More than 8000 km separate the massive, chaotic and vibrant city of São Paulo, Brazil and the quiet, hill-secluded town of Fundão in Portugal.
A big change indeed, but one that brought Juliana closer to the immigration cause and the positive opportunities it stores.
Juliana, along with her friend Emma, is one of our founders and she today co-leads SPEAK Fundão.
Intercultural mediation, Brazil and community
Joining forces with SPEAK was a no-brainer. Once she discovered the project, possibilities opened their doors.
The strong local Brazilian community of Fundão was chatty and more than willing to share their own culture.
A culture that, within its own history, saw immigrants, indigenous and locals try to create an inclusive society and leverage their uniqueness.
“It means that I can be me without shrinking to fit. That one can be accepted for who they are.” this is what inclusion means to Juliana.
Given her background as an intercultural mediator, Juliana had to tackle some issues when it came to immigrants’ integration into a new society.
Mainly they were related to language learning and, in part due to that, lack of social inclusion.
Aware of the challenges migrants face during their journey to re-settling and thanks to the availability of cultural resources, Juliana moved her first steps with SPEAK and opened SPEAK Fundão.
A safe space in SPEAK Fundão
Juliana’s work reached many and these migrants now feel they have a safe space to be themselves and interact with the locals.
The events and language groups of SPEAK Fundão made it easier for many immigrants to find their own space within the new community.
Through SPEAK, people get to meet and know their neighbours, and people get together and feel welcome. Ultimately, they can now learn and practise the local language.
That is the most impactful effect on her community, affirms Juliana.
She leads language groups, as a buddy.
Last year, her online participants were consistent and she ended up making good friends. Now, she is experiencing for the first time leading an offline group and enjoying every bit of it.
Turning differences into strengths
These differences made it more challenging for Juliana to be seen as part of the community and they interfered initially also with her role as a buddy.
Some participants leaned toward the European Portuguese accent and found it more relevant to learn, living in the country.
“I only had my Brazilian accent to offer, as did the buddies from my community. That made me feel really sad like I was being rejected.”, she shared with us.
However, thanks to Emma’s idea, a Portuguese buddy jumped on board with the group. That way, the participants were exposed to two versions of the complex architecture that is Portuguese with all its variants.
While explaining that both buddies spoke on a level the same language, now the group could finally become more familiar with a tangible, but overlooked, presence in their society.
As a representative of that minority, Juliana affirms: “We (the Brazilian community) probably add some things to the new place where we live and its local culture. But this needs to happen in an organic way, as a natural course of things, not because we have to.”
Taking this small step and having the two buddies co-lead the group, the pollination between the two cultures would finally take place.
SPEAK’s impact on Juliana’s life
Being in contact with different cultures and different people is a passion of Juliana. Since being with SPEAK she met many people coming from such diverse backgrounds.
Dealing with them improved her soft skills to such a point that she feels she became a whole new person.
A big admirer of SPEAK’s mission, she fondly shared one of her best memories while leading one of her language groups: an unlikely friendship blossomed between a young Sudanese and an elderly Dutch lady.
These are the types of long-term relationships that whoever joins the project can potentially witness or experience for themselves.
Beyond the context of the language sessions, participants and buddies can bond and get to know each other as human beings rather than solely as citizens of a country.
“I think this represents the entire SPEAK spirit and it makes my heart glow”
Join SPEAK and build bridges between cultures
Juliana’s experience reminds us how merging two (or more) cultures is a delicate but impactful process.
Finding fitting solutions and without giving up when faced with challenges, she took the first step towards a more understanding and welcoming Fundão.
Did Juliana’s story inspire you? At SPEAK we are always looking to expand our reach into more cities in Europe and all over the world.
If you wish to become a founder check out how to take SPEAK to your city and read also about Mohini and her hub in Dublin.
If we are already present in your area and you want to actively help us bridge between communities and cultures, be a buddy and start your own language group.