by Hannah Bradley
It was a sunny weekday afternoon at a beachside cafe where I met with Ned and Carmel – two of Lisbon Project’s most familiar faces. I sat with this inspirational couple to hear how their story connects with the Lisbon Project.
Ned and Carmel met in Cork, Ireland, in 2004, got married in 2010 and then moved to Portugal in 2015, , a decision spurred on by Carmel´s cancer diagnosis in 2012.
Prior to moving to Portugal, Ned and Carmel volunteered for Brighter Communities Worldwide , an organisation with Irish roots that carries out development work in Kenya. Frustrated by negative media portrayals of recent global immigration and refugee crises, Ned wanted to do something to counteract the unfair portrayal of those people who were displaced or had to flee from their homes and countries, or merely seeking a better life.
In 2019, a friend told Ned about the Lisbon Project, and he began volunteering in the Employment Programme. In 2020, as part of the LP’s Taste of Hope Campaign, he was also assigned a group of 10 beneficiaries to check in with during the first lock down of the pandemic. In an attempt to balance his volunteering while working full time, Ned asked Carmel to take on 5 of these beneficiaries, introducing her to the Lisbon Project.
Originally a nurse, Carmel says that the Lisbon Project has allowed her to bless others with the skills she has gained along her life. She described how one of her 5 original beneficiaries phoned her, in the midst of witnessing another person having a stroke. Carmel walked her recipient through the steps they needed to follow to assist the stroke victim, and astonishingly, the individual survived with a positive outcome.
Carmel then got more and more involved with the health team as it started to develop, mostly working with pregnant women, as well as coordinating the logistical needs of the Lisbon Project community. This includes supporting beneficiaries with obtaining social health numbers, running health and nutrition workshops, coordinating translators and liaising with various health workers.
Now, in addition to her role in the health team, Carmel has also taken on the role of leader of the CarePod “Zezere”. In this role she aims to build connectedness and encourage beneficiaries and volunteers to support one another. Ned coordinates and oversees the skills development area within the Employment Programme, supporting beneficiaries with things such as writing cover letters, navigating employment websites, interview skills and employment rights. To date, Ned has been involved with the Lisbon Project for three years, making him one of our longest standing volunteers.
Ned and Carmel smile when they talk about the things they find most rewarding about their volunteer work, from the small messages of thanks to seeing beneficiaries living better lives. They describe a Ugandan family who moved to Portugal with nothing. Ned and Carmel worked with the Lisbon Project to provide the family with the basic necessities such as food and bedding, and then managed to get them involved with the LAR project, an initiative designed to give migrants and refugees a new start in the beautiful Portuguese region of Guarda. Ned and Carmel went to visit the family last year and describe the huge welcome they received, the positive outlook of the family and their hopes, expectations and challenges of adapting to their new life in the village.
When asked what the Lisbon Project means to him Ned says,
“The Lisbon Project holds out a hand of welcome for people who have moved to a new country and a new culture. Here you will meet a smiling face who will accept you for who you are and help you build a new family and a new community”.
You can find Ned and Carmel at many of the Lisbon Project social events, including Family Fridays and cultural dinners. We are beyond grateful for everything they have done, their incredible commitment to our mission and the love they have poured on our community. On behalf of the LP family, thank you Ned and Carmel!
Hannah Bradley is one of our volunteer writers. She moved to Portugal from the UK in 2017 and has been volunteering for the Lisbon Project for over a year.