“A place where everyone is seen, heard, and given a place to shine”. That’s social inclusion. 

It feels good when you do something valuable, important, and purposeful. Something like working towards social inclusion.

That rewarding sensation is what Patricia feels when she’s organizing culturally immersive language groups with SPEAK Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Patricia, originally from Lisbon, is the founder of SPEAK Utrecht.

A photo of Patricia, the SPEAK Utrecht Founder.
Patricia, SPEAK Utrecht Founder.

With a passion for creating a sense of belonging and promoting social cohesion, Patricia has dedicated herself to making a real difference in her community.

Patricia’s commitment to social inclusion is at the core of her work with SPEAK Utrecht. For her, social inclusion means creating a place where everyone is seen, heard, and given a chance to shine. That’s where SPEAK Utrecht comes in.

How did Patricia start as a founder?

“Utrecht is overall an easy city to live in, however, many sub-communities are created that face challenges to integrating,” says Patricia.

A photo of an event with the community of SPEAK Utrecht.
SPEAK Utrecht community at an event.

“I started SPEAK with my boyfriend Mathieu and a friend Diana. At the moment, it is only Mathieu and me. We started SPEAK in Utrecht in 2019. We have been running since then.”

They began by organizing events to get to know the Utrecht community, but it didn’t take long for them to start with the language groups.

“The first languages were French and Spanish. It was pretty exciting because we were in a beautiful location in the city center of Utrecht and the feeling of seeing everyone come together to learn a language with the SPEAK methodology, it was a great feeling of accomplishment”, mentions Patricia, referring to her first steps into building a SPEAK community in this beautiful city in the Netherlands.

A photo of an activity organized by SPEAK Utrecht.
SPEAK Utrecht event

Overcoming obstacles to build a community:

Founders are the engines that keep SPEAK cities working actively to create more integrated communities. And even though the beautiful part of getting that feeling of building something so meaningful is always present in a founder’s journey, there are also challenges present.

For Patricia, one of the biggest challenges has been finding the right people to stay present in the project. “It is difficult to keep buddies/volunteers to stay with us… People change cities, priorities or so many other reasons.”

A photo of SPEAK Utrecht's community.
SPEAK Utrecht community

If you’re in Utrecht and you’d love to be part of the community builders who promote social integration in your community, you could contribute a huge value by sharing your language and culture as a buddy with SPEAK Utrecht. 

SPEAK Utrecht impact:

Despite these challenges, SPEAK Utrecht has had a significant impact on the local community. 

People who might not have met otherwise have come together through the community. Some buddies even found a passion for languages and started a journey to become teachers and share languages more formally.

An activity organized by SPEAK Utrecht.
SPEAK Utrecht activity

SPEAK Utrecht has also provided a sense of connection and belonging between the members of the community. “People feel happy to meet us giving the feeling someone cares for them in a city where they don’t know anyone” explains Patricia.

Then is when Patricia feels her heart filled with joy. When she can see the impact. 

“When we started organizing activities and language group in the asylum center and we brought external people to participate – that was beautiful to watch.” That was her answer when we asked her if there was any particular moment or memory that stood out for her.

What happens when SPEAK gets into a city?

SPEAK Utrecht has built an amazing community throughout the years, and it is beautiful to see that, thanks to people like Patricia, people are feeling more connected to their city and other people from their city. 

“We organized activities that brought 50 people at once! That was really awesome!”.

An event organized by SPEAK Utrecht.
SPEAK Utrecht activity.

Patricia has become very aware of the challenges that migrants face when trying to socially integrate into Dutch society.

And while these challenges can be complicated, for Patricia, social inclusion means “a place where everyone is seen, heard, and given a place to shine”, and that is what she is determined to achieve in Utrecht, with the help of her community and SPEAK.  

“Our community understands SPEAK’s mission very well and they are very willing to help SPEAK to strive. It is nice to know that besides the internal SPEAK team, other people are helping us move forward daily.”

A picture of people that belong to the SPEAK Utrecht's community.
SPEAK Utrecht community.

Patricia is one of the founders of our SPEAK cities, but so many more founders are spread all over the world, building cohesive communities collectively. Discover more about the journey of other founders in our #FounderFriday series, where we tell you stories like Martina’s Experience with SPEAK Berlin and How Mariana is Creating a Community in SPEAK London.

Want to be part of the impact? If SPEAK isn’t present in your city, you can bring innovation and inclusion to your city by opening a new SPEAK chapter

If SPEAK is already present in your city, you can join the exchange experience and be a buddy to help promote social integration.

Author: Daniela Afonso

Daniela is a creative who loves exploring cultures and languages. She moved from Venezuela to Portugal and recently joined SPEAK as a Full-Stack Marketer. Passionate about movies and books, she loves the art of storytelling and finding unique and innovative ways to communicate ideas.

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