The universe conspired and made sure that José and Hugo crossed paths at the Politécnico de Leiria in Portugal. 

The reason behind this unplanned meeting lay on social innovation. Hugo, the SPEAK co-founder, was promoting the socio-cultural integration of migrants and refugees.  

José, on the other hand, was planning on moving south from his native Minho to Torres Vedras, a small city just 50 kilometres north of Lisbon.

His professional life had reached an end. Despite a diverse career, José was looking forward to his retirement years. 

Finally, he could dedicate his time to the activities he loved the most: travelling, reading, writing and practicing his favorite sports.

Serendipity in Leiria and a new project for José

Photo of one of SPEAK Torres Vedras co-founders: Jose'. He is on the banks of a river, wearing sunglasses and behind him is a lush green background.
SPEAK Torres Vedras co-founder José

Even with quite a busy agenda, José had time to spare in his days. One thing was certain, though: he wanted to dedicate part of that extra time to a social cause. 

That is when the serendipitous moment occurred in Leiria. 

José wondered where to focus his energy, SPEAK answered his question and swooned him.

With the move planned, he went on to investigate whether the project would have gotten the right reception in Torres Vedras. Thus, he researched the migrant population in the city. 

Both topics of his research gave interesting findings. The city municipality granted full availability to support the initiative. Also, the number of migrants and refugees was quite significant thus bringing the project to them would benefit the city greatly.

The green light was given. The only part missing for José was building a team to manage the new-found nest of SPEAK.

SPEAK Torres Vedras co-founders: Rosario “Sara” and Fernando

Sara is a native of Torres Vedras, a “land of many migrants” as she puts it. In the past she had experienced the migrant life herself.

A smiling Sara, on a sunny day on a cliffy walk in Portugal.
Rosario “Sara”, co-founder of SPEAK Torres Vedras

She lived in Switzerland and her professional background ranges from commercial management to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The struggles a migrant can go through in a new country are familiar to Sara. She got to understand first-hand the importance of speaking the local language. 

The mentality and culture of the Swiss were uncharted territory, but grasping them made it easier for her to evolve personally and professionally.

Her own story motivated Sara to take local action and make sure the social integration in Torres Vedras would be smoother for those who reached its community.

Fernando, the third of SPEAK Torres Vedras co-founders. He smiles at the camera in a leafy park.
Fernando, co-founder of SPEAK Torres Vedras

Fernando, too, is no stranger to the multiplicity of circumstances that push people away from their homelands. 

An educator at heart, his career spanned from primary schools to higher education. He also worked as a special needs teacher, and for a while, managed his own company.

Fernando’s passion and understanding of people’s movements, and of the challenges they face in new (at times) hostile host lands, fueled his decision to take part in SPEAK’s project.

His awareness of the subject made it effortless for him to jump on board with friends and co-founders José and Sara.

Now the three together steer the wheel of a brand new SPEAK city and work jointly to support the integration of migrants and refugees in Torres Vedras.

Soulful action in Torres Vedras

Joining forces, our heroes made it possible for a new city to become the cradle of a new SPEAK chapter. Three friends united by a common passion and a shared goal.

José, Sara and Fernando took the first step toward a more conscious community. A place where migrants will be finally able to develop their new identity in a safe and welcoming city.

Now that everything is settled in Torres Vedras, all is missing is you being part of the community as a buddy.

If you are in the area and want to make a difference in migrants’ lives, join SPEAK. Throughout 12 sessions, you will be able to share your language and culture and learn all  about those of your participants. 

Help us grow our buddy network like Clara did in Castelo Branco connecting migrants and refugees, and start championing diversity now.

“Contributing to the well-being of others is very soulful.” José told us. And we could not agree more.

Author: Valentina Rampazzo

Valentina is a polyglot and a culture deep diver. She has lived in 5 countries across Europe and has most recently joined SPEAK as a Copywriter Intern. Her passions are her plants, plant-based cooking and writing.

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