Luther's Hulilapi awarded $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace Grant

April 11, 2012        

Isilda Hulilapi, a Luther College student from Luanda, Angola, has been awarded a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace to create an early education program for war orphans in her homeland.

Hulilapi, a junior who is majoring in mathematics and computer science, will travel this summer to Luanda, the capital and largest city of Angola, to convert spaces at the Lar Kuzola orphanage to a learning center where children can engage in activities that will give them self-confidence and inspire them to learn. Activities will include games, music, storytelling, dancing, painting and drawing.

The Davis Projects for Peace program is made possible by Kathryn Wasserman Davis, an accomplished internationalist and philanthropist who established the program in 2007.  Her current commitment of nearly $1.25 million will fund more than 100 new peace projects. Mrs. Davis is the mother of Shelby M.C. Davis who funds the Davis United World Colleges Scholars Program.

Now in its fifth year, Davis Projects for Peace invites undergraduates at the American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects they will implement during the summer. The objective is to encourage and support motivated youth to create and try out their own ideas for building peace.

Hulilapi's peace project will provide the materials necessary for the learning activities, including art and craft supplies, storybooks, sports equipment and musical instruments.  She said her project could provide opportunity for the impoverished orphans of Lar Kuzola to take the first steps toward education and socialization that can change their lives.

"I want the children to become more involved in the society," Hulilapi said of the children of Lar Kuzola, a refuge for more than 300 children orphaned by the civil war that ravaged Angola for some 30 years.

"Most of these children lost their confidence due to lack of parental guidance or someone to take care of them," Hulilapi said. "They end up losing their personal touch, which segregates them from the rest of the society. And because of the nature of my community, if you are less fortunate it defines who you will be.

"So having this project will give these children a chance to a different life," she said.

Hulilapi came to Luther College as a Davis United World Colleges Scholar after attending the Red Cross United Way College in Norway.  In her childhood, she attended Instituto Naçional da Educaçao (INE) Marista, a Catholic primary, secondary and high school secondary school in Luanda, which is virtually across the street from Lar Kuzola orphanage.

The grant from the Davis Projects for Peace program is making it possible for her to return home to give something back to her community. Hulilapi was awarded a $10,000 grant in a competitive selection process that considered hundreds of proposals for 2012. Luther College is one of the 93 UWC-affiliated institutions whose students won grant awards.

"I was blessed to have been on both sides of the spectrum," said Hulilapi. "I experienced the underprivileged life as well as the privileged one and have managed to be successful.

"I was fortunate to have attended INE Marista because it is one of the most prestigious high schools in Angola," she said. "We were provided with all the necessary tools to have a good education and a better life.

"Because of the difference in the educational quality and opportunities, the students from the privileged community tend to pay less attention to those in the underprivileged community such as that of Lar Kuzola. But I believe that through providing extra-curricular activities, children will be able to develop the confidence to live up to their full potential."

Officials of the Lar Kuzola orphanage and the INE Marista school were eager to cooperate with Hulilapi's project proposal.  The orphanage will provide the necessary space, and high school will provide student volunteers to facilitate the learning sessions.

Lar Kuzola, Portuguese for "A place of Love," was established in 1979, initially to provide refuge for children whose parents disappeared in the civil war that killed an estimated half a million Angolan citizens. It is run by Sister Anna Maria and funded jointly by French petroleum corporation Total and the Angolan government.

Hulilapi said she has set two main goals for the project.

The first is to implement playing activities that will help to stimulate children and help them overcome many of their fears, frustration and emotional difficulties. Her project's therapeutic play activities will build self-esteem, improve imagination, help children connect with others, and develop self-confidence.

The second goal is to encourage high school students at INE Marista to develop their volunteer spirit and spirit of solidarity in order to promote peace through education. One outcome could be prevention of violence against children and teenagers in Lar Kuzola.

"I was given the opportunity to attend United World College in Norway," said Hulilapi. "I became more confident and acquired knowledge that helped me see the world differently.

"This opened so many doors for me to succeed academically and socially and be of benefit to my community back home," she said.

"The opportunities I received made me feel responsible for helping people that are going through the hardships I experienced. I feel that joining Lar Kuzola and INE Marista in this project will create a place where children and students can develop their volunteer spirit and imaginations in order to promote understanding and peace," she said.

"Ever since I left Angola, I have traveled with one of the statements from the children, close to my heart," Hulilapi said. "I recall her saying, 'Please don’t leave us because no one cares.'

"These children are so talented and I believe if they are given a chance, the sky is the limit," Hulilapi said. "They will be able to enjoy their lives, develop their confidence and be engaged in the society once again through these activities."

Civil War in Angola

The Angolan Civil War began in 1975 immediately after Angola became independent from Portugal.  Coming on the heels of the Angolan War of Independence of 1974-75, the Civil War was a conflict between two former liberation movements, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

Each organization had different roots in Angola's history and society and social fabric, and despite their shared aim of ending colonial occupation their political goals and leaders were incompatible.

There were three periods of major fighting – 1975-91, 1992-94 and 1998-2002 – separated by short periods of uneasy peace. By the time the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola achieved victory in 2002, an estimated 500,000 people had been killed and more than 1 one million were internally displaced.

The Civil War's violence and devastation were fueled by a combination of the nation's virulent internal situation and major foreign intervention. Both the Soviet Union and the United States considered Angola critical to their global power, and they and their allies backed the opposing Angolan forces with military weapons, supplies, funding, advisors and training.

Consequently, the Angolan Civil War was one of the bloodiest, longest, and most prominent armed conflicts of the Cold War. The war extensively damaged Angola's infrastructure, public administration, economy, and religious institutions. Families were torn apart and scattered, and many thousands of orphans were left homeless and uncared for.

View video of Hulilapi discussing her project at:

Isilda Hulilapi 2012