Jose Castelo Valentim
The Ballad of José
If you happen to drop by our offices in Mozambique, you will come to realize, once you get to talking – really talking, with the people there, that each person has his or her own story to tell. One of those people is José Castelo Valentim. Like the others, José’s story is riddled with tragedy… but it is also a unique story of hope and strength in the face of tremendous adversity.
José was born on August 18, 1981 in Beira. In 1986, his father decided to sell their house, and the whole family left for their homeland, the city of Inhambane. Aside from José, the whole family moved, including José’s older sister and two younger brothers. At the time, José was only 5 years old. Two years later, in 1988, he started attending school in grade 1, thereafter, until grade 4 which he finished in Beira, due to the death of his father in 1991.
In Inhambane, another child was born, and with five children to support, José’s mother decided to return to Beira. The fatherless family had to contend with the challenges of material poverty, scarce education and poor health, as well as the intensification of the civil war in 1991. They had to try to find a better life.
However, those who made the journey back to Beira were only four family members. José’s older sister had to stay back in Inhambane to attend to the process of her school transfer. Sadly, though, she never made it back to Beira, having become a casualty of the war in 1991.
José’s mother did all she could, taking small odd jobs wherever available to support her children – definitely not an easy life at all. José Castelo took care of his younger siblings at home, acting as both a father and brother figure.
Always on the lookout for a way to better her family situation, it was not long before José’s mother, in 1992, heard about “Aunty Barbara," who helps children in difficult situations in the area of Chipangara, also in Beira city. There, the children received drinking water and soup (it was during the drought and war). After attending during day, José went home with his brothers utterly convinced and hopeful.
After completing grade 5 at the end of 1992, José had to stop going to school due to the financial problems that continued to plague his family.
That same year, ASEM’s Macurungo Center opened, and José began to attend in earnest along with his brothers. Here, they were able to have meals, schooling and then go home. In 1994, he and his three brothers officially started living at the ASEM Macurungo Center. ASEM then admitted their mother Cecilia as a cook at the center, and it was there that she worked until her death in 2006.
José Castelo finished grade 7 in 1997 by dutifully attending evening classes, as there were no more slots for students in the daytime programs. In 1998, José enrolled in the Industrial and Commercial School of Beira, studying to be a hydraulic systems technician (which he did not like). There were no more vacancies in the course he wanted which was civil construction (building), all supported by ASEM.
In 1999, thanks to the tireless efforts of ‘Momma Barbara’, José had the opportunity to receive training in Business & Management in Lamego, Nhamatanda, province of Sofala, for a period of 12 months, after which he was reintegrated with his family.
In the year 2000, José was admitted into the financial department of ASEM to work as an accounting assistant. He contributed in his capacity by helping develop and implement more objectives for the benefit of Mozambican children, supporting them in all their needs for their socio-economic independence.
Even in the midst of enormous challenges in his life, José Castelo worked hard to support his younger brothers, and continued to study in the evenings.
In 2004, he successfully completed grade 12 (Pré-University), proving himself to be a man with well-defined and lofty dreams, always looking towards the future.
In 2006, he was appointed as Head of Human Resources (HR) and Financial Director at ASEM, to respond to the organizational needs and coordinate HR activities.
In 2010, he graduated from the College of Law at the University of Jean Piaget in Mozambique (Universidade Jean Piaget de Mozambique).
In 2011, he was appointed Director and Representative of ASEM Mozambique.
José now coordinates all activities of the organization, including the preparation and submission of proposals for donors/sponsors, as well as the assessment of the sustainability of projects. Tirelessly working for ASEM, José is aware and knows by experience the need for the full support of children in their integration into society, as they are and will continue to be, the ones who can effect change for human development in their country.
Altogether, José is responsible for over 6,000 children and 150 employees. Indeed, working, obtain his higher education and, at the same time, to educate his brothers, took great effort and perseverance, with the university some 40 kilometers away from Beira.
José somehow managed to travel there by bus after each day's work.Today, all of his brothers have a university degree, and they are all gainfully employed.
José says that academic challenges are a reality all students need to contend with, just like life struggles outside of school, but with commitment and a determination to succeed, anything is possible. He adds that everything in life requires sacrifice and a lot of willpower, and knowing the real reason for one’s existence.
With gratitude and a big smile, José says a big ‘thank you’ to all the “uncles and aunties,” bosses, brothers, sisters and friends at ASEM, and of ASEM. Most of all, José gives thanks to his other mother, Barbara, whom he also calls a dear Angel sent by God, because of the great role she played in molding him into the man he is now.