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Angel Zarate: “There are no problems, only challenges”

Name: Angel Zarate
Lives in: Osnabrück
Country of origin: Mexico
Period in Germany: 2015 through to today (status August 2016) in Osnabrück
Educational and research institution: University of Osnabrück
Occupation: Student on a Master's degree course “Management in Non-profit Organisations”

“There are no problems, only challenges” - that's the philosophy Angel Zarate lives by.   This 30-year-old Mexican national is in his third semester of his Master's degree course “Management in Non-profit Organisations” at Osnabrück University. A scholarship holder on the DAAD’s Helmut-Schmidt Programme, Zarate is a fighter. He is passionate about helping others – and he doesn't let a few setbacks discourage him. Angel Zarate manages the organisation “Sinergia Filantrópica de México (SFM)” which supports disadvantaged children and young people. Its mission is to help create a brighter future for Mexico. Today already, around 300 children aged nine to 14 make use of the services SFM provides, including after-school and buddy programmes as well as summer courses.

Video: “Sinergia Filantrópica de México” (Spanish)

The fact that Zarate has come from Mexico to Germany to do his Master’s degree is no coincidence. His grandfather came from Bremen and some members of his family live in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg. Feisty Zarate has spoken German since childhood, sometimes with a definite Swabian lilt. And there is someone else who plays an important part in his life too: Werner. “Werner is like a mentor to me,” says Zarate. They first met in 2003 in Mexico when Werner was robbed during a business trip to Mexico and Angel Zarate came to his aid. Since then, they have developed a deep bond of friendship. “He's taught me everything about companies and he is always honest. I think that's great,” says Zarate. It was also Werner who gave Angel Zarate some valuable tips when he first embarked on his mission to create an NGO. But even before founding SFM in 2010, this young Mexican had already learned to cope with setbacks.

The end of a sports career

Angel Zarate has a black belt in karate. Aged 19 he was already two-time lightweight World Champion when, at the Las Vegas Junior World Championships in 2007, he broke his shoulder. This event spelled the end of his sports career. But it was his encounter with a child in a wheelchair that led him to overcome his frustration and feel optimistic again. “You'll get better. There'll never be a time in my life when I'll be able to do what I’d love to do,” said the boy. Angel Zarate did not want to dwell on his misfortune any longer, but decided he wanted to do something for other people.

And that’s how, in 2010, Zarate and a friend came to found the “Sinergia Filantrópica de México (SFM)”, initially with a key focus on environmental protection. In 2012, SFM launched its after-school programmes for disadvantaged children. However, Angel Zarate and his companions still had a lot to learn about the workings of a non-governmental organisation. “In truth, we had no idea what was what. We were absolute beginners”, he said in hindsight. But Angel Zarate did not give up – and with time he came to realise that a Master's degree course would be useful. It was then he found out about DAAD’s Helmut Schmidt Programme in the field of public policy and good governance. Or more precisely, he discovered the Osnabrück-based course “Management in Non-profit Organisations”. And in December 2014, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) approved his scholarship. Angel Zarate is enthusiastic about his course, especially the close and intensive exchange with his lecturers whom he can approach directly to discuss any questions he has. Zarate passes on his knowledge directly to his team at SFM and is thus constantly building up the organisation's professional profile.

SFM continues to develop

In the course of the last one-and-a-half years, SFM has come on in leaps and bounds. Motivated by DAAD’s support, Angel Zarate followed through on the advice he was given by the coordinator of the Helmut Schmidt Programme at Osnabrück University to promote his organisation's profile in Germany as well. In the meantime, SFM now has a German offshoot. Decisive in all of this was a law student friend of Zarate's based in Cologne, who backed his efforts to the hilt. Zarate also presented his organisation at a meeting of scholarship holders who embraced his ideas – in fact, some of them directly started mapping out plans to introduce the concept to their home countries, too.

Next year SFM is scheduled to open its own school. Here Angel Zarate was not only inspired by Germany but by Finland, too. “In Finland no child gets left behind. If necessary, children get extra lessons. The thing I find great in Germany is that everyone is so committed to education.” SFM also aims to replicate the good technical facilities on hand in schools. Angel Zarate is keen to stress that he is not working for himself but for his grandchildren. “I would like to help boost the Mexican people’s self-confidence and foster a belief that anything is possible if only they put their mind to it.”

Angel Zarate's profile in the Community

This article was originally published on DAAD.de (in German only).

(c) Maria Horschig / Societäts-Medien, DAAD aktuell

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