Projects in Angola – the complete overview

Soroptimist International Denmark Region 1’s projects in Angola 2008-2021

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.

Each of the clubs has raised money for the projects in many different ways: concerts, flea markets, Christmas markets, sports events, talks etc.

SI Region 1 Denmark 2021

In Region 1 we have 6 Clubs: SI Skagen, SI Hjoerring, SI Aalborg, SI Mariager Fjord, SI Viborg and SI Skive:

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.

In 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 the meantime Mariet also became all over president for Soroptimist International and her president’s appeal: Women, Water and Leadership was completely in the spirit of our projects, because before this motto was known, we had  started an education project. Two women are being educated to be midwives. Their final examination took place in 2019.

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen

Præsident Soroptimist International of Europe 2007-2009
Præsident Soroptimist International

Project overview 2008-2021:

1. Water cleaning in Alto Katumbela

The establishment of the first water cleaning system in Alto Katumbela was supposed to be rather easy. There 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.

Water cleaning system:

UN Sustainable Development Goal no 6:

Clean Water and Sanitation

We learned:

  • how long it takes for a shipment to get to a faraway province in Angola
  • that even a quite simple system can be assembled wrongly, but end up successful

TOTAL COST: 18.822 €

2. A necessary and fantastic journey

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.

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.

On top: Angola in South-West Africa
At the bottom: Some of the local women


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.

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.

Above: Groupo da Mamas
Below: Lillemor

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.


UN Sustainable Development Goal no 5:

Gender equality

Our project is only a drop in the ocean, but Lillemor says:

“It makes a big difference, because it makes this group keep their hope and belief in a future for Angola in spite of many victims.”


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.

Photos shows before and after.

Above you can see a slide show of the building proces. the source never dried in, but the water was not suitable for drinking water.

UN Sustainable Development Goal no 6:

Clean Water and Sanitation

Everybody worked hard to build the well and people were carefully informed how to get water during the whole process. While building, the water was pumped up and in the end drinking water was cleaned through a water cleaning system.


A completely new skyline

Tap water can be picked up to the left
and clean drinking water to the right

TOTAL COST: 28.233 €

5. Education
in Water Cleaning System maintenance

Our idea was that the women should maintain and repair the systems. During the work in Franca, we arranged a course for two weeks. Our partner 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

Both courses completed 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.

To the right: Class room education and Handing out diplomas
Below: Tools and Practical education

UN Sustainable Development Goal no 4:

Quality Education

We learned:

  • that Danish planning cannot be exactly transferred to Angola. At the first course 9 women appeared, and at the second course 22 women and 1 man appeared. All were successfully educated.

    The women could keep all the tools. They use it for maintenance, but subsequently also to build three more water cleaning systems, which we sent. The total of five facilities benefit greatly at different locations.

    of which 5.000 € was granted from Soroptimist International of Europe Action Fund

    included an amount for fuel to the generator

    6. Fighting malaria

    In 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.

    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.

    During an unknown life threatening virus we have seen in Angola in 2018, we have send money to buy further medication to ease the symptoms such as asthma medicine.

    On top: Malaria Medicine
    At the bottom and beneath: Mosquito nets distribution

    UN Sustainable Development Goal no 3:

    Good Health and Well-Being

    TOTAL COST: 5.110 €

    7. 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 and we learned about Cargo handling agent & Customs authorities:

    • how many papers  should be filled in to send 2 pallets to Angola
    • how long time it takes for Port Authorities to release the pallets, when at last they arrive
    • that you pay for storage until the articles can be released
    • that the Custom Authorities carefully control the content of all the boxes.

    Nice pallets ready for shipment.

    A lot of sorting and packing to do

    Luckely we had a big barn for the work

    Released from customs and ready to be picked up and then everything could be sorted out once again !  

    TOTAL COST: 1.815 €
    with a deduction of 766 € because the shipping company made some mistakes

    8. Sewing and knitting courses

    When the shipment had arrived, we donated money for sewing courses for 17 women and 9 men and knitting courses for 45 persons. Alle the courses were held 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.

    Happy new owner of a sewing mashine

    Sewing course

    Knitting course


    UN Sustainable Development Goal nr. 1: No powerty

    TOTAL COST: 2.017 €

    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.

    On the certificats you can read in Portuguise::

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

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

    Professor Daniel Woloti

    The black board

    We learned:

    • that it is difficult to agree on a price for a course, designed for a special group. We planned a course for 20 women, but although 34 women and 1 man turned up, and the price was not changed
    • that the education was on quite a high level. 8 pupils left the course
    • that the Angolan workplaces have a different look upon their employees’ further education, because 6 persons did not turn up at the examination, as their employers told them to stay at work. Automatically they failed. 4 pupils did not pass with at least 10 (the Angolan grading scale is 0-20), so they failed.

