Abel Rodrigues is a trained software engineer, but an activist at heart. Born and raised in the Amazon, his journey to the University of Pará illustrated the stark change of scenery from his roots. “Every single place I visited – even in Brazil – is very different from Amazon. It’s the largest rainforest, has the most variety of animals and plants, and its cities are surrounded by forests and rivers.”
Early in his studies, Abel found his niche of activism. He worked as a developer for the university, building VR applications to teach children geometry, as well as applications to teach biochemistry students about glycolysis. These projects sparked his passion for helping – be it underprivileged communities or young start-ups.
While the first Covid-19 strains tore through indigenous communities in Brazil, Abel did not hesitate to dive in, demonstrating his resourcefulness under pressure. In March of 2020, he co-founded the SOS Amazon Fund, an organization that gathered hygiene items, food, and health equipment for those in need.
“The health system in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas and the main reference health center for most of the Amazon Rainforest's traditional peoples, collapsed. As a consequence, millions of peoples' lives were put at risk. The city's press officers had announced over 100 deaths per day due to Covid-19. We needed to help both the rural and urban populations to contain the spread of the virus and avoid the destruction of the heart of the Amazon.”
His group raised €160,000 and even rigged a telemedicine system via satellites to allow remote doctors to treat patients on the ground. His group’s efforts were so successful the city hall referred to them as one of the most important groups in maintaining the health infrastructure in Manaus.
After his adventures in Brazil, Abel traveled to Portugal, settling in a wildly different scene. “Lisbon is a very old city, with a lot of culture and history to breathe. Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world, so here people have the freedom to explore the city without worrying about violence - this is the biggest difference at all.” There, he co-founded The Starter, an edtech school that teaches practical courses in UX & UI, which raised €150k in its pre-seed round and now has a market value of 1 million eur. They plan on leveraging foreign talent to accelerate Portugal’s design industry, and Abel has been Chief Community Officer since early 2021.
Although TheStarter is a tech start-up, the core of Abel’s experiences orbit his desire to transform people’s lives. We asked him how this interfaced with his career, as the concepts can often be at odds with each other: “Reconciling my activist personality with my recent professional life in business is a real challenge. But I believe I’m doing it.”
Abel has only been in Europe for a short amount of time, but he’s already making waves.
“I consider that in the last couple of months I had a huge advance in my life. I arrived in Europe almost without any kind of perspective, and then I was leading international campaigns, building resolutions at the parliament, and starting my own business.”
With how much he has accomplished already, it is safe to say that Abel will continue to dream big. While TheStarter is his priority, Abel doesn’t shy from more opportunities as he took on the role of Brand Ambassador for Ytech, a Lisbon-based environment start-up, and continues to build software at the renowned programming school 42 Lisboa. “I learned to trust myself and to challenge myself, and I hope I will be able to demonstrate to people that I can go beyond.”
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