In October 2020, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in partnership with Ashoka Portugal, launched Young Transformers in Portugal: Gulbenkian 25<25 Challenge, an initiative aimed at supporting young people (<25 years old) from the Gulbenkian Knowledge Academies network in the development of ideas to solve problems in their communities to build a better future.
This challenge comprised a series of phases that took place over 10 months. A group of young people from the 2019 edition of Neuronautas, the Champalimaud Foundation academy, managed to make it through all the steps until finally being selected as one of the winning groups!
It was in the “Health and Well-Being” category that the group of Neuronautas - Pedro Barros, Beatriz Silva, Marta Santos and Guilherme Reis - stood out with their Safe Spaces for Cancer project.
According to Pedro Barros, the young mind who triggered this adventure, “Our idea is based on the creation of safe spaces where young people, families and cancer patients can share their concerns without taboos”. As Beatriz Silva, another team member, explains: “Safe spaces are meeting places (physical or digital) where young people, in the presence of psychologists specialised in this area, can talk in an open, informal, comfortable, natural and safe way about the challenges related to this disease. These spaces can serve for simple conversation, games or other types of activities and events that serve the purpose of sharing experiences and helping each other.”
The solution will involve the creation of an App that will allow everyone looking for a safe space to register and join a network. To register, each user will create a profile with personal data (age, nationality etc.), in compliance with the data protection policy), and details about the type of safe space they would like to interact with. The plan is then to create groups according to preferences and schedule meetings.
For Catarina Ramos, Coordinator of Academia Neuronautas, “Being able to work with this group of such motivated young people was a truly pleasurable challenge. It was with great pride that we saw 'our Neuronautas 2019' gain wings and seek solutions to such complex problems.”
“In addition to the fact that they are all young people with a special interest for science, they share life stories that, in one way or another, were marked by family members diagnosed with cancer. There are stories of people who emigrated and suddenly had their sick mother in a country where they didn’t know the culture and didn’t have a network of friends or family to share their pain with. There are stories of those who, despite having friends and family, did not find the kind of help they were looking for. Everyone felt the taboo of talking about cancer. All felt that they lacked a safe space to talk about their doubts, fears and anxieties. Everyone felt that if such a space existed, they would have handled this challenge better," Catarina concludes.
It was with this motivation that Safe Spaces for Cancer started and now, thanks to the prize for the 25<25 initiative, the project will be able to take its first steps and give young people that have faced or are facing similar situations the chance to have a safe space where they can share this experience with others who are going through similar situations. To all 25<25 winners, congratulations!