My name is João André J. Monteiro, I’m 22 years old, and I come from Angola. I’ve been living in São Paulo, Brazil, since 2017, studying Mechanical Engineering at the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie.
Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine, driven by the desire to meet other people and cultures, to understand how others interact and solve problems, and how they establish their presence in the world.
Now that I’m here, the experience has been amazing. Firstly, because it changed the way I see the world, and provided me with numerous opportunities for personal and professional development. When I was in Angola, due to my family’s financial hardship, life was limited to waking up, eating, going to school, returning home, and sleeping – day in, day out. Here in Brazil, though, my life has a completely different rhythm; I’ve been able to participate in a range of activities, complete online courses, study new languages, read at least one book per week, write my own books, and think of new activities to include in my routine as a leader in training.
The Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie is the best private university in the state of São Paulo, with an exceptional curriculum and educational standards. At university, I’ve both theoretical and practical classes, and I try to participate as much as I can in extracurricular activities, such as Science Fairs and entrepreneurship workshops, where you learn about new ways to invest, develop business projects, and project management.
We’re free to dream, but many dreams require resources, funds and people to make them reality. Shortly after losing my father, I found myself surrounded by adversity. My dreams seemed to sink into poverty as I neared the end of high school. That was when, in late 2015, I learned about the Ashinaga Foundation through a poster in my school’s window. I enthusiastically applied for the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) and, with a lot of effort and dedication, I was chosen out of almost 100 candidates from Angola to receive an AAI scholarship.
I don’t have any complaints; I have everything I couldn’t have in my own country. Here in Brazil I am given the resources to do my best, so that one day my family won’t have to struggle with not having enough to eat, clothes to wear or a place to live.
After graduating and returning to Angola, my Kokorozashi (a Japanese word meaning “life goal”) is to create a chain of private schools, dedicated solely to a high level of technical and vocational education, in which I estimate ten to fifteen percent of students will be receiving a scholarship. The idea of my support program is to make money from those who have money in order to help those who don’t have money, so that they can have their own means and opportunities, and in future help someone else. I believe that the world can only be changed by shaping peoples’ consciousness. In this way, we can foster human sustainability and build a society that is more aware of others’ needs.
I’m fascinated by Ashinaga’s ideals. In his book “Eat That Frog”, American author Brian Tracy writes: “If we want to eat an elephant, we need to serve it up in bite-sized pieces”. That, to me, represents Ashinaga’s approach, of selecting one student per year from every Sub-Saharan African country, with a long-term vision of development; even though they can’t help everyone in need, Ashinaga focus resources into those who they believe have the potential to extend this assistance to others in future. It’s from Ashinaga’s ideals that my kokorozashi is largely influenced. It might change, of course, but it’s my intention for the time being.
Within the AAI, I’ve learnt important lessons about leadership, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and people management. Above all, though, it was because I had a dream and fought for it that I’ve become a person of healthy habits and disciplined behaviors. A dream, centering on a noble objective, is the fuel in the furnace of achievement. The ability to focus decisively on our most important tasks, to do them well and see them through to the end, is the key to achieving great success, respect, status and happiness in life. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be successful, but success is made all the better when it’s combined with the act of helping others.
Part of my dream was fulfilled by Ashinaga, and they’ve supported me steadfastly throughout my studies. However, fulfilling the rest of my dreams will depend on my continuous effort, focusing on personal achievements which will end up helping many Angolans. Today, I can aspire to greater things in life – such as being in places I never imagined going, mingling with people from other social backgrounds, and networking – thanks to Ashinaga. As Isaac Newton said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants” – if I can dream of achieving all I want, it’s because I have Ashinaga’s invaluable financial and emotional support. And, as I always say, I know I’m only one person and can’t change the world, but I believe I can make it a better place in which to live in peace and harmony