In our #FounderFriday blogs, we introduce you to our founders. What is a SPEAK founder? A founder is someone who took SPEAK to their city. With the goal to make this city a place where everyone feels at home and where diversity is championed. Today we give you the chance to meet Clara, who is one of the founders of SPEAK Castelo Branco, Portugal. Do you want to know her story? Keep on reading!

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Clara Aidos, I’m 29 years old. I have a degree in radiology and I’m taking another degree in Informatic Engineering. I work full-time as the project manager of SPEAK Castelo Branco.
I’m from Portugal, born in Faro, I grew up in Vouzela, Viseu and I’m living in Castelo Branco for 12 years now – and I’m a founder of SPEAK Castelo Branco.

The three founders of SPEAK Castelo Branco
From left to right: Daniela, Filipa, and Clara
Why did you become a SPEAK founder?

Before SPEAK I was a volunteer in Erasmus Student Network (ESN), helping in the integration of Erasmus in Portugal. I heard about SPEAK in an ESN event and with the growing community of migrants and refugees in Castelo Branco it just made sense for me to found the project here. SPEAK Castelo Branco exists since 2019.

Tell us about the first time you ran a language group in your city – how was it?

We opened the first language group in October 2019. The Portuguese basic group was held in our partner, Escola Afonso Paiva. We had 14 participants. It was amazing to have a group of people that came together week after week to share their culture.

One of the language groups in Castelo Branco

The most rewarding part is to be sure that I’m doing something with a real impact on the life of the migrants and refugee community. 

Clara Aidos – founder of SPEAK Castelo Branco
What was the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was to not have anyone engaging with the project during the summer of 2020, but we kept our consistency and we didn’t give up. It paid off because now we are a recognized institution to help migrants and refugees locally.

What impact has SPEAK had on your community?

We offer the possibility to learn a language in an informal environment. Newcomers know they have SPEAK to help them in their integration. With the multicultural events, we put people in contact and they became friends. During the pandemic, we had events like ‘Mental health during the pandemic!’ and ‘SPEAK about the importance of voting!’, where people came together to discuss and share different stories.

In our events, we have people from very different backgrounds and we often get feedback on how important it was to meet someone “different”.  We have a gypsy buddy and it was awesome to get feedback about mentalities changing because they meet someone from the gypsy community. 

Some locals now talk with migrants and refugees in the streets because they meet them at our events.

Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?

Not a particular moment but for me, the moment that always makes me happy is when people feel comfortable sharing something they need help with. From the small things on how to find something or someplace to big things like how to get help with bringing their families to Castelo Branco. 

How has being a SPEAK founder impacted your life?

Being a SPEAK founder shaped my life in many ways, I now understand the reality of migrants and
refugees. With my knowledge, I can educate others on diversity and inclusion. 

I learned to have a social entrepreneur mindset and got many skills like team management. I’m also happy to say that I have a diverse group of friends.

Social Inclusion, for me, means equity of opportunities for all.

Clara Aidos – founder of SPEAK Castelo Branco
What kinds of relationships/connections have you built with your community?

I have a close relationship with lots of people from the community. Some examples:

With Manan and Mahdi, Afghan refugees, we already went to a university party, where we taught them the choreographies for popular kinds of music. 

Hanna is a migrant from Brazil. She was our communication intern, and several times we went together to the public library to work or study. 

Daniela and Filipa, the other co-founders, joined SPEAK online through a SPEAK internship position. They both relocated to Castelo Branco and we are now very close friends. On the level of being at each other’s houses every week. 

With our partner, red cross, we sometimes would meet for a quick beer.

Have you become enthusiastic about the story of Clara? You can always check our website to get more information about Take SPEAK to your city! Feel free to contact us with any questions you have or have a look at our blog page about how to start your own social franchise! #FounderFriday

Author: Aster Taken

Aster is a part time content marketer at SPEAK. She finished her masters degree in Communication Science at the Radboud University Nijmegen and moved to Lisbon in January. She loves food, hanging out with friends and exploring her new temporary place of residence.

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