Airfox empowers students with financial literacy

Education empowers an underserved community in Brazil

Struggling to recover from a crippling recession, Brazil’s economy remains in ruins and its young democracy is in danger. In greater São Paulo, extreme poverty grew by 35 percent in 2017 to 3.8 million people. Despite these hardships, Brazil’s youth have emerged visibly optimistic and engaged with their communities.

Lucas, a student at CE Jorge Zarur, shows us their library (composed of 5 bookcases)

In May, Airfox visited CE Jorge Zarur high school located in Vila Kennedy, a struggling community on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

Let’s take a look at what they had in this school:

Lucas excitedly shows off their science lab and the few lab kits they share amongst the students // CE Jorge Zarur’s computer room with 11 functional computers // Students play at the multi-sport court in front of the school

Looking deeper though, you see that the school also had:

Airfox team chats with school’s principal and teachers.

I have never seen kids love a school more. Every student that we had the honor of meeting sang praises to their school, education, teachers, and everything they had the opportunity to learn. The differentiator seems to be the culture of respect created by the teachers and principal, which foster the sense of responsibility demonstrated by the students.

Three years ago, CE Jorge Zarur was just another struggling public school in the middle of a very poor community. Professor Mara Nei Gonzaga Nunes joined the school in 2016 with a mission to change that. The administration began teaming up with the students to make CE Jorge Zarur a place where everybody has ownership, and everyone can talk freely and ask questions. They educate students on much more than just their schoolwork. Students are learning how to have an open mind, run a business, and set and achieve their goals.

The unpredictability of life when “things happen”

This year in Vila Kennedy, these teenagers experienced drug violence, gang wars, and a military police takeover of their town. It seems that you must grow up quickly in this sort of area. A common theme talked about in the communities is how everyone “suffers together” and the unpredictability of life when “things happen.”

It’s hard to imagine thinking about the importance of social issues or potential career paths when there are guns being shot outside of your home, but this is exactly what the administration at CE Jorge Zarur is focused on. They realize that if you don’t think about the world outside of your community, you are so much more likely to get sucked into the problems and difficulties, rather than try to change things.

Students show the banner they’ve made to celebrate the 80th birthday of Martinho da Vila, a Brazilian singer, writer, and composer.

To help support this expansive thinking, CE Jorge Zarur hosts monthly programs and invites professionals and experts to talk with the students about various concepts. These discussions have focused on entrepreneurship, vocational testing, the lifestyle of professional musicians, and sexual diversity. Each subject is proposed by the students, and the school works to facilitate. Through this, the students have become even more invested in the programs and the school in general. As anticipated, each discussion brings about more questions and new ways for the students to analyze the world and people around them.

This process seems to be working at the school. According to a report in Globo, the average graduation rate for the poorest students was on 36.8%.

A random group of Americans

We had visited the school on a day tour with a friend from Vila Kennedy. He mentioned to the administration that a random group of Americans were coming by and would like a tour. The kids planned a full tour, in (mostly) English, and organized a group of 15 students to lead it. They arranged special meetings with various teachers and the principal. They hosted a (hilarious) photo shoot, and we were published in the school newspaper afterwards.

Again, we did nothing other than be interested to visit and willing to listen.

It’s these experiences that we take away and build into the values of our company and our app. We understand that our users aren’t accustomed to being heard or treated with respect, so we put honest customer service as our top priority. We understand that sometimes things happen, so we prepare ourselves for these scenarios. We know that many were never given the resources to learn, so we team up with educational partners and are working to incorporate as much education into the Airfox experience as possible.

Airfox team visits CE Jorge Zarur High School — RJ, May 2018

When the students talked about what they loved most at the school, they all spoke with passion. When the students talked about their future hopes and plans, all of their classmates and teachers listened with respect. When the principal talks of how the school was just two years ago when she first arrived, she and various students broke into tears.

The students at CE Jorge Zarur have many dreams. They are interested in jobs related to math, science, art, psychology, but also so many wanted to work to make the community even better in the future. It seems that really caring for others, listening and believing in them is the biggest differential between those that succeed and the rest.

Airfox partners with nonprofit Junior Achievement

A few weeks ago, Airfox won the $22,000 grand prize for Best Startup and Best Business Model at the international CODE_n conference. Financial literacy is a primary step towards financial inclusion, and Airfox was eager to donate our prize to support education for Brazil’s youth through our partnership with Junior Achievement. One location these courses will be held is at CE Jorge Zarur high school.

We hope that with the forward-thinking mentality and companies like Airfox helping to break up the monopolies and status quo, the future will be a place where the next generation can facilitate some great changes.

Airfox, in partnership with the NGO Junior Achievement, supports an intensive financial education course for 100 students at CE Jorge Zarur.

To learn more about the Airfox and Junior Achievement partnership, read more here.

About Airfox:

Airfox is on a mission to provide the more than four billion underbanked people in emerging markets with mobile access to capital and financial services. The Airfox app, available on Android, eliminates the need for traditional financial institutions and enables unbanked users without bank accounts or credit cards to engage in eCommerce and other mobile payment options. The Airfox plans on also developing a peer-to-peer lending platform matches lenders around the world to borrowers in developing countries using AirTokens (AIR), an ERC-20 token built on the Ethereum blockchain. Airfox has offices in Boston and São Paulo. To learn more about the future of banking, visit



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Accelerate financial inclusion in emerging markets using technology built with trust and inclusion.