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Meet Katia Almeida and her work with vulnerable kids in Portugal

Katia Almeida is the General Director of Pressley Ridge Portugal. In 1998-99 she worked at Pressley Ridge in the USA and she won a Fulbright scholarship. She also received the Pressley Ridge prestigious Nicholas Hobbs award in 2008.

In addition to her work at Pressley Ridge, she teaches post graduate classes at several universities in Portugal. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist, has her MBA on management of social and health services, has a Master degree in Sports Psychology, and completed a Post-Graduate course in psychosocial intervention with kids and families.


 Tell us a bit about your project and what inspired you to do this work.

I strongly believe that everyone should be hard wired to the world. My mission in life is to connect vulnerable kids with significant adults by building relationships that really matter. One child at a time. I have started working with troubled kids in summer camps at a young age and have developed outdoor adventure programs for kids in Portugal. I soon discovered that the most troubled kids are the ones that have major needs. But at the same time, they are also the ones that get less positive attention, less opportunities to grow and to flourish. But these kids also have a tremendous potential  are the most vulnerable ones are also who needs us most.

Since 1997 I’ve implemented several innovative programs for vulnerable kids and families, training and supervising the staff that work in those programs. I have been involved in several focus groups in Portugal that have influenced legislation and procedures concerning kids and families. Since 2000 I took the helm of Pressley Ridge in Portugal and have been leading the organization ever since. By developing and leading the best team in the world, for the past 15 years together we have impacted the lives of over 1,500 kids.

Can you tell us about a defining moment where you could see the impact of your project? 

I can provide 3 different examples about it:

  1. Family preservation is one of the services we provide. Our goal is to maintain the kids successfully with their families and in their communities, away from crime and from being removed into a residential program. One of the families we’ve worked with in the past, about 5 years ago, was struggling tremendously to have their twin 10 year old boys attending school and responding positively to adults, including parents. We’ve worked about 15 hours a week with this family for almost 6 months. After that, the family was able to develop the necessary parenting skills to respond to their kids and help them be successful. Even today, the kids and the parents call us every time something good happen in the family: when kids do well in school, sports or any other important achievement. The family call our staff their guardian angels!
  2. This one you can see for yourself: Fabio’s digital story. We’ve supported Fabio doing this video back in 2009. Today, Fabio is a young adult, he is a father of a young baby, he is doing professional training and working part-time. He is happy and has a life project. he is still in touch with us, and volunteers every once in a while to help with the kids we are currently working with.
  3. I always say that I have the best team in the world making a difference in the lives of kids and families on a regular basis. Every time I meet with different stakeholders that for some reason have meet anyone from my team they always say the best about them – they praise specially the commitment to our mission (whatever it takes to create success with kids and families), the joy, the competencies and trust. I see the impact of what we do by the way the team is committed and devoted to the work we do.

What kind of organisations or people would you like to connect with that could further benefit your work? 

The people and/or organizations we are interested in connecting:

  • Other organizations providing services for vulnerable kids and families that are interested in further collaborations and/or exchanging of ideas.
  • Supporters (companies and/or individuals) interested in funding what we do, so that we can reach more children and families in Portugal and outside the country.
  • We provide a lot of training for professionals, especially in therapeutic crisis intervention, experiential learning with kids and families and authentic leadership. We are very interested in providing our training offer to organizations that might need it outside Portugal. 100% of the income we generate from training goes to support our mission.