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Arlene, Melanie and Fiona Figueiredo

Personal info

Fiona was born in Kampala, Uganda and is of Goan origin. She married the late Ivo Figueiredo (ex-Nairobi), immigrated to Boston, USA and has two daughters. Ivo died in 1997. As a single parent, Fiona put her younger daughter Melanie, through school and college. She worked full-time to recruit graduate international students in her role as Assistant Director for Admissions and Recruitment at Brandeis University. Her oldest daughter, Arlene used to take home-made zucchini bread and carrot muffins to the homeless in Harvard Square, which is the bastion of higher learning and where million dollar homes abound.

She writes, “Only some of the homeless are mentally or emotionally damaged, yet the temporarily homeless are treated as mindless, hopeless or helpless, even though they have just had a run of bad luck or other unfortunate circumstances. A caring and compassionate heart helps them to know that there is hope and love and that is what our ministry tries to do.”

She would like to promote the use of the internet locally to organize it as a tool for social justice to help the homeless find that kind of high-tech hope at libraries that offer free Internet access. They can learn basic skills like maths, use e-mail to reach out to lost relatives and apply for college. You can contact Fiona at

Thursday, February 19, 2004
Like daughter, like mom: Coalition volunteer honored with first service award
By Melissa Beecher / Tribune Staff Writer
The Waltham Homeless Coalition awarded Fiona Figueiredo, right, with its first service award for her work feed the area's homeless.

WALTHAM -- Fiona Figueiredo's crusade to help the homeless all started with leftovers.

The now-retired Brandeis University recruiter said she started to reach out to the homeless four years ago when her daughter, who worked with inner-city school children as part of the City Year program, wanted to make a difference.

"Four years ago, when my daughter, Melanie, was working for $1.50 an hour at City Year, she would tell me about the broken hearts of the children she encountered. It gave her knots in her stomach to see some of the anguish on these children's faces," said Figueiredo.

The mother-daughter team approached Starbucks and asked the company to donate day-old baked goods to children at area shelters.

"You saw that giving them food took some of the pain away," said Figueiredo.

Figueiredo then decided to continue providing food to other shelters and organizations in the Waltham area. The native of Goa, Africa, teamed up with Sister Teresia Tinanisolo of the Marist Mission Sisters of Waltham to take her charity work to the next level.

Gathering and providing food, blankets and clothing to local shelters in Waltham, Watertown, Brockton and Boston, Figueiredo was soon recognized by those she helped as a kind face who was genuinely concerned about their well-being.

The Waltham Homeless Coalition learned of her work through representatives of the Middlesex Human Service Agency and decided to honor the former Waltham resident. Figueiredo now lives in Lexington.

"People at the shelters would say that she deserved to be recognized, and so that's what we did," said Sgt. Bob Scarpone, member of the coalition.

Yesterday, Figueiredo was presented with the Waltham coalition's first community service award.

Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, and all other members of the coalition were on hand to present the award and commend Figueiredo for her service.

"People would see Sister Teresia and I loading food into our car at the Victory Supermarket and ask if the sisters were throwing a party," said Figueiredo. "When we told them what we were doing -- helping the homeless -- people are usually touched and ask what they can do to help."

Besides donating her own time, Figueiredo has also managed to recruit others to help her gather donations and bring them to shelters. Currently 16 people work alongside Figueiredo and Tinanisolo.

Figueiredo hopes, in the future, she will be able to raise money for homeless families, so she could provide security deposits for low-income housing.

"I think that it is important for Waltham to not be known as a magnet for homeless, but for a city that fights for social justice," she said. "As a society we are only as strong as our weakest member, and I am hoping to help those people."

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