Social Inclusion ‘ is about ensuring that all members of our society, regardless of their origin, abilities or identity – feel valued, respected and integrated into the community.’

Meet Tania

Tania’s journey began in Paris and Santiago de Chile, where this cultural blend was imprinted in her Aquarius spirit. Since 2010, Madrid has been where she calls home. Yet, her pursuits extend far beyond the monitor. Tania’s an unapologetic travel aficionado, an avid paddle tennis and surfing enthusiast, and a sun seeker spotting sea turtles along sunny shores. Beyond these passions, she’s the formidable force behind SPEAK Madrid.

As the founder of SPEAK Madrid Tania has masterfully crafted an inclusive space where language learners of every stripe come together and thrive.

Tania, the found of SPEAK Madrid
Tania during an interview

How Tania started as a Founder

Tania’s commitment to SPEAK was born in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on July 1, 2020. The journey kicked off with an encounter orchestrated by fate—SPEAK’s co-founder from the past reached out through a mutual connection. 

The previous co-founder of SPEAK Madrid contacted me through a friend who has an NGO in Barcelona. She was doing an online SPEAK group, and wanted to find someone who would want to launch the project in Madrid.’

That’s how we met and decided to start the adventure together. It lasted about 6 months, and then our paths separated. I continued the SPEAK Madrid adventure on my own and with the support of the Central Team. After 3 years, I’m still on board!’

Learn more about Tania’s SPEAK Madrid journey, in her own words!

First Steps

Tania fondly recounts her first foray into leading a language group, an online group sharing basic Spanish. This was in collaboration with the European RAISD project of Complutense University, which had an employability and entrepreneurship program for women of sub-Saharan origin. She was naturally nervous as she hadn’t previously done anything like this and the complexity of explaining her native tongue, online,  presented a unique challenge. 

In the first session, I think we were all a little nervous, being online – everyone had to adapt to the technology. It was a little confusing for them, and not easy for the other buddy and me, but little by little we got the hang of it. Feeling connected, I feel like our small but mighty group really bonded as we shared this journey together. Throughout our time together with this group of women, we did many groups and levels of Spanish. So, I feel it was a success!’

Overcoming Challenges

As time went on, the biggest challenge Tania encountered was trying to adapt SPEAK online,  to the physical culture and city of Madrid.

“We started in the middle of the pandemic, in an online format, but we quickly understood that this format was not the most appropriate for Spain or Madrid.

Launching amidst a pandemic, the necessity of in-person interactions was clear, spurring Tania to merge the best of both worlds – adapting to the streets and the digital realm.

Here, people live in the streets, outside, they like to interact in person, and if we wanted the SPEAK experience to be 100% adapted to the Spanish culture, we had to go back to the face-to-face format. And that’s what we did along with continuing our online experiences.’

Tania hosting an event for SPEAK Madrid
Tania hosting a language exchange event with SPEAK Madrid

SPEAK Madrid’s Triumph: Building a Community

When building SPEAK Madrid, Tania’s creation wasn’t just about learning a language; it was about crafting a sanctuary where integration could thrive, where empathy could bridge cultures, and where newcomers could gain support with building their new lives.

Her work has largely been defined by an awareness of the socioeconomic status of those in her community. ‘People who are forced to leave their countries and risk their lives, in horrible situations, because they have no opportunities in their home countries, or because the situation has become unsustainable… I realize every day how difficult it is for these people to integrate into a new city, starting from scratch, with a resilience that I really admire.

This admiration and resilience has undoubtedly contributed to her efforts; on the impact of SPEAK Madrid today: ‘‘We are a thriving community in Madrid, consisting of over 1,000 people who have become sensitized to the subject of migration. Additionally, we are proud to have more than 120 buddies who volunteer for SPEAK, as well as about 100 language exchange groups. Through our project, we have positively impacted over 400 refugees and the organizations they come from.

SPEAK Madrid community
Tania, with the SPEAK Madrid community

From job seekers securing new opportunities with refined language skills to the blossoming of unbreakable bonds between participants and buddies, Tania’s journey with SPEAK has been nothing short of transformative. 

A Moment Frozen in Time

One snapshot in particular encapsulates the essence of SPEAK ‘I will never forget the first time when a buddy sent me a picture of her and a participant from their SPEAK group, enjoying a drink on a terrace in Madrid over the weekend while playing a Spanish card game together.’

‘That’s when I realised that this Spanish student and this young Moroccan participant had perfectly understood what SPEAK was all about. Connecting people and making those who come to the city feel welcome and at home.’ 

A Life Transformed: Tania and SPEAK

Tania’s journey, birthed from a young heart ablaze with empathy, finds its roots in the soil of social justice. From distributing food on the streets at 12 to her current role as a SPEAK founder, Tania’s path has been illuminated by the plight of those yearning for a better life. With SPEAK, she’s ignited a flame of awareness, underscoring the resilience of migrants and refugees who surmount unimaginable challenges. The journey has widened her perspective, driving her to create a community of empathy and harmony.

Of course, it can be a bit frustrating. We are aware of what is happening, but we often feel powerless in contributing to the integration of those individuals.

However, I keep going because I continue to witness the beauty of creating a small community in this city. Through random stories and friendships, I am reminded of the commitment and sensitivity towards the issue of migration and its challenges.

Tania’s dedication to fostering a community of acceptance and support remains unwavering. With each language exchange, with every connection nurtured, she is sowing seeds of social change, one connection at a time.

SPEAK Madrid meetup
Tania hosting a language exchange event for SPEAK Madrid

Want to Embark On Your Own SPEAK Journey?

Tania’s story is a testament to the power of one person’s dream to ignite change, to create connections, and to welcome her community into a shared embrace. We have similar inspiring stories from our founders across the world who are all collectively building thriving communities. 

Discover more about the journey of other founders in our #FounderFriday series, where we tell you stories like Patricia from SPEAK Utrecht.  

Ready to make a difference in your community? If SPEAK hasn’t made its mark in your city yet, why not be the catalyst for change and introduce a brand-new SPEAK chapter?

And if SPEAK is already weaving its magic in your city, we invite you to join the adventure as a buddy. Your presence will play a pivotal role in fostering social integration and making lasting connections. Let’s create a more connected world together!

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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