Sunday, February 1, 2015

Paying homage to a loved member of the Community

Last week Sunday the 25th of January, Rocinha lost one of its most loved personalities. Fernando Neri was a 41 year old resident of Rocinha. Fernando Neri or Dj Number 1 as he liked to be called, won a Dj competition years ago which is why this nickname lived on. He was a friend to all and his mission was through sound was able to transmit happiness.  From his hands flowed rythms and beats from all styles of music and created awesome unforgettable mixes live with his MPC.

At 41 years old, he was married and known throughout Rocinha from the hundreds of parties that he had played. He was responsible for the best Luau that the favela celebrated called "So Zueira o Luau". About 10 years earlier he was the one who organized the matinee (A youth Baile Funk party) at the nighclub called Varandao in Rocinha.

Fernado lost his life in a tragic motorcycle accident in Barra de Tijuca. The night before he had played a event in Tijuquinha, a small favela in Barra. Everybody was talking about how they had just seen him the night before. I was supposed to go to the party but I had to work early the next morning. Many people were posting their feelings of sadness and the solidarity of family to the memory of a worker from the community.

I still have a hard time believing that he is gone. I used to see him everyday when I would pass by Paulinho Kodak's film store where he worked.

In his honor the community decided to have a Dj Meeting right in front of Paulinho Kodak's store. These meetings are where dj's come from all over the favela to share the love of music and create a street party for the locals. Some local Mc's dropped by to sing, MC Binho, MC Dolores and MC Galo. Each took some time at the mic to blast out some favorite songs.

A friend of Fernando's said it best "A idol doesn't die, he becomes a legend".

Dj Fernando No.1 will be missed!

Some photos of the event below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Compacting Wristbands for travel

Foto by Jody King 

I know many people that want to bring wristbands for Rocinha. I have given out about 6,000 of them and people still ask me about them. I wrote a post a while ago about the pride people have here in Rocinha. Giving these wristbands out gives me great joy as I love to see the smiles on peoples faces. It also gives us something to feel good about.

I decided to take photos of how to reduce the size of wristbands by wrapping them in each other. This way you don't need take up as much space in your baggage.

So here are the steps:

Step 1- When you received the wristbands they will come in bags like this. There will be 100 wristbands in each bag. So, if you ordered 1000 wristbands, they will come in 10 bags.

Step 2- Open the bag and take the wristbands out. These wristbands are size Medium. You will put them inside of each other, see the following fotos. With size Medium wristbands you can fit 6 inside of each other. With size Large wristbands you can compact 7 to 8 of them together.

Step 3 - So, as you see from this foto, I have put one wristband inside the other and will continue this process until I have six wristbands in one bunch.


       Finally 6 wristbands in a bunch. In this way, they will take up much less      space in your luggage than if they are in the plastic bag.

To show you how they can be compacted there are 5 bundles of 6 wristbands = 30 wristbands. So imagine the difference between the bag full of free wristbands and those compacted.

    This photo above is of 102 (17x6 = 102) compacted wristbands

Here is the comparison of 102 compacted wristbands to the left and 100 in the plastic bag.

Jody King's photos of him compacting wristbands.

    Photos by Jody King

I want to thank Amazing Wristbands for supporting our initiative here to bring joy to the people here in Rocinha.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Our Goal to create a Community Center

    Foto by Jody King

Music/Dj School/Community Center

I have always wanted to do something like this. But this idea was formed with a definite goal back in 2001. I always wanted to create something great that could live on beyond me. I was a dj for many years while living in Canada, the USA and Brazil. I have always had this passion for music and to spread the love of all kinds of music. After much talking to the residents and other Dj's in the community, I thought this would be a great fit.

When I started making tours in my favela of Rocinha in 2008, I always had this idea of using the money we earned through the tours to make a project here. Nobody told me this, I just feel its the right thing to do. I did not really start to earn money until 2010. It was then my Dj school idea came to be. I spoke with many in the community about my idea and everybody thought it was a great idea. I think in the beginning many in the favela thought I was all talk. Unfortunately, like any community, you will have people who promise but dont follow through.

I always knew that I could make this happen. With a lot of working and saving money, Spin Rocinha was born on August 1, 2011. With old and inferior equipment we started running classes two days a week out of my living room in my small one bedroom apartment. Gradually over time we were able to acquire some top of the line Pioneer equipment and enrollment in the classes slowly grew. I moved out of the bedroom and into the living room/kitchen area. The bedroom because it was bigger, became the dj school. 

Many Dj’s from other countries and Brazil have given workshops for our students. Dj’s Copyflex, Lulu Rouge and Rasmus Schack from Denmark and Brazilians, Dj Tucho, Dj Duda Santtos, Flavia Xexeo are just some of the people who have passed through Spin Rocinha.

We currently have about 18-20 students enrolled in our programs. Right now our focus is on dj’ing and the techniques that go along with dj’ing. Unfortunately because of lack of funds we don’t have computers to teach production of music, but it is something we are definitely interested in as it is part of dj’ing. We do have students that want to produce but they don’t have computers or the software to do so. In the future we definitely want this to be part of our programs.

Our students are between 16-57 years old and people find out about us through word of mouth. We do not advertise because our current space can only accommodate about 10 people maximum. Classes are Monday, Wednesday and  Friday from 7pm until 9:30pm. The dj courses are free to all favela residents. For those interested in becoming a professional dj, playing in clubs etc, we have connections with some night clubs outside of the favela. The majority of our students are playing house or some kind of electronic music.

Our school is gaining more attention and we are having more people stop by to see what Spin Rocinha is all about. We can not enroll these other students at this time because we don’t have the space. So, I have always wanted to create a community center type place as I have other interests that I think would combine well with this idea. So here is an outline of what we would like to create.

Community Center & Dj School

The community center would consist of 3 floors with access to a rooftop
These are just ideas as this is open to change.

First floor
-dj classroom
-production room with computers
-recording room
-small office

Second Floor
-2-3 rooms for guests to stay
-bathroom with shower facilities
-living room area
-small kitchen area

Third floor
-open space
-bathroom (toilet & sink)
-storage room for cleaning, maintenance supplies, donations

-open for parties, events, small service area for washing, hanging clothes

The third floor Open Space will be used for various projects in the favela. 
We already have input from community members on what classes the open space could be used for. The open space would have folding tables and chairs. 

-English classes
-Art classes
-Entrepreneurship classes
-Classes for tourism, creating more favela tour guides
-Photography & Film Making
-Yoga & Meditation
-Theatre Group
-Meeting Space for organizations that need a place

These are just some of the ideas of what the possibilities are. I have discussed this idea with members of the favela who would help make these classes a reality.

Sustaining this building would come through the various visitors from outside of Brazil who would stay in the favela. 
They would pay a small amount to live in a shared room with one other person. Also, parties would help to generate income for the community center. 
Tourism will also contribute to the function of the center.

This is just a start. I would like to start looking at places but I really think it’s too soon. 
The more money we have access to, the better we can make this community center. 
No matter how this money is raised, I want all people who have helped to be involved in the process from buying the place to seeing it develop.

This is just the beginning..

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A special friend returns to stay in Rocinha!

Interview with Stey Endel in Rocinha!

I get the opportunity through tourism to meet so many friendly people. I met Stey and she was able to first visit the favela and check it out. Then she contacted me a few months ago saying she was returning here and wanted to stay in the favela. My friend Adam was able to find her a home stay with a family and the rest, I will let you read her impressions below!

Can you tell me your name, where you are from?
I’m Stephanie, my friends call me Stey and I’m from ParisFrance.

- Why did you come to Brasil?
It’s not my first time in Brazil. Since I’ve been little my parents have taken me there for vacations. As my family is from French Guiana bordered on the north of Brazil, it was