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First refugee family welcomed in Portugal under the Community Sponsorship program

A sense of enthusiasm mixed with some anxiety took over Matilde and Elisabete - from the sponsoring group Chaves Acolhe - as they waited for the family to arrive at the Lisbon airport. This is the culmination of a preparatory work, which began almost a year ago, and brought together 12 volunteers determined and committed to doing something that will transform the life of a refugee family, helping to mitigate the humanitarian crisis of refugees, a family at a time.

First sponsored family in Portugal, meets the members of the sponsoring group Chaves Acolhe, at the Lisbon airport.

After waiting for some time, the Iraqi family arrives at the terminal, after a long journey of almost 20 hours, to pick them up from Turkey. Tired and shy, but with a big smile, they were introduced to the members of the sponsoring group, in the middle of many "thank yous". "Thank you so much! We've been waiting for this for 9 years. Now we can start over" said Miriam, the young mother.

This is the first sponsoring group to be set up in Portugal. Under the umbrella of ComUnidade, the group received training and guidance, in order to be able to effectively support the reception and inclusion of a refugee family in Chaves. The partnership with the Soul Frater association has been essential for the work of the sponsoring group, especially in raising awareness and mobilizing the local community. In recent months they have managed to mobilize more than 40 local actors for a fundraising event, having also involved schools, services and Local Authorities in their activities and plans.

As soon as they arrived in Chaves, the family was immediately placed in a house of their own, guaranteed by the sponsoring group, being able to count on the total support of the group in relation to enrollment in local public services, introducing the children to school, learning Portuguese, looking for a job, orientation to Portuguese culture, navigating the system and adapting portuguese society. Deep down, the family will have something essential to better adapt and integrate into Portuguese society - a support network. This is an element that many families often lack when they arrive in Portugal.

The ComUnidade team is present throughout the community sponsorship process.

For the High Commissioner for Migrations Sónia Pereira, "this is a historic moment in reception in Portugal", being a way to help save more lives, encouraging Portuguese society to support the inclusion of refugees. For us, ComUnidade, this is a remarkable moment, being the completion of more than two years of work, for the implementation of the first community sponsorship program in Portugal.

* For security and privacy reasons the names of the family were changed.

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