Tuesday was the day when our Founder and President of Safe Communities Portugal, David Thomas, finally received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire Medal, (MBE). David was awarded this honour in Her Majesty the Queen's New Year’s Honours List 2021 for “services to public safety and to British nationals in Portugal", but due to Covid-19 restrictions it is only now that the official presentation could take place. David was given the choice of the presentation in the UK (with one guest) or in Portugal where more guests could attend – he chose the latter.
The venue was the British Ambassador’s Residence in Lisbon and the occasion was hosted by the UK Ambassador Chris Sanity.
The ceremony was attended by members of the Portuguese Government with whom David had worked closely with, which included: Ana Mendes Godinho , Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security; Patrícia Gaspar Secretary of State for Internal Administration; Rita Marques Secretary of State for Tourism; Tiago Oliveira President of AGIF; Brigadier-General José Manuel Duarte da Costa, President of ANEPC; José Oliveira National Director Emergency Planning ANEPC; João Lázaro Presidente and Carmen Rasquete Secretary General APAV, as well as David’s Family, some who were finally able to make the trip from the UK, and SCP Committee members.
Representatives of the GNR and the PSP including: Superintendent Martins PSP Commander and the newly appointed GNR Commander, Tenanted Coronel Carlos ALMEIDA were present, plus Civil Protection Operations Commander Richard Marques, the UK Consular Services were also able to be present on this very special occasion. Also from the Algarve was João Fernandes, President Regional Tourism Algarve; Vitor Manuel Gonçalves Aleixo, Mayor of Loule; Alberto Mota Borges, Director Faro International Airport.
Around 40 guests in all heard the Ambassador praise the work that David and Safe Communities have done over the past 10 years, but especially when the Pandemic started and the information they were able to relay to the non-Portuguese speaking population as well as provide the most up to date details of the government legislation. He also spoke of the dedication that David has shown to the community and SCP in the ten years it has been in existence remembering that David and all his colleagues are volunteers.
David gave an address thanking all those who had made this possible and the trust, friendship and close partnerships that had been developed over this period.
David stated during his address that those attending from Government were those whom he had the pleasure to work with closely, especially during the challenging times of 2017 and 2018. He recalled being contacted whilst on holiday in the UK in June 2018 by Tiago Oliveira, now President of AGIF, which following a Skype meeting at the time, led to Safe Communities becoming deeply involved in the change process concerning the prevention of rural fires and self-protection measures including, the Safe Village and Safe People Program. This led to meetings with the officials present with whom it has been a privilege to work with since then.
David also spoke about the immense challenges Covid-19 had posed, with Safe Communities dealing literally with thousands of enquiries 24/7 remembering the SCP Committee are volunteers. He thanked in particular, Fernanda Goncalves, Mike Evans, Eliana Taveras, Daniel Fernandes and others for all their incredible work during this period, often giving up their social time, and to the Safe Communities team as a whole. The award acknowledges all their work.
Unfortunately Vice Admiral Gouvia e Melo, Head of the Vaccination Task Force, whom David and Fernanda had met raising various vaccination issues, was due to attend but could not do so due to an urgent priority.
Lastly, David emphasised the considerable support of the British Embassy Consular Team, including from the start Clive Jewell. He also thanked his wife Jane for all the support she had given and his two daughters Shelley, partner John, and Sophie.
David concluded by thanking the Ambassador and all the Embassy team for the superb arrangements for making the ceremony a most memorable occasion.
At the conclusion a cake was presented to commemorate 10 years of the existence of Safe Communities which was launched in Albufeira in October 2011 at a British Embassy Outreach with previous Ambassador Jill Gillard officiating. Mike Evans, Board Member, Safe Communities Portugal.