Saint Isabel’s Children’s Charity (OCSI) is primarily interested in helping poor children in the community. It does this in several ways, focusing on educating low-income families, orphans and children at risk within the vast communities of Cazenga and Viana, which are suburbs of Luanda.
OCSI’s main activities are:
- Supporting orphans both in the facility as well as in surrogate homes
- Running a network of community schools for children who are too poor or disadvantaged to go to the government schools. Approximately 4,500 people are educated through this program (children during the day, adults in the evening)
- Running a school for street children, market workers and beggars at Estalagem Market
- Providing child care, food and education for children during the day while mothers work
- Operating a micro-credit project for women who have no support from their families either because they were abandoned, or widowed.
OCSI’s reintegration program has been ongoing for the last five years, benefiting 25 communities in the province of Luanda. The continuation of the program looks to provide the same opportunities to 10 additional communities, more specifically, this will target young girls who are forced to sell in local markets for the livelihood of their respective families.
The program will provide these girls with state-equivalent elementary school education, while at the same time assisting them and their families in acquiring the necessary documentation that will facilitate their integration into state schools (i.e., Birth certificate, identity cards, child registration card).
We can NOT do this alone! We ask you to help us fulfill our dreams in creating a better future for the children in Angola. To Make a Child Happy is to Build a New Angola!
About Sister Domingas
Sister Domingas was born into a Catholic family in the rural province Kuanza North in Angola West Africa. At the age of 6 due to a condition with her leg, she moved to Luanda to live with her Aunt. It was during this time that she decided that her life’s work would be to help children, for it was children who had defended her from the abuses of her Aunt. She studied in Luanda until the 4th grade, at which time she returned to her homeland and met Sister Fernanda Reis. There she began her journey to becoming a missionary. She and Sister Reis spread a message of hope and new beginnings during this tumultuous time in Angola’s history following its recent independence.
Sister Domingas entered the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Santa Catarina de Sene in Luanda, based in the Church of Carmo, on September 14th, 1981 to begin the formal process of becoming a missionary. She studied until 1986 when she was given her first assignment in the community of Ndlantando in the Parish of San João Batista. Sister Domingas worked in this community for 3 years and then fell very ill and was sent by the church to Portugal for treatment. It was during her stay in Portugal that her vision for education and the structure of her future schools was born. She saw boys and girls, both rich and poor, studying together and vowed to bring this concept to Angola.
When she returned to Angola, during a time between wars, again she was spreading mission of hope and rebirth. She established literacy programs and began to gain confidence in her abilities and innate qualities. But when the second war began, on October 15, 1992, the project was halted. For the next two years, she stayed on in the region, helping the needy, but fell into a severe depression and requested time to heal, and returned to Luanda for treatment. In the capital she encountered many dislocated peoples and began to organize efforts to help them to organize camps and shelters. She was determined to spread literacy to the children, so she asked the congregation to build a school for them. She was granted funding by Sonagol, the Angolan state petroleum company, and built The School of Peace, with 22 classrooms, playing fields, a church, a medical clinic, and a home for the Missionaries who worked there. So impressed were the associations with her work that soon after she received another grant for an expansion of the school. It was this money that was the seed for her greatest project yet.
On August 23, 2002, she finally had the legal status for the Obra de Caridade da Criança Santa Isabel – OCSI (St. Isabel’s Children’s Charity).
There were already 15 abandoned children living in her mother’s house. She got additional funds from various sources and with an initial budget of $70,000 she began her most important work. She immediately started to build the Children’s House orphanage to take care of these children. The name Isabel was chosen because Santa Isabel, according to the Bible, was a woman who had a son at an advanced age. Sister Domingas’ mother, also called Isabel, received nine children to take care of also at a very advanced age. To this day, Isabel is still a key component for the emotional balance of the children at the Children’s House.
They were given support by the Missionaries Salesianos de Dom Bosco and they helped her immensely. She later contacted her friends to come on the weekends and help train the young girls. She gained credibility as word of their work traveled. She eventually was working in 25 neighborhoods. She later built four schools. The 15 children in the orphanage gradually grew to 50 and it is still growing. She also started to offer programs for local children to come to the orphanage during the day for classes, food, and care instead of playing on the streets. Additional programs were created to continue to provide for and educate local children and families.
Since then, OCSI has been able to help more than 10,000 children in the Children’s House, has taught more than 14,000 children to read through distribution of scholarships, and has helped build six schools. Sister Domingas has been an instrumental force in her community and in the efforts of rebuilding Angola but as long there is a child in need, she feels her work is not yet complete.