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After Sailing Around The World At 14, Julia Finally Docks On The Lisbon Project’s Shores

Júlia Vieira Branco did not have a conventional education. At the age of 14, she joined a Dutch “school on a sailboat”, using the money she obtained herself through fundraising. She spent six months studying while sailing around the world, learning how to operate the boat and gaining knowledge about each location she visited.

At 16, she set off on her own to China to finish her secondary schooling at United World Colleges (UWC). It is a prestigious collection of schools located around the world aimed at using education to create a more sustainable and peaceful future.

Upon completing her secondary education, Júlia took a gap year. She volunteered in East Timor before she moved for university in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Júlia spent two years in the UAE capital before she made the decision to return to Portugal for a semester, aiming to take a break from academics and spend time with her family.

By the end of 2021, Júlia moved back to Lisbon and searched for an opportunity to give back to the community. She interviewed for a volunteer position as a Portuguese teacher at the Lisbon Project. Wowed by Júlia´s passion and knowledge, by the end of the interview she was offered an internship as our Education Program assistant – a role which allows her to share her amazing educational experience with others.

When asked what the Lisbon Project means to her, Júlia replied:

“A questionless belonging – we all just belong here, no questions asked. The whole design of the organisation makes it feel like everyone is able to contribute and everyone feels valued – and that is something that is very special.”

Júlia will once again embark on a new journey. She wishes to pursue her masters degree and expand her knowledge. Although her term as Education Assistant will soon come to an end, Júlia has decided to stick around and continue her missionary zeal of being of service to others which is why she will take on the position of Homework Coordinator.

Júlia said it best when she stressed that it is a challenge to stop volunteering at the Lisbon Project:

“it’s hard to stop – there are a lot of things to do, everyone is so passionate, the beneficiaries are so kind and respectful and interesting that it is so hard to say “it is 7pm – it is time to go home!” ”

Júlia lives her life with a lot of passion. She says:

“Whenever I care and believe in something, I put my whole heart and soul into that cause. As you might have noticed already, I care and believe deeply in the work the Lisbon Project does, and in the community we have here. Hence, all I want to do is to broaden its reach in whichever way I can. Since I can’t really offer any material or financial goods, what I can do is talk about the Lisbon Project everywhere I go and with everyone I know! So far, my grandma, brother, three friends, my mom’s colleague from college, and two childhood acquaintances have joined the Lisbon Project! But there’s so much more to be done! I hope to bring over more family and friends soon”

About her future, Julia says:

“I had no idea that this experience would make me rethink my whole path, and encourage me to stay in Lisbon instead of going back to Abu Dhabi. I hope that what has begun as a six month internship will turn into a long term collaboration”

Julia, like many volunteers before her, found a sense of purpose in the Lisbon Project. The organization has been truly blessed with talents from all over the world who have come to dedicate their time, talents and expertise to fulfill our mission.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank volunteers like Julia who found a second home in our community! You will never fully comprehend or measure the impact you have on the lives of others. And what a pleasant surprise it is, when by helping others, we realize how impacted our own lives have been?

Are you inspired by Julia’s story? Have you ever considered joining us as a volunteer at the LP? Check out our website to see current opportunities or sign up here: We cannot wait to hear your story!


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