Lucia Maria Loureiro is a mother and active member of the community. She runs a group called New Life Angolan which supports members of the Portuguese/Angolan community in Barnet. She has recently won Barnet Homes Volunteer of the Year award. This is her story:
When Nutmeg Community was founded my sons were 16 and 9. My youngest son participated in the Grab Ur Mic programme, he received an award for taking part and was very proud of himself. I think he lacked self-confidence, but through the Grab Ur Mic workshops he found a way to be popular and interact with other children. At this time in my life I was busy working and studying for my Masters in HR management, with two children. I didn't have the time to participate in anything but I became friends with Nutmeg on Facebook so I could follow the work they were doing.
It was last year when I finished studying, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. It was a turning point for me, and I started my group New Life Angolan. I put together a few people from the Angolan community and we started developing projects in the community, for example we have a coursework group for proof reading and language assistance for all ages, a group for women where we discuss health and nutrition issues, and a youth group where we do traditional dancing and other activities to teach young people about their heritage.
However I found that what the Angolan Community doesn't have, and what would help support them a lot, is interaction from other organisations working within the community. Nutmeg brought awareness of the work they’re doing with young people to our community. Sometimes language barriers mean that desperate parents do not know that there’s help out there, that’s reachable and affordable. I’ve seen families destroyed and broken by their children taking the wrong path and I think if they could just involve themselves with the language and the culture here, then they would know where to get help at the beginning of the problem.
Through our involvement with Nutmeg we were able to participate in the Bunt Oak Multicultural Parade, which was a great opportunity for the Angolan community to interact. The atmosphere was brilliant … to have one day a year where all areas of the community are represented. Next year the Angolan Community is hoping to have a stall, we have such a rich culture to share and if the Angolan community can participate then they will feel more integrated.
I was nominated for the Barnet Homes Volunteer of the Year award by a staff member at Nutmeg Community. Winning this award was very emotional for me as I believe it’s important to have recognition as it puts what you’re doing into perspective. In my life I have been through so much, yet I never gave up. As a member of the Angolan Community I believe others in this minority can relate to me and I hope that my story will inspire them.