhim resettled to the United States, but he has still continued to use his faith to help others in the refugee and immigrant community. He was the founder of the Syracuse Nepali Church, and is currently the lead pastor. Bhim uses his leadership tp help refugees in his church obtain access to interpretation and social services. 

Bhim also enjoys engaging refugees and immigrants in unique and different ways. Notably, in 2011 he partnered with the Syracuse United Soccer Association and local churches to create a “Mini World Cup,” an eight-week league with different refugee soccer teams participating in friendly competition. He has also organized many other sports events for local youths, and runs a PAL (Play and Learn) Club at his church. 

Bhim has used his resources to celebrate the city of Syracuse. Since 2017, Bhim has hosted a Thanksgiving Event for the city of Syracuse, where city, police, and county officials have been recognized. For the past two years, Bhim has also held a Pray for the City event at the Syracuse Nepali Church, where over 40 pastors and community leaders have convened to uplift the spirit of Syracuse. 

Bhim is a husband and father of two boys. He enjoys teaching and playing music, and has created an album of Nepali Christian music. 

Keynote Speaker

New York State Assemblywoman Pamela J. Hunter

Pamela Hunter is an Upstate NY native and a U.S. Army veteran, honorably discharged with a commendation medal and two achievement medals. Pamela received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Strayer College in Washington DC with concentrations in Human Resources and Computer Information Systems. She has a Professional Certification in Human Resources. She represents the southern and eastern portions of the City of Syracuse, as well as the surrounding towns of Dewitt, Onondaga, Salina and the Onondaga Nation.

Prior to her election to the NYS Assembly in 2015, Pamela served on the Syracuse Common Council for three years and chaired the Public Safety Committee. She has broad professional experience having held executive positions with nonprofit organizations and professional service firms and has served the community on various boards including Catholic Charities, Meals on Wheels and the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency. 

Pamela is the only female veteran in the state Legislature, giving her unique insight as chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Women Veterans, working to expand access to benefits and services and improve job opportunities for women who’ve served our country. She also serves on the Energy, Insurance, Social Services, Transportation, and Veteran Affairs’ Committees, and is a member of the Black and Puerto Rican Legislators and Women’s Caucuses. This year, Hunter authored legislation to provide assistance to tenants, protect the environment and aide veterans in employment. 

Pamela is passionate about building a better future for Central New York. She believes that good jobs, improved schools and increased public safety will enhance quality of life and lead to stronger communities and greater success.

 She lives in Syracuse with her husband and son.