SI Denmark Region 1’s projects in Angola 2008-2018

In September 2007 the, then, 8 clubs in Region 1 decided to get a mutual project. After many discussions in the clubs we found a water project to be a good idea. Like a source, growing to a brook - a stream - a river and a waterfall, the ideas streamed out. The water project developed to be the beginning of a flow of projects, covering  all Soroptimist International Programme Objectives and a part of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.


Soroptimists Go for Water

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen was President of SI Europe 2007 – 2009. Her motto: Soroptimists Go for Water inspired us in Region 1 to decide working with a mutual water project.

SI President Mariet Verhoef-CohenIn 2011 at the SI Board Meeting in Montreal it was decided that the overall subject until 2019 should be Educate to Lead. In Region 1 the water project in Angola expanded to include education both formal and non-formal.

In 2017 we thought about ending our fantastic projects, even though  there will still be room for many more local projects.

In the meantime Mariet has become all over president for Soroptimist International and her president's appeal is: Women, Water and Leadership. Accidentally the ending of our projects correspond with Mariet’s appeal, because before this motto was known, we had  started a final education project. Two women are being educated to be midwives. Their final examination will take place in 2019.

Project overview 2008-2018:


1. Water cleaning in Alto Katumbela

The establishment of the first water cleaning system in Alto Katumbela was supposed to be rather easy. The Water Cleaning SystemThere was water, but no clean water. Our collaborator a Danish engineer had constructed a water cleaning system, simple to build, easy to maintain, and he kindly made his expertise available for us. His organisation, Knights of Malta, took care of the shipment.

The contact to our Angolan collaborator Ester Fernanda de Bras Chilala, called Lillemor, was at the beginning Lillemors daughter living in Denmark but after a while we started to correspond directly to Lillemor.

Together with the water cleaning system we had sent a PC and a camera, to get documentation.

2. A necessary and fantastic journey

Angola in Africa

In 2010 two Danish soroptimists made a fantastic journey to Angola. They travelled at their own expenses for two weeks. Without their experience, and personal contact to Lillemor and without meeting the local authorities our projects would not have been so successful.

Benguela Province in Angola where Ganda is located

Visiting the project area and meeting the local people in Ganda in Angola confirmed that we had caught something essential to get effect. 

Well arrived to the Capital Luanda they were welcomed by a group of colourful, Angolan people, and in front was Lillemor and her daughter Francisca, who had already arrived from Denmark. As the Angolan language is Portuguese translation was necessary and Francisca translated constantly and made a profitable communication possible.

One of the Danish soroptimists tells about the travel: 
Read more (opens in a new window)

3. Local NGO status to Mamas Optimistas

Our close co-operation with Lillemor was soon extended to include a group of 12 women, called Groupo da Mamas, who carried out social work in the local area.

Mamas Optimistas

 The head of the group is Lillemor.

By the Mayor's efforts these women got NGO status with the name of Mamas Optimistas, and the group has grown from 12 to about 100 local women.

Because of the NGO status they have received more recognition and respect. They are very active in our various projects.

Today more women ask for admission to the group, ready to do a part of the jobs, but Lillemor and her group cannot take responsibility for a bigger group at the moment. Even men have asked if they could be admitted, and there are inquiries from other regions for the recipe for this success.

4. Water cleaning in Franca

Water cleaning system no. 2 was established in Franca, where the Chief made his source available to the project. 

A well and a pumping house should be built, pipes and a big water tank established. All the local people worked on the project, and the result changed the city scene. 



To see pictures of the entire building proces



(opens in a new window - Danish text)

The source in Franca BEFORE





5. Education in Water Cleaning System maintenance

Our idea was that the women should maintain and repair the systems. While system no. 2 was being built, we arranged a course for two weeks. Our collaborator was a Danish Major and Engineer, who was used to teaching both technique and environment . He designed his lessons in two courses, approved by us:

  1. A course for 6 women, learning to build water cleaning systems
  2. A course for 10 women, learning  to maintain and repair the systems

Classroom   Practical work Tools   Tools 

Both courses were ended by examinations and award of diplomas.

