What does social inclusion really mean?

There are a lot of possible answers to this question, this time we are going to put ourselves in Martina’s shoes and see how social inclusion works from her perspective.

This story takes place in the capital city of Germany, Berlin. A rich cultural and historical place, full of landmarks and art.
The protagonist of this story is not German, though. Martina is from Italy. She has been living in Berlin since 5 years ago. 
For her, social inclusion means “Letting people feel comfortable where and when and with the stakeholders they want”. A definition that, for Martina, is completely related to SPEAK.

Martina’s path with SPEAK

Like many founders, Martina felt that SPEAK’s mission aligned with her beliefs, so she started as a buddy in 2020 with SPEAK Berlin.

“I joined the community in 2020 as a language buddy for Italian basic and led several online groups.” At that time, because of the worldwide status of the pandemic, offline options were not possible yet.
“My first group was “women only”, from different cities in Europe. The participants were very active and didn’t miss any lessons. I was very proud of myself because this for me meant they were truly enjoying the experience, even if this was a new challenge for me.”

The experience was so meaningful and enjoyable for Martina that she decided to apply and follow the process to become a city, Ambassador. The ones in charge of the events happening in the cities, or as we like to call them the soul of the party when it comes to events.

an event from SPEAK Berlin
SPEAK event in Berlin

“At that time I was basically the only one still active and after some ups and downs, the former founder Ignacio left the project for personal reasons.”, which was quite challenging for a very active SPEAK city like Berlin.

Facing the situation

Both Martina and the SPEAK central team didn’t want to give up on one of the first cities that opened their arms to SPEAK, so the solution was for Martina to take a special role contributing to SPEAK Berlin with the support of Clara, one of the SPEAK central team members from Lisbon.

And that’s how Martina’s unique role was created “Since the end of 2021, Clara and I are leading the Berliner project together and achieved success together. So, even if I am not “formally” a founder, I am actively involved in it and very attached to SPEAK and its mission and vision”.

The SPEAK experience

“Do good things and good things will come back to you”. Those were Martina’s words when explaining how SPEAK has impacted her life.

For her, SPEAK is a great example of this quote. She has given a lot to SPEAK, and in response, SPEAK has impacted positively Martina’s life. She has met lovely people and improved skills that are helpful for her private and business life. 

“I feel I am doing something that matters and I am proud when I meet so many active people who really want to put their knowledge and motivation at disposal of the community.”

Overcoming obstacles since the beginning

When starting leading her first online groups of Italian basic I, she was worried about not having enough materials to make people understand what she prepared for the sessions.

One of her fears was “What if I run out of ideas and don’t know what to say for 1,30h?”.

But when motivation, creativity, and the desire of doing something meaningful meet with an opportunity like leading a language group, ideas are something that you will never feel the need for.

“I was surprised by how much content I was able to find: videos, songs, games. The more I was leading the group, the more ideas and suggestions came up. When I ended the sessions, I immediately applied for a second group, as I had some much fun and learned about myself and my unknown skills.” 

Martina, founder of SPEAK Berlin
Martina, founder of SPEAK Berlin

Some years later, Martina stills face different challenges in her day to day.

“After we came back to a hybrid approach to lead language groups, we are still struggling in finding venues to organize them offline. This inconvenience limits the opportunities to open groups in person and our buddies have to adapt to the online environment.”

On the other side, SPEAK Berlin is super active when it comes to events. This encourages the community to keep meeting even when the city is so big that sometimes buddies and participants find it better to meet online, especially for the ones who work during the day.

Martina also clarified that the efforts to maintain the community together will not stop: “We are not giving up anyway and we often get in touch with event venues, co-working spaces, and nonprofit organizations to create collaboration and spread SPEAK awareness.”

Motivational sources and support

With a routine that includes emails, meetings, social media planning, and events it can be hard to keep the motivation up to continue with all the duties of being a founder. But for Martina is not that hard. She finds it in the day-to-day when realizing this is something that she likes and believes in.

She also has comprehensive and supportive people who understand her situation and are there to help. “I feel relaxed in enjoying the experience even if I sometimes can’t dedicate the time I wish.”  
Her beliefs and compromise with SPEAK are not the only fuel for her motivation while being a founder: “Thanks to SPEAK I met a lot of inspiring people who motivate me to do more and challenge myself. I had the chance to meet new faces in Berlin and share unique moments together.” 

another event from SPEAK Berlin
An event from SPEAK Berlin

She feels especially grateful for all the support received from Clara, with who she feels very aligned even though they’re far away. Also for the local partners and other SPEAK cities’ support.

Lovely memories with SPEAK

Between networking, events with the community and each achievement while building a community in Berlin, Martina feels like SPEAK has impacted her a lot in her life.

“I found interesting local and international voluntary activities and associations, like “Vostel.de”, “TeachSurfing” and “Give something back”. (…) you have the chance to also practice other languages by having fun all together.”

“I really enjoyed the first local event, in a public park in Berlin, that I led on my own. I was scared none would join and, in the end, we were many people and new ones kept joining us. The event was supposed to take place for 2 hours and we ended up staying until evening”

Even though those are all things to be very proud and happy for, Martina highlights especially one of them: “I think the best part has been seeing the local community growing.”

Berlin is full of ex-pats, and many of them have been living in town for a long time. But Martina mentions that people from her community “are active in joining the local events, together with newbies who are maybe more interested in knowing new people.”

Her team has grown and now she has found active Ambassadors who are organizing several events. “Despite the size and the high amount of activities available in town, people enjoyed our events and met new friends through SPEAK.” And also a lot of people who are actively participating in the different SPEAK activities “We are building, step by step, a solid local community that we keep active with events, initiatives and language groups”.

You can also be part of the experience

Like Martina, you could also be building a community in your own city full of events, connections, opportunities and networking. If SPEAK is not yet in your city, you can Take SPEAK to Your City. Start creating an impact today, as SPEAK Fundão’s founder Juliana, is Building Bridges between Brazil and Portugal.

If you feel more like participating in the events and language groups organized by people like Martina, join SPEAK and start your experience today. 

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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