Celebrating women through volunteering

The headquarters of Ajuda de Mãe has been renovated by volunteers: a demonstration of solidarity that strengthens ties and promotes the well-being of pregnant women and mothers in need

During women’s week, solidarity and a commitment to the promotion of women’s well-being took on special importance for 86 Galp volunteers, who joined forces for five days to dedicate some of their time to the cause in question: the renovation of the Ajuda de Mãe headquarters in Lisbon. A symbolic gesture, but one with significant meaning, as they not only gave new life to the walls of an institution designed to serve, welcome, train and reintegrate pregnant women and new mothers in need of support, but also renewed the hope of the women who have found a safe haven there at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives. This is the scenario that gives rise to reflection on what it means to be a woman today and how such initiatives reinforce the importance of cooperation in creating a fairer and more inclusive society.

As far as Sónia Branco is concerned, volunteering is “an extension of what a person is in terms of citizenship”

It was precisely the desire to do something meaningful that led Sonia Branco, a specialist in social impact and the person in charge of the Galp volunteer programme, to embark on this path. “I used to be in a completely different area. I worked in finance, in banking and then, due to personal reasons and professional development, I decided I no longer identified with that field. Volunteering, in personal terms, has always been a part of my life, so as far as I’m concerned it becomes an extension of what a person is in terms of citizenship, it’s a way of getting involved in society and making the world a better place”, she says. This is also why Sonia likes what she does professionally, the people around her and the impact her work has on others and on Galp. “What I do is part of Galp’s social impact strategy, the mission of which consists of involvement and investment in the local communities in which the company operates”. At a global level, the energy corporation carried out around 70 volunteering initiatives in Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Cape Verde, Eswatini and Mozambique last year, 50 of which were in the Lisbon, Sines and Matosinhos region. As such, growth is expected because “people want to do more volunteering”, she adds, in addition to the fact that, she believes, people can be encouraged to get involved in solidarity initiatives if disclosure is good with regard to “what”, “what for”, “with what results” and then “give people a voice”.

As far as Galp volunteer Joana Duarte is concerned, social impact is an “old passion”

Joana Duarte also works on social impact at the Galp Renewables department, which develops solidarity projects in each stage of operations, with a view to transmitting (and giving back) “positive energy” to the communities. Alcoutim, where the company’s biggest photovoltaic park is located, is an example of this.

As far as this Galp volunteer is concerned, the topic of social impact is “an old passion” that has recently resurfaced and sparked her enthusiasm. Management and the area of business were her life choice, but around four years ago, at the time of the pandemic, she decided to take a sustainability management course which opened up new horizons and career opportunities within the company, particularly in the area of renewables: “I felt that I could achieve more as both a person and a professional in this area. I needed to do more work with communities to make me feel like I was giving something back to the planet. It was a change that made me very happy as I can say that I go to work in a good mood every day and in the knowledge that what I’m doing is making a difference to someone’s life, and that’s the best feeling there is”, confesses the university graduate in Business Management, who, if she could go back in time, would have chosen a course “more focused on people and the impact we can have on society”. This is also why she likes to get involved in volunteering activities, and responded to the Ajuda de Mãe appeal immediately, a project that she considers important because “we know that the women, who are often young, who come here lead complicated, difficult lives, and the best way we can help them and prepare them for the future is to actually provide them with the tools to enable them to deal with their children, obviously, but also to help them get a job and achieve a dignified life. Hence, upgrading the facilities that are helping them achieve these goals makes perfect sense to me”.

The chair of the Ajuda de Mãe board, Madalena Teixeira Duarte, highlights the importance of volunteer “workers”

Ajuda de Mãe is a charitable association and training entity founded in 1991 to support pregnant women, mothers and families in the process of motherhood, in addition to promoting social integration with the aim of improving lives. It employs around 70 people at its basic facilities, although volunteer work is essential to guarantee all the services provided, and it subsists largely on donors, patrons and other forms of support. Its services include, in particular, the SOS Pregnant Women and SOS Breastfeeding Women telephone lines, in-person assistance, three shelters for pregnant adults and teenagers, daycare, parental training and academic and personal training in various areas. In short, anything that can help these women to move forward.

This institution, that provided support to more than 1,350 mothers last year, is run by Madalena Teixeira Duarte. Compared with the same period in 2023, she reveals, these numbers have increased in the first few months of this year. Furthermore, the shelters, with a capacity for a total of 25 pregnant women or mothers and their babies, are full.

Located in the district of Alcântara, in Lisbon, close to the new Galp offices, the Ajuda de Mãe headquarters were in need of renovation work, more specifically painting some areas of the building. As there are no resources for this type of work, the association is always happy to welcome volunteer “workers” willing to help rehabilitate homes and rebuild lives. This was the scenario in which the Galp volunteers, in partnership with the Just a Change association, set to work between 4 and 8 March. “Due to the fact we have limited human and financial resources, these initiatives conducted by good-willed people joining forces to help us out are simply amazing, both for Ajuda de Mãe and, I think, for the volunteers themselves”, acknowledges the Chair of the Board.


The fact that this Galp volunteer initiative took place in the week in which International Women's Day was celebrated was, in Sonia Branco´s opinion, “a happy coincidence”. Now that Galp is based in Alcântara and is helping develop the surrounding area, in accordance with the company's DNA, the initiative “simply happened at this time because it was the best week for all the parties involved”, says the volunteer, who, as a woman, feels a bit like “the captain” of the boat that´s her family, because “we take responsibility for everything and everyone”. As a mother, she sees her son's education as her biggest challenge: “he's a boy, he's going to be a man, and I have to make him understand that there is a positive differentiation in women that has to be ensured and that there has to be a balance in roles between what it means to be a man and to be a woman”. For this to happen, she considers it essential that women and men take time to get to know each other and evolve throughout their lives.

Furthermore, Joana Duarte believes that being a woman is a constant struggle that demands continuous attention and effort: “We still have to combat myths and prejudices on a full-time basis, assert our rights and continue to prove that men and women, although not the same, are at the same level. There is no reason for gender discrimination. But there´s still a long way to go”. To reach the destination, the social impact specialist at Galp Renewables believes, like Sonia, that education is an important factor and concludes: “The sooner we start telling children, especially girls, that they can achieve everything they want to in life, and the more examples we provide them with, the more they will believe. We also need to ensure they get the message regarding taking care of the planet”.