    Lillemor fought for reexamination for all of them, and then everybody passed.
    Several women got new jobs, and others were promoted.

    UN Sustainable Development Goal nr. 8

       Good jobs and economic growth

    TOTAL COST: 2.286 €

    10. Traditional Midwives Team I

    In 2018, we had the great pleasure to give further education to 20 Health Workers. They finished a 9 months course to become Traditionel Midwives. 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.

    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, 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.

    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.


    A child in the class room is no problem

    Practical training

    Graduation day

    Group photo

    Slightly delayed compared to Graduation Day, the Traditional Midwives were happy to receive their diplomas.

    We learned:

    • that we had to accept a man among the students, because he acted as an observer for the authorities. It was a natural demand as this kind of teaching was an experiment.
    • that we had to accept a student who was a little older than we found appropriate because she had to ‘supervise’ the younger ones as a group leader.

    UN Sustainable
    Development Goal no 4:

    Quality Education

    Specified final accounts for this project

    TOTAL COST 12.978 €
    of which 2.500 € was granted from Soroptimist International of Europe Action Fund

    11. Midwifes

    At 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 Traditionel Midwives, but after the first semester they went into an ordinary class for Midwives. Their hard work and our scholaships made this possible. They graduated in June 2019.

    Above:Midwife student
    Isabel Paulino with a patient

    To the right: Graduation Day
    Two new Midwives and Lillemor

    We followed their education closely by receiving an account every three months together with a budget for the next three months. Their scholarship covered the costs of studying at the school, teaching materials, accommodation and pocket money.

    The school’s logo

    Midwife student Ruth Feliciano
    and Lillemor

    Thank You Letter
    (click and read)

    UN Sustainable Development goals
    nr. 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10

    (No powerty, Good health and wellbeing, Quality Education, Gender equality, Decent work and economic growth, Reduced inequalities)

    We learned:

    • that when you work with higher education in the local community, it is not desirable to educate very young girls as they might leave after the exam. As our primary wish is developing the local community, where we have had so many results, we have accepted that the two women being educated to midwives have an age where they already have a family and live in the local area.

    TOTAL COST 11.970 €

    12. Midwife bags with equipment

    In order to give the two midwives the best working conditions when traveling on the outskirts, we decided to provide them both with the necessary equipment.

    We found a list of what was recommended in Angola. It turned out to be close to what one would recommend in Denmark.
    After studying prices in Denmark, Angola and Portugal, it turned out that Mamas Optimistas could make the most advantageous purchases, partly in Angola and partly in Portugal.

    Midwife Isabel Paulino
    and the Health Inspector

    Two happy midwives with
    a teacher and Lillemor

    Midwife Ruth Feliciano and Lillemor
    Beneath: More equipment

    UN Sustainable Development
    Goal no 4:

    Quality Education

    TOTAL COST 11.970 €

    13. Traditional Midwives Team II

    In 2019, a discussion took place between Mamas Optimistas de Angola, The Health Authorities in the Benguela province and the Danish Soroptimists about thre subjects:

    1. The first class of traditional midwives needed a sort of in-service course
    2. Some of the traditional midwives could use their own equipment
    3. Education of a new whole class of  traditional midwives

    As usual, we asked for budgets and in the end everybody agreed that the Health Authorities would take care of the in-service course and maybe some of the necessary equipment, while we would take care of a new class.

    The seven teachers were pleased with another session in the outskirts and 37 students were looking forward to getting started. The course was planned to be intensive and therefor expected to finish in three month, beginning March 2020.

    Everybody remember that the world gradually closed down at that time, and our course was postponed a couple of times.

    Finally, they decided to begin with a smaller number of students in the classroom, but several classes and instead of three months, we had to calculate with six months. The opening ceremony took place in November 2020 and they took all the necessary health precautions during both study and internship.

    On top of everything, the local Health Authorities and the School added issues of great value to this education:

    They trained the students to be Community Agents. That means they are able to give education and information to local people in health issues concerning pregnancy, prenatal information, prevention, children’s health care etc.

    33 of 35 students graduated. At graduation day everybody received a special designed MINI KIT for MIDWIVES which give them the possibility to work far away from hospitals and clinics. They are now working in different areas of the community where you normally cannot find an educated health worker.

    We learned:

    • If you really want something, not even a worldwide epidemic should stop you

    • Working together with the local authoritues can make great results

    UN Sustainable
    Development Goal no 4:

    Quality Education

    TOTAL COST 9.824,70 €