In Cape Verde, a lot of things remained to be accomplished, but one had to make an option, and training was clearly a priority.
Until then, he had been president of the Board of the Black Panthers Youth Association, a neighborhood organization with many values (sport, culture, social intervention), considered by many to be the best youth organization in Cape Verde; the neighborhood of Várzea, a typical suburb of the Cape Verdean capital, owes much to the work of this organization, which is even stronger today.
Associativism was a real school for me. When I learned that I was coming to Portugal, I had to guarantee the conditions for the work to continue and, today, I believe that the battle has been won, given the excellent role that this association continues to develop. Anyway, even in Portugal, I still have strong ties to the Black Panthers.
In 2004, I encouraged the signing of a protocol of cooperation between AIPA (Association of Immigrants in the Azores) and the Black Panthers Youth Association, which allowed, at the time, to develop a Solidarity campaign A Pencil for Cape Verde “, helping hundreds of young people with school material in 2005. In the same year, we created in the Várzea area the “Informatics Center, Insular Links”, a structure that has provided people with low economic resources with learning and use of new technologies.
In addition, he had stopped dreaming of a sports career. I was many times represented in Cape Verde in international tennis competitions and I was three-time national champion in juniors of the modality (1991, 92 and 93). Today I maintain a strong connection with the sport and with the Cape Verdean Tennis Federation (FCT).
In January 2007, I was appointed FCT representative for Europe and since then I have been collaborating in the execution of sports projects and in the closer relationship with Portugal in the modality. I recently organized (in May 2007) the visit of the President of the Cape Verdean Tennis Federation to Portugal to establish contacts with the Portuguese and Azorean congener.
The Azores, at the time, did not seem like a good idea, but now I feel that I belong to two Atlantic archipelagos; I’m an island migrant. I also confess that I like rain and, perhaps, because it is a rarity in Cape Verde and, in the Azores, an almost daily reality.
Between my academic activity, I got very involved in the University. I collaborated in the organization of cultural weeks, I was one of the founders of the university newspaper “Vanguarda” and its Deputy Director for a year.
While I finished the course, in 1999 I founded the University of Sociology Students University of the Azores, being elected President of the Board; with the help of my colleagues, we have developed various activities (sociology nights, book fair, conferences, etc.). We were contributing to a greater visibility of Sociology. It marked me deeply that, breaking the periphery, we managed to participate with 15 students in the National Congress of Sociology in Coimbra. Because of the Nucleus, I was elected Student Representative in the Council of the Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences (in 2000/01) and in the Senate of the same University (2002). The Nucleus of Sociology Students continues in full operation.
In spite of the close contact I had with the community, problems passed me by. I became aware of the need to be more involved in the problems of the community and I placed my entrepreneurial spirit at the disposal of this cause.
Immigration had also begun to gain some visibility in the Region. At the time, there was no organization that would care for the interests of foreigners and, above all, to help bring the issue to the regional political agenda. With three other friends (one Portuguese, one Guinean and one Santomense) we founded the Association of Immigrants in the Azores in 2003 and was elected President of the Board. Another journey began, and the fruit of our work, AIPA, is today a partner recognized at regional and national level1.
In the meantime, I was invited to take a six-month internship at the University’s Cooperation Office in 2003. It was an interesting experience where I had the opportunity to contribute to strengthen relations between universities and abroad, particularly with Cape Verde.
After the internship, I was invited by the Rector at the time (Prof. Vasco Garcia) to continue collaborating professionally in the Cabinet. Towards the end of 2003, I was already preparing for my return to Cape Verde, rooted in the will to collaborate in the development of a country that needs everyone.
At the time, at the end of 2003, I became a Technical Technician at the Regional Cooperative for Solidarity Economy (Cresaçor), an institution that would manage a project of the INTERREG III B community initiative, called the Center for the Study of Solidarity Economy of the Atlantic. I am currently the Executive Director of the “CEESA” Magazine, responsible for Cresaçor.
I found in this project the great possibility of making and contributing to the construction of a bridge between the two archipelagos. It contributed to Cape Verde’s integration into the project, and in 2006 we inaugurated the Transregional Office of Training and Skills in Solidarity Economy in Cape Verde. The project has the Social Action Institute as a Promoter, which reinforced the prospect of liaising with Cape Verde, above all in relation to the exchange of experiences and the strengthening of relations between the two Atlantic archipelagos. As coordinator of the project, I carried out a number of initiatives, including: a study on Solidarity Economy organizations in Cape Verde, publication of an Act of the International Congress on Solidarity Economy,
As you will understand, Cape Verde, as an African country, has many difficulties in integrating European projects fully. In fact, because of the sensitivity of the Azorean side, but also because of my work on the project, the project was effectively extended to Cape Verde with concrete results. Today, the Office of Support to the institutions that work in this area is in operation, reinforcing the political discourse of the Solidarity Economy as a useful tool to combat poverty.
I understand that to be an immigrant is to contribute, equally, to the construction of bridges. Beyond the difficulties in transposing study visas into work visas and in some situations, which is not an integral part of the nodes, the way is this: to make the challenges and the difficulties real opportunities. Bridging the home and host society, contributing, on the one hand, to the transfer of know-how and for strengthening the relationship between these spaces, has been the basis of my role as a migrant.
That is why, since I have been in Portugal for 12 years, I constantly strive to contribute to the achievement of these goals, that is, to contribute to the development of the space that has welcomed me, but also to be an active agent in the development of my country of origin.
