Friday, November 16 , 2018, 11:16 am | Fair 67º


Cate School Senior Goes the Distance to Help Kids in South Africa

Juan Magalhães, a student from an impoverished Brazil neighborhood, is inspired to share the bounty of his own opportunities


Nineteen-year-old Juan Magalhães traveled more than 6,000 miles to attend Cate School in Carpinteria but found his purpose serving others.

Born and raised in the favelas (slums) of Curitiba, Brazil, Magalhães learned to become self-motivated by observing his parents’ 12-hour work shifts.

“When I came to the United States, my main goal was to get a good education, go to college and make money to help my family,” he told Noozhawk. “But, I found happiness in community service.”

Magalhães’ mother works as a maid and his father is a butcher. Neither finished middle school.

“My family couldn’t help with school and both were always working,” he said. “When I had an excuse for something — I thought about my parents, and I learned to have motivation through struggle.”

Magalhães recalled having few opportunities as a boy.

Receiving a full scholarship to attend school in America opened the possibility to break away from the cycle of poverty and receive a higher education.

“I was lucky enough to be on both sides,” he said. “I grew up in a poor family. Now, I have great opportunities — I feel like I’m on top of the world. It’s not fair to keep it to myself and not help others.”

Modeling what he heard in movies and television shows, Magalhães taught himself English and headed to the United States to begin his junior year at Cate, a prestigious boarding school founded in 1910.

Through Cate, he learned about getting involved with community service.

Magalhães’ efforts were rewarded with $16,000 in Leadership and Service Awards to visit Costa Rica, Fiji, Nicaragua and South Africa, where he helped run camps for low-income children, build classrooms and install water systems.

His service project — “Don’t Forget About Africa” — began after he returned from South Africa last year.

After he graduates in May, he’ll be spending the summer in South Africa building a kitchen that will feed more than 800 children daily at Lwaleng Primary School in White River, a farming community in Mpumalanga province in the northeast part of the country.

Magalhães says his motivation for starting the program stemmed from watching the children wait in a long line outside to receive a meal from a small, substandard kitchen.

He was determined to help.

“I was fascinated by the poor conditions of the kids going to school,” he recalled. “I had to do something. I thought about creating a kitchen that would be helpful and offer the proper environment for the kids to have good food.”

Magalhães began brainstorming ideas on his long trek back to the United States.

​“The kids are the main reason I’m doing this,” he said. “They are going to be the future of South Africa and their country. The children don’t have a lot, but they are happy.”

Magalhães will be working alongside his best friend from Brazil and four other friends from Maine, Vermont, China and Japan.

The project was funded through $3,000 worth of donations and is scheduled to be completed by August, he said.

When Magalhães saw the chance to help the low-income students, he quickly started thinking of more solutions.

Once in South Africa, he will distribute school supplies and hygiene products.

He calls the packages “Knowledge Kits” and plans to give one to every Lwaleng Primary School student.

The children will receive pencils, notebooks, colored pencils, a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.

Magalhães wants to ensure all of the school’s children can receive an education.

“For a kid to go to school, it costs $45 per year (for one kid), and this includes schools supplies,” he explained. “This will help with the parents who can’t pay, too.”

Cate soccer coach Peter Mack has worked with Magalhães this year.

“I found him engaging and always happy to spare his time to have interesting conversations,” he said.

Magalhães is the student head of public service at Cate, and is responsible for organizing and promoting all of the school’s service programs.

He will be the first member of his family to receive a high school diploma and attend college.

In the fall, Magalhães will be attending Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts and science college in Brunswick, Maine, on a four-year QuestBridge scholarship.

He is still deciding his career options but looks forward to his college experience and graduating with the Class of 2021.

Magalhães also hopes to grow his “Don’t Forget About Africa” project internationally and to teach others about the importance of helping those in need.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “I’m looking forward to possibly transforming this project into a nonprofit and spreading it to other regions of Africa and across the world.”

Magalhães created a website and a GoFundMe campaign has been established for “Knowledge Kit” donations.

School supplies and hygienic products also can be mailed to Juan Magalhães, 1960 Cate Mesa Road, Carpinteria 93013.

Click here to learn more about Magalhães’ service project.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.