Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gifts delivered!

There are two parties this holiday season that we have decided to support. One is the small party that took place at 10am on December 11th at Fabrica Verde. The director of the project suggested that we give out school/art supplies so this is what we did.

We were able to distribute the school supplies gift bags to 22 of the children at the project who were selected by the director Ana Paula Telles. There were other organizations and individuals who donated gifts for this party, so it was a shared effort and many children benefitted from this.

From the previous post you can see I wrapped the school/art supplies gift bags and then the following day I delivered them. I thought the project would distribute them to the children, but they wanted me to be present and give the kids their gifts. So, during a tour with 4 guests, we stopped by and I was able to give the presents out. The guests also got to meet the residents and see the project.

There is another party December 17th at 10am where we will present gifts to Creche Castelinho just up the street from where I live.

I want to thank everybody who has donated school or art supplies to our project so that we can deliver them to the children and youth in need! And thank you to Pack For A Purpose for promoting this initiative worldwide to communities in need!

I have decided to put in some photos from the Fabrica Verde party. After the party at Creche Castelinho, I will post some from that event. Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holidays in Rocinha!

I have never been much for holidays. I like them but I don't like the idea of one day or a few days of "giving". Everyday you should be thankful and giving in one way or another. School and art supplies are very much needed here in the favela. So, when people ask me what to bring or donate, I let them know that school and art supplies are valuable to the kids here.

I am putting together these kits of school supplies. One of the projects that I work with asked for more school supplies for some of the children. I went through the rest of the donations I had and determined that I can make 22 kits.
Each kit will include:

2 notebooks
2 pens
2 paintbrushes
1 box with 6 paints
1 pack of 12 pencils
1 glue stick
5 erasers
1 pencil sharpener
16 crayons
1 box of 12 colored pencils
1 ruler

To make these kits, some of the materials I bought to complete the kit. Others were donations from visitors to Rocinha.

So, here I have some of the materials that I will separate and will be put into bags.

Here is everything that will be put into the silver zip bag you can see to the left of the photo.

All the school supplies that I have managed to fit into the bags.

Bags filled with school supplies ready to go for the holiday party!

All the gifts wrapped up and ready for the kids party!

I want to thank the numerous people who donated many of the school supplies for the children here. And to Pack for a Purpose who continue to support our work here!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Benefits of Tourism

         Some Amazing people Jade, Brian and Ethan King founder of Charity Ball

Through the last almost 8 years of working here in Rocinha, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. People who care and want to help. Tourism has been very good to me but it has its slow seasons and busy seasons. I always need to put away money for the slow season to cover expenses. Many here think I am rich or make so much money, but the reality is very different. There are months I can earn 1,500 or busy months 4,000 a month. Saving becomes a priority. Our Dj school Spin Rocinha is our main project and priority as students need dj equipment, flash drives, headphones, CD's and for field trips we pay their expenses. But other projects need help and when there are opportunities, we try to help. Of course as our tours become more popular, we can then help more people.

When I have those months that I am able to earn more money, I go to the stores in the favela and buy school or art supplies for the projects that we support. 
I have started to buy footballs when I have extra money. A decent football here in the favela can cost 20 reais. So, any donations of footballs are always welcome. Two months ago we were able to distribute about 30 footballs to different areas of Rocinha. The kids loved getting their own footballs to play with. A ball can change a childs' life. 

Wade Berger and his friend Taylor came on one of our tours during the World Cup. He contacted me a couple of weeks ago connecting me with Brian King. Brian's son Ethan started a non profit called Charity Ball which distributes footballs all over the world to needy or poor communities. When Wade sent me a email saying that Brian, Ethan and his other son Jade were coming to Rio to distribute footballs, I was very happy about this. I know many children who would love their own football. 

The start of the non profit is amazing. Brian has worked in some of the poorest areas in the world. In 2009 Brian went to Mozambique to help facilitate clean water to a poor area. Ethan who was 9 at the time went with his dad and brought a football with him. While Brian was working, Ethan developed friendships with the kids in the village and they played a lot of football. These kids never had the opportunity to play with a real ball before. When he left the village he gave the kids his ball. When he returned back to the USA he decided to start Charity Ball to try to get kids footballs in places where they dont have them. The idea is simple: raise money to buy balls to distribute in poverty striken areas. Donations of balls are also accepted. Just recently the company Johnson & Johnson donated over 500 balls to Charity Ball. Ethan has been able to give out about 5,000 balls since starting this charity in 2010 as a 10 year old.

Here is a photo of Ethan at 10 years old with the boys in Mozambique. 
Photo from Charity Ball website

Ethan now15 years old,  and his brother 12 year old Jade are both football players where they live in Holland, Michigan. They both play competitive football. Ethan currently with Lakeshore Premier SC and has been asked to play on Michigan's 15 and under team.