In the sphere of associative activity, notwithstanding the tireless work of many colleagues in solving the problems of migrants in Portuguese society, I realized that we lacked a proper stage of action. There was a lack of a common agenda and, above all, a space for consultation between the Immigrant Associations.
In 2005, I held a series of meetings with the most representative associations, in the ambit of the association that I preside over, in order to present the idea of holding an I Forum of the Associations of Immigrants in the Azores.
In 2006, reinforcing the contacts and with great insistence, it was possible to hold, in Ponta Delgada, the 1st National Forum of Representative Structures of Immigrant Communities in Portugal, under the motto “More and Best Associativism”. More than 60 immigrant associations were present; a document called the “Agenda of the Azores” was drawn up, constituting an important document in the elaboration of the new immigration law, and the basis was laid for the creation of a real agenda for the Immigrant Associations. It was a historic moment in the immigrant associative movement that was reinforced with the holding in Setúbal of the Second Forum by the Cape Verdean Association. Also in that city I was elected coordinator of PERCIP (Platform of the Representative Structures of Immigrant Communities),
Today, PERCIP has more than 50 immigrant associations in its midst. In this context, I have participated in several national and international initiatives representing PERCIP, which has gradually been a credible partner in Portugal. As a sign of recognition of the work, I was invited by the High Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue to join the National Monitoring Commission for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
In January 2006, we inaugurated, in the city of Praia, CAMPO – Immigrant Support Center in the Country of Origin, with AIPA being the entity managing the project, IPAD and ACIDI financing and training entities of the project.
The CAMPO is a pioneering project in the European context and aims to start with a Cabinet with two techniques (mediators), provide information and referral to people who wish to travel or emigrate to Portugal. The key idea behind this project is that the approach to migratory phenomena requires, every time, a permanent and consistent dialogue between the emitting and receiving spaces of migratory flows.
Therefore, the CAMPO project, in addition to helping to promote an informed and regular emigration of Cape Verde to Portugal, and to provide support to Cape Verdean emigrants based in Portugal, and contributing to the strengthening of relations between the two countries.
But my civic intervention has been more comprehensive. Apart from the professional aspect, I understood to assume a proactive role in the integration in the Portuguese society and, in particular, the Azorean society. Since 2005 I have had a weekly column in the newspaper “Açoriano Oriental – ” 2, as well as regular collaboration in the Cape Verdean press, with the conviction that, with a double look, we can be active agents of change. In addition, I am the director of the radio program “O Mundo Aqui”, broadcast weekly on RTP-Açores. From September 15, the program will be re-broadcast in Cape Verde through the Cabo Verde TV Radio (RTC), thus contributing to the strengthening of relations between Cape Verde and the Azores.
In the logic of Cape Verde’s approach to the European Union, I have made an effort to contribute to the realization of the intention. From 2 to 8 April, MEP Paulo Casaca visited and held a number of initiatives in Cape Verde, where I played a key role in this. In the same spirit of ideas and playing a central role in the process, a Danish delegation, led by MEP Britta Thonsem, visited Cape Verde from 24 to 31 May 2008.
In April 2008, I was invited by the British Council to represent Portugal in the project called “TN2020”, which aims to create a sustainable network of young leaders and foster a better relationship between America and Europe. I was the first representative of Portugal in the project and today we are three members of Portugal in this same project.
In the Azores, since last November, I am the Director of Competir, Formação e Serviços Lda. , which is dedicated to the development of training projects aimed at the various audiences.
In the area of academic training, I finished in 2006 a Post-Graduation in Social Sciences, Local and Regional Development and I am currently working on my dissertation for master’s degree with TESE “Modes of incorporation of Immigrant Communities in the Autonomous Region of the Azores. “
In November I added a book titled “Atlantic Insular Bridge – The Cape Verdean community in the Azores”, along with the creation of my Insularities blog.
Reasons to win the Prize
I have the idea that the central objective of the prize is perhaps to reward the immigrant citizen who has emphasized his entrepreneurship in the exclusively economic / entrepreneurial aspect, contributing, therefore, for innovation of the Portuguese economic fabric and the country of origin.
My application was motivated by a more comprehensive interpretation of the term “entrepreneur” both in the concrete actions and, above all, in the consequences in the social space where I am inserted. Personally, and certainly you will agree with me, prospective entrepreneurship as the ability to innovate and contribute to social change in the broad sense of the term.
Therefore, my professional career but also my status as an immigrant citizen, belonging to two spaces, two countries, has been marked by this entrepreneurial spirit, with consequences for both Portugal and Cape Verde.
The creation of an association that is now recognized as a credible partner; the holding of the 1st National Forum of Representative Structures of Immigrant Communities in Portugal in 2006 in Ponta Delgada; the decisive role in the creation of the Platform of Representative Structures of Immigrant Communities in Portugal, which has proved to be the useful and privileged interlocutor of the strengthening of the immigrant associative movement in Portugal; the permanent presence, as a chronicler, in the Azorean and Cape Verdean press, the creation of the radio program “O Mundo Aqui”, the responsibility for the creation and management of the CAMPO project – the Immigrant Support Center in the Country of Origin, TN2020 project, developed by the British Council, are revealing of this entrepreneurial spirit and appropriate to the profile of the prize.
Of course I am not and I do not intend to make a judgment on the consequences of my actions. However, I know that, taking advantage of my status as an immigrant with links to two spaces, I am strongly committed to using this for the sake of the development of Portugal and the Azores, but also of my country of origin.