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Portuguese student to fight county seat

PUBLISHED: 11:30 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 15:12 07 July 2010

Cecilia Fonseca

Cecilia Fonseca

Portuguese woman Cecilia Fonseca's first job in Norfolk was grading carrots and parsnips. Now she is a law student with ambitious plans to represent the community in local government.

Portuguese woman Cecilia Fonseca's first job in Norfolk was grading carrots and parsnips. Now she is a law student with ambitious plans to represent the community in local government.

Although she has faced numerous challenges since arriving in the county from her native Portugal six years ago, the 28-year-old is a true example of how hard work can ensure you achieve your full potential whatever your background - and it is this message she wants to get across to all young people.

So the single mum from Toftwood is putting herself forward to become the first member of Norfolk's Portuguese community to serve Labour on the county council.

Miss Fonseca came to Norfolk to be with her parents and initially joined her mother in the local vegetable processing factory where she did “the simplest job you can get, standing in a line choosing carrots”.

But she said it was better than sitting at home twiddling her thumbs.

“I could have got very depressed because I did not know anyone or the area. So I thought it was better to take the job than do nothing.”

She spent most of her time pushing for better working conditions and says her bosses thought she was “a bit of a trouble-maker”, but in her eyes it was important to try to improve things for herself and her fellow workers.

Then she found out she was five months pregnant with her son Rodrigo and had to give up work. Finding it hard to be at home as a single mother she joined the local Labour group as she had interests in politics.

In Portugal, she used to run European Union part-funded workshops and seminars on minority cultures around Europe and is concerned about the debate over immigration in Norfolk, with the integration of new communities, problems with language and getting qualifications.

Last year, she also started an Open University degree in law and is now determined to give her son the best life she can as well as helping others find the opportunities they deserve.

“Since I was a little girl I always said I wanted to give something good to the world. I want everyone to be happy. If I was rich I would help all the children in the world.

“What worries me is that children are not getting the best childhoods. They don't get the right attention or discipline and then when they reach their teens they are out on the streets getting involved in violence.”

Miss Fonseca was selected as the candidate for the vacant West Depwade seat by Labour in the county council elections on June 4 and hopes her strong work ethic and determination to fight for people's human rights as well as her experience as a member of the Portuguese community in Norfolk will win her support.

She stands against Conservative councillor and local farmer Beverley Spratt, of Tacolneston, and she realises people might be sceptical about voting for a Portuguese single mother.

“I know it is a rural area, but I was brought up in the countryside so I understand the lifestyle but I would ask people to give me the opportunity and trust me. I think I have the skills to represent them well.”

John Cowan, agent for South Norfolk Labour Party, said: “It is good that people from the new communities are getting involved in civic life and contributing to life in Norfolk.”

The West Depwade division includes the villages of Ashwellthorpe, Carleton Rode, Bunwell, Burston, Bressingham, Forncett, Shelfanger and Winfarthing.

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