Since these courses in 2012 Mamas Optimistas have maintained  and looked after all systems. During a period of drought, they introduced “opening hours” for drawing water. In this way they ensured that nobody became sick from drinking contaminated water.

Point at the pictures to see the text


6. Fighting malaria

Malaria medicineIn spite of bad internet connection we have had a close dialog with Lillemor asking for their wishes for new projects. It has been an unbroken entity, naturally developing from the first water project. One initiative came from us: Fighting against malaria. We found that they could buy adequate tablets locally, so every year we earmarked a small amount for this medicine.

Distribution of mosquito nets

We also sent 50 mosquito nets of good quality, which Mamas Optimistas was going to distribute. Here, too, we found that they could buy locally, so in all they have distributed more than 200 mosquito nets.

A wish of more kinds of medicine was fulfilled by sending money, making it possible to reopen a small clinic.


7. Shipment

We are working hard with the many cartons


Nice pallets ready for shipment

As many of the women had a wish of sewing courses, members of all the clubs in Region 1 collected sewing machines, fabrics, needles, thread, knitting yarn etc, and in 2014 we could send off our own shipment. Two pallets were filled with 25 big cartons containing two Water Cleaning Systems, 14 sewing machines, various fabric, 50 mosquito nets and lots and lots of sewing accessories.

This time we decided to take care of the shipment ourselves.

Nice pallets ready for shipment


8. Sewing and knitting courses

We donated money for sewing courses for 17 women and 9 men and knitting courses for 45 persons with local teachers.

Some of the participants in the courses got sewing machines and materials to start their own shop, and they are teaching others.

Sewing courseHappy new owner of a sewing mashine

    Sewing course                        Happy owner of a sewing mashine


9. Business Management course

Another wish to educate women with at least 9 years’ schooling made us pay for an approved teacher, who taught locally, and 25 women and 1 man got an intensive course in Business Management and accounting. One class in the morning and one in the afternoon.


The courses ended with examinations, and each participant got a certificate telling that Danish Soroptimists had arranged the course.

Teacher Daniel Woloti


 This course has been funded by the Soroptimists in Region 1, Soroptimist International of Denmark

Este curso foi financiado pelas Soroptimistas na Região 1, Soroptimist International da Dinamarca

10. Health course

Class roomIn 2018 we had the great pleasure to give further education to 20 Health Workers. They finished a 9 months course to become Birth Assistants. Lillemor and Mamas Optimistas succeeded in getting very qualified teachers to carry out the education in the local society instead of at the school in the city. The students were therefore able to live in their own homes while the teachers were travelling.

Girl in the class room

 This form of education has never been seen in Angola before.

Together with the school Lillemor chose 20 students, some very young, some a bit older and the school pointed out teachers with different expert knowledge.

We asked for 3 month proposed budged in proper time to transfer money and we also asked for an account every 3 month.

The 7 teachers, 5 men and 2 women, (see attached file) travelled on motorbike and we covered their salary when they were teaching locally. We also covered all expenses for teaching material, photocopying and so on. During the 9 month of education the students had also some periods of practical training.Practical experience

The course started in June 2017 and was completed with theoretic and practical examination in February 2018. Everyone of the 19 women and 1 man passed with great results, a couple with distinctions.

All 20 are now working in their own area in the province and cover a great need for healthy pregnancy and safe labours.

The local Health Authorities have caught eye on our project and they would like to expand this form of education to additional 80 students.

11. Midwifes

Midwifestudent and LillemorAt the same time as the above mentioned course we provided scholarships for 2 women to become Midwives. They started their education together with the 20 Birth Assistants, but after the first semester they went into an ordinary class for Midwives. Their hard work and our donation has made this possible. Their education will be finished in the middle of 2019.

We follow their education closely by receiving an account every three months together with a budget for the next three months.




June 2018: Midwifestudent

Ruth Feliciano and Lillemor