An example from Portugal: SPEAK

12. May 2020

Over the course of the last few months, more people have felt alone due to social distancing and the countless restrictive measures that have been set in place. SPEAK was created in Portugal in 2014 to help fight social isolation via language and cultural exchange and has been on the forefront, combatting the feelings of loneliness, surrounding these times.

SPEAK has expanded with the help of its social franchise model into 11 countries and has shared 43 languages to date. For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, language sessions are held online and work on a ‘pay what you want’ model, allowing everyone to be part of the community and actively fight the loneliness and isolation we are all facing.

We decided that 90-minute daily language sessions with 4-7 participants would be hosted. The small groups ensure daily human interaction, while not decreasing the quality of the sessions, that SPEAK has instilled to date. Hugo Menino Aguiar, CEO and co-founder at SPEAK stated that “now more than ever, it is fundamental to stay connected and take care of each other”.

With the new model, we have seen more than 4000 people sharing languages and cultures, staying connected, and thereby breaking the isolation barrier they faced.

A doctor working in a public hospital dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak daily, shared that SPEAK is her way of keeping a sound mind during these difficult times. Furthermore, in a survey where participants were asked to rate how effective, on a scale of 1 to 5  (1 being not at all and 5 being completely), SPEAK is at helping people stay connected during recent times. The result was an amazing score of 4.2 out of the possible 5.

SPEAK is helping around 200 refugees and asylum seekers from Greece, Italy, Spain, Syria, the UK and Portugal with integration via the exchange of languages and cultures, online. Ahmed, from Iraq, shared the following testimonial with his buddy, “ I am grateful that SPEAK is helping me, and my family learn a language. The sessions you offer are great and you make learning become easy. You made us enjoy learning the language. We love how you host sessions and appreciate you making us feel comfortable.

We are very thankful for your help”  We will keep working with refugees and refugee organizations to help them have a smoother interaction process, we are presently working together with over 15 different organizations to support refugees and scale our impact.

SPEAK is a fun way of interacting, reducing loneliness, sharing knowledge and travelling without leaving your home. You meet people from all over the world and share a bit of happiness with everyone in these testing times. Everyone can join the ever-growing SPEAK community as a buddy or a participant under www.speak.social.