Campus and Community

Solidarity initiative “Sopa para Todos” (“Soup for All”)

Besides helping families in need, the solidarity initiative aims to support the catering sector, which has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The solidarity initiative “Sopa para Todos” (“Soup for All”) was created about two months ago and aims to help families in need and support the catering sector. The process is very simple: Anyone wishing to help just have to go to a participating restaurant and pay for a soup for those who can’t afford to pay it. The solidarity initiative has attracted public attention, has helped many people, and the number of participating restaurants grows every day. Ricardo Rodrigues, Técnico PhD student and INESC-ID researcher is one of the 8 volunteers involved in this project.

The idea of creating “Sopa para Todos” comes from Ana Baião, a friend of Ricardo Rodrigues, after she saw the happiness of a man after she offered him a soup. She decided to create a Facebook group aiming to help families in need anda t the same time to support the catering sector. The Facebook group, created on 2nd February 2021, has already more than 20 thousand members and is making a difference in people’s lives.

Ricardo Rodrigues recalls that his involvement in this project was a result of his friendship with Ana Baião: “She commented that a good platform containing all participating restaurants was lacking”. The INESC-ID researcher immediately realised that he could contribute positively to the project. He created the “Sopa para Todos” website and he is one of the volunteers. The Técnico alumna Rute Lemos is also part of the project and the web design team.

The solidarity initiative has already extended to the whole country, and involves more than 100 participating restaurants. Although most of the restaurants are located in Lisbon and in the surrounding area, the initiative has already reached more than 10 districts. In some restaurants it is possible to offer full meals. “However, we still haven’t reach many regions, namely in the interior of the country, in northern Alentejo and Trás-os-Montes. We have people interested in helping in the Azores and Madeira, but we don’t have participating restaurants yet. We hope that, as soon as we start disseminating this initiative, more restaurants will join us and we will thus be able to help more people”, says Ricardo Rodrigues.

If you want to join the network of participating restaurants, all you have to do is express an interest by e-mail with the subject “Restaurant registration”, and you will then be contacted by the team with a request for more information so that the membership is made official. Ricardo Rodrigues suggests “restaurants interested in being part of the initiative should join the “Sopa para Todos” Facebook group in order to share their work, needs and achievements”.

A solidarity initiative that has never stopped growing and supports those who are most in need 

The impact of “Sopa para Todos” has surprised the team “since the first day”. “In less than 24 hours, more than a thousand people joined the Facebook group. All team members, including myself, had no experience in managing large-scale projects and it took us a while to adapt”, recalls the Técnico student. “We currently have 8 volunteers and we have to manage our efforts in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance”, he adds.

“Without “Sopa para Todos” some restaurants would have been closed. People are grateful because they have something to eat”, says Ricardo Rodrigues. “This is only possible because there are people and restaurants that want to help and offer food to those who are most in need. We are just building bridges between these people”, says the Técnico student.

The team is regularly confronted with the question: “how do you know that your help is put to good use?”. “Our decisions are based on common sense and on the needs of the local community, and also on the network of participating restaurants”. “The truth always comes out, so we focus on the truth of those who are most in need”, stresses Ricardo Rodrigues.

The fact is that there are more and more people in need and the team aims is to reach all of them, “mainly those who are living in more precarious situations recently and are still very ashamed to ask for help”, stresses Ricardo Rodrigues. “In order to break these barriers, the participating restaurants need the help of the community to signal these situations with due privacy and description, so that our support can reach those who really need it”, says the PhD student. “One thing that we can guarantee at this moment is that we are helping families that were really in need. Knowing that we are making a difference in these people’s lives make it worthwhile”, says the INESC-ID researcher.