Many people may ask if there aren't other ways people could help poor areas? Sure there are many things people can do. We each have our own way of contributing enjoyment to areas that desperately need it. I decided with the DJ School because its one of the few things I do well and I had many people in the favela wanting to learn to DJ. Ethan, with his love of Football (Soccer in the USA) has decided his way. So, When asked, why a football? I think its universal that a ball brings many benefits to the receiver.  

from the website: 

Good question. Why invest in a soccer ball when there are so many other ways to help children? Consider the following:
  • Children in developing countries are forced to deal difficult things like HIV/AIDS, contaminated water and civil war. One way for them to cope is by playing the game of soccer.
  • Soccer is an excellent way to learn how to work together and succeed. It promotes friendship and fair play.
  • Soccer promotes good health through physical fitness.
  • Soccer reduces crime because kids have something constructive to do.
  • Many children in developing nations will never get the opportunity to touch or kick a real soccer ball.
  • Soccer can help a child develop a strong identity and sense of self worth.
I agree, watching the kids in the favela playing, keeps them busy and out of trouble. So, we set up a day, meeting place and time. Ethan being the face of Charity Ball has been in demand for interviews all over the work he is doing. He is now 15 and looks forwards to growing his non profit to help more people..

I met Brian, Ethan and Jade at the JW Marriot in Copacabana at 10 am today and we took the bus to the top of the favela. I had recruited some help from Obi and Sascha. Obi is part owner of Rocinha Guest House here in Rocinha. Obi born and raised in Rocinha, often works with us as a tour guide. He wanted to come along to help with the distribution of the footballs. Sascha is a student from the USA who is on a fellowship program with an interest in favela life. He is living in Rocinha and loves to work out and play basketball. 

I had a set strategy in how to distribute the footballs. Brian had a rolling suitcase with 27 footballs and two air pumps. All the balls were deflated so he could fit more in the suitcase. We started at the top of the hill and slowly walked down. Because the weather was rainy, there were not many kids out on the street but I knew eventually as we got closer to the bottom, more kids would appear. In the past in giving out donations, I try to organize it to avoid a mob scene. You give out something, one kid sees it and next thing you know you can be mobbed by 100 kids. So, as we would walk, I would see kids and call them over to us asking if they played football. If they said yes, we gave them a ball. Obi, Sascha, Jade or Ethan would fill the ball with air and give it to the kid. The smiles on the faces of these children were priceless! Brian asked if he could take photos as this is part of transparency. Like my non profit, if I receive a donation, I like to document through photos who received it (In my situation, i usually write a blog post about it). People who donate want to see that their contribution is going where its supposed to go! 

I knew of one area where there would be more kids. There is an area where we were able to set up the suitcase and fill some of the balls with air. At first there was one kid, within 10 minutes 3 other arrived so we gave all three balls and photos were taken, hugs and handshakes too. We moved on to the "Pracinha de Roupa Suja", which translates to "the little square of dirty clothes". There is a football pitch where they play "Futsal", which is similar to Indoor Soccer in the USA. We found 4 kids there that we gave balls to and then a game of 3 on 3 was played. I could see that this is the joy of every kid like Ethan, Jade and the kids from Rocinha. I dont know what the end score was but it was close. The kids were so happy. It was like giving kids gold..smiles all around. Pictures were taken and friendships were made. We left to give out the rest of the footballs up on the pasarella. The guys had to be back on the bus by 2:15 to get to Copacabana for another meeting. What a day! They have said they want to come back and I know Rocinha will welcome them back with open arms. 

I want to first off than Brian, Ethan and Jade King from Charity Ball. Obi and Sascha who helped facilitate this wonderful project. Without the sponsorship of Johnson & Johnson, Rocinha never would have received such a wonderful gift. And finally to The Bar 90, Heart  Soccer Academy and Continental Tire for their contributions. ROCINHA THANKS YOU!!!!!!!!!

See some of the photos from our day!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Cats!

So, I received this email the other day from a follower of my blog. She writes: "I enjoy reading about the favela. Can you tell us the story behind your or your love for cats"?
Ok, so I will do the best I can to explain the love for cats. I am not the only one here in the favela that loves cats. I have met many here who love them, both women and men!

I had to think a little about this. Because I am not sure what to say. I think most people who know me, know and understand my love for cats.

I started when I was about 7. My brother had found a small orange kitten. When he brought him home, I could see my mother was not very happy. She didn't want more complications in our busy lives. But eventually she gave in and we kept the cat. Although my brother found "Orange", he was more "my" cat. Orange would follow me everywhere when I was home. He slept at my feet and would paw my face in the morning to wake me up for school. Orange was a comforter. When I was sad or sick, he would be by my side. From the point on I became fascinated with cats. I studied about them on my own. And I grew a love for them. 

