About Us


Friends of Portugal is a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in North America with teams operating in the U.S. and Portugal.

Focused on promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing, Friends of Portugal establishes social enterprise projects, hosts business & cultural excursions between the US and Portugal, fosters community outreach, and organizes educational programs and seminars for personal and professional development, all through innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives.

Friends of Portugal  serves Secular and faith-based organizations and individuals with similar interests and goals, and a shared desire to influence and motivate the people of Portugal to pursue and create mutually beneficial opportunities that fuel economic growth and development in the community.

The Board of Directors and North American Director of Friends of Portugal all serve without compensation or remuneration.

The 2016 Executive Leadership of Friends of Portugal is composed of: 


Board of Directors

Randy M. Ataide, President. A Luso-American from an old family from Porto, Portugal, Randy is a retired Professor of Entrepreneurship from Point Loma Nazarene University. Currently, he is a business consultant and investor in several projects, and has spoken in numerous settings during many trips to Portugal, usually on entrepreneurship, leadership, etc. He and his wife Ruth live in San Antonio, Texas, and Randy loves studying Portuguese history, current issues, economics and business, culture, and wines. They have three grown children and one beautiful granddaughter.

Jason Ekk, Vice-President. Jason was born in Dinuba, CA, but raised in Portugal, where his love of the country, people, and history was shaped. He and his wife Alicia and three children live in Visalia, CA. Jason is an attorney with a focus of practice on real estate, business law, estate planning,and litigation. A strong advocate for justice and peacemaking, Jason is also an adjunct Professor at Fresno Pacific University.



Elsa Gomes Bondlow. Elsa is a passionate and vibrant advocate for the Portuguese and Lusos throughout the world, and was raised in the Loures area north of Lisbon before coming to the U.S. to obtain her degree from Fresno Pacific University, and joined the Board of Directors in 2016. She and her husband John live in the Boston area, where she serves as the Major Gifts Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley



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Drew Lambert. Drew joined the Board of Directors in 2016, and was the originator of the Friends of Portugal business plan in 2011 during a European study trip, as an MBA project while studying at Point Loma Nazarene University. Drew and his wife Megan live in San Diego, and have traveled together to Portugal, and Drew is a real estate developer in the greater San Diego area.



Joshua Wilson, Treasurer. Josh is an estate planning attorney based in Bakersfield, CA. He and his wife Heidi Ekk Wilson have two young sons, and live on a farm in Shafter, CA., and serves on the Board of Trustees of Fresno Pacific University. Through the years, Josh has also developed a deep knowledge and passion for Portuguese wines, culture, and economic empowerment.




Cathy L. Gallagher, North American Director. Cathy is co-owner of Jennings House Cafe in San Diego, CA., and former Executive Director of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University. She has extensive experience in leadership, management, business development, consulting, and training. She has traveled to Portugal 3 times, 2 of which included leading a group of MBA students on business and cultural experiential learning trips. During these trips she has spoken on topics that include entrepreneurship, professional development, employment, and international communications. Cathy loves to travel, and also enjoys living at the coast, reading, walking, and spending time with her grandchildren. She and her husband Mike live in San Diego, CA and have two grown children and three grandsons. 

Hendrik von Niessen, European Director. Living in Loures, Portugal, as the European Director for Friends of Portugal Hendrik provide primary day to day leadership of the various activities, projects, initiatives and programs that FOP has in place in Portugal. Born in Germany, Hendrik is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and he and his wife Margarita and two young sons are active in the many FOP projects, their local church, and various ministries, projects, and groups in Portugal.

Edi Chamuco, European Associate, Loures, Portugal. Based at the Friends of Portugal enterprise incubator and co-space, A Ponte, in Flamenga since April 2015, Edi serves as the primary day to day contact for A Ponte’s clients, visitors, and other users. Highly entrepreneurial, Edi is also studying at University in Lisbon and hopes to found his own hospitality and event management firm in the future.



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Guimel Sibingo, Communications Coordinator. 

Guimel is a Portuguese-Angolan who studied Communications and Journalism in the United States and has since returned to Portugal in order to invest back into her country. As the communications coordinator, Guimel is in charge of all e-mail communications, website maintenance and social media management.  She is a part of our on-the-ground team in Portugal and assists with communication efforts (in Portuguese and in English) for our projects in Portugal including A Ponte, Re-nascer and the second-hand store. 


Jose Arrais-Velez. Jose was born and has lived his entire life in Portugal, and is currently President of the Evangelical Association of Portugal, and serves on several international groups and committees which has him travel frequently to other countries, where he always acts a passionate and compelling ambassador for the Portuguese. His outgoing and positive nature across cultures make him an amazing guide and source of information for the FOP Board and Staff, and he also is fluent or proficient in several languages including Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French. He and his wife Paula have two sons and a daughter, and a profound commitment to the Portuguese at all levels of their existence.

Otto Ekk. In his role as Ambassador for Friends of Portugal, Otto brings vast experience in business, mission work, enterprise development, leadership, and related topics to his service with Friends of Portugal. His deep knowledge and appreciation for cultures and peoples throughout the world is manifest in his thoughtful, kind, and temperate nature towards all, and he also speaks German, Portuguese, and English. For nearly thirty years, Otto and his wife Marjorie have lived in Portugal, and they also lived and worked in Brasil for several years prior to moving to the Loures area. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.

For additional information contact Cathy Gallagher, North American Director, at cathygallagher07@gmail.com or Hendrik von Niessen, European Director, hvn@me.com




Contact Us:

Cathy Gallagher, North American Director:


Hendrik von Niessen, European Director: