The Lisbon Project, founded and run by Gabriela Faria, supports migrants and refugees arriving in Portugal. It provides comprehensive support to overcome all the barriers people face which make integration impossible: from language lessons to legal aid to help to find work to practical support like clothing, school supplies or babies’ nappies. All of these services are vital.
But, even more important is what refugees need most of all: a deep longing for community.
Gabriela has designed all the Project’s activities to be a place where people feel they belong; Because belonging is the key to people having the courage to step forward into their new lives.
“Our heart beats for people,” says Gabriela. “For the Lisbon Project, success is someone feeling they are home, they belong and are truly integrated in Portugal.”
The 6 staff members, +130 volunteers and +20 interns all passionately believe that community creates opportunity. Relationship and belonging are fostered through different community activities and an open-door policy. People are encouraged to feel at home, use the kitchen, make their own coffee and spend time meeting others. There are groups for women, young people and children to learn from one another but also enjoy being together. There are also activities to bring together the migrants and refugees with the wider public, helping to build bridges and deconstruct unhelpful stereotypes.
The Lisbon Project has supported over 3500 people. The top nationalities are Syrian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Brazilian. But, as the team sees individuals and not statistics, we wanted to share one story among 3500.
Margaret arrived in Portugal from Ghana in December 2019. Female genital mutilation is a strong tradition in her village so she had decided to protect her then 3-year-old daughter by fleeing in search of safety.
Upon her arrival in Lisbon, Margaret (38 weeks pregnant) went into labour at the airport. She was taken to hospital where she gave birth to baby Ebenezer.
The three were healthy and finally safe when just two weeks later a social worker at the hospital wrongly determined Margaret was unfit to care for her children due to the possibility of not being her daughter’s biological mother. Both her children were cruelly separated from her and placed in care.
That is when the Lisbon Project stepped in! Thanks to their Legal Programme and partner lawyers, they were able to fight for Margaret’s rights and reunite the family after 3 months of extreme difficulty and trauma.
Margaret’s joy was overwhelming when she was reunited with her children. Soon after receiving her children, she dedicated them to the Lord and asked Gabriela to be their godmother. Today Margaret sees the Lisbon Portugal team as family. God can make all things beautiful!
By Gabriela Faria, Lisbon Project CEO & Elsa Correia Pereira, Portuguese Evangelical Alliance – Network for Refugee Support and Human Trafficking Prevention
To find out more, please go to the Lisbon Project or follow them at https://instagram.com/lisbonprojectassociation?igshid=NzZlODBkYWE4Ng==