My life growing up was very difficult and there was much sadness. Orange helped me to focus on other things. I did ok in school but excelled at Sport. As an adult, my life changed a lot for the better because some positive people outside my family. I have lived in many situations, from renting a room in a house to having my own place. Most of the time when I lived with other people, there were cats in the house. The cats always liked me, so of course I liked them. I decided to adopt a cat when I was 27 years old. I was living with other people but they were open to having a cat. I adopted a 4 year old male cat. He was an awesome cool cat. He died 7 years later of cancer. But I think I gave him a good life. My life went on not really wanting to think about a cat.

Finding "Fuzzy"

January 2010 as I walk through this narrow alleyway in Rocinha, I hear a high pitched meow coming from above. I stopped, turned, looked around but I couldn't find the origin of the sound. I started to walk again and heard it again. I turned around and underneath the opening in this low rooftop, I could see a little tuxedo furball staring at me. I went to the kitten who looked about 2 months old and put out my hand to let him smell me. He approached and proceeded to rub his cheeks all over me. Anytime I would pass that alleyway, I would see him. So, I spoke with a lady in the area and she told me that he was homeless but that she and few neighbors would feed him and he lived in an opening in the roof so he was protected from the weather. I asked the lady if I could have him because he seemed to really like me. She told me if I wanted him to just take him. I told her I would see if my situation was ok to have a cat and then I would let her know. I came back a week later to catch him and bring him to my house. The first 5 days he would not meow or leave my side. Even sleeping on the side of the pillow tucked into my neck. He was a big cuddler and loved anyone who came to visit. I named him "Fuzzy"

Here's what Fuzzy looked like as a kitten about 4 months old, he loves being held and cuddled!

Here is Fuzzy now at almost 4 years old. 

Fuzzy spends most of his time, sleeping, eating, or relaxing. His favorite time is to hang out in the Dj School while the students are spinning and you can catch him on top of the dj equipment like the foto below! He really is a sweet cat. Every now and then he will play.


Joy is the second cat that acquired by accident. It was not expected! I had just finshed working and I was at the bottom of the favela. I saw this boy about 8 years old holding this cat and his mother telling him that he could not have it. She told the boy that he was not old enough to care for the kitten. I am guessing that the kitten was about 4 months old. She was a calico, multi colored fur ball. The mother called out to me if I wanted the cat and I told her I would take it and find her a home. I had done this with previous cats before so I was not expecting to keep her.  I took her home and Fuzzy found a new friend. 

Joy is very quiet, rarely meows, where as Fuzzy is very talkative. Joy likes to sleep by my hip or at my feet. Every now and then she will sleep by my head. This is also determined by where the other cats are on the bed. She is reserved and likes petting but doesn't like to be picked up. She likes to play and chase mosquitos and flies and she likes to take care and clean Fuzzy and cuddle with him. She was named by a tourist who came to visit our Dj school.

Joy as a 5 month old kitten.

Joy has a BIG fascination with the Dj Equipment. She likes to think she is "Scratching". 

Joy and Fuzzy love to be together. Its like Fuzzy is her protector.


Joao came to me about 8 months ago. I think he was one month when I found him wandering in the street and I was afraid a car would run him over. The pet store across the street was closed so I had no choice to bring him home. He fit in so well and the other cats liked him, so he's now part of the family. He is the most silly and entertaining cat. He started out snow white but as he has grown he is now what looks like a siamese mix. Joao loves to play and he was named by Dembore, our Dj school teacher. He told me he looked like a "Joao", so the name stuck. He loves the Dj school and the students. He loves catnip and wrestling with Joy. He loves to chase bubbles that we make out of soap. He is a very active cat but when he is tired he likes to lie across my shoulders or my stomach if Fuzzy isn't there. He thinks he is a big hunter and likes to chase and kill bugs that enter the apartment.

Joao at 5 weeks old. Such a tiny skinny boy.

This is Joao at 3 months showing his Dj skills. You can see his siamese markings developing.

Joao at 7 months old.. loves to pose!

I love my little cat family and my friends and family often come over now to see what's going on with them. I have a cousin who visits once a week just to come and play with the cats. And Dembore loves to post photos of them on his instgram account. I think Dembore has copied me because when I first met him, he did not have any cats and then he told me about a cat he saved but it died and he was sad about this. Soon after he found a tiny orange and white cat and took him in. His name is Caramelo. About 6 months ago he added to his cat family and now has a kitten of about 7 months old, his name is Chico. 
Here are his two "children" below. Dembore's Cats.

     Chico's favorite resting spot, the bathroom sink.                                  

                   Caramelo posing for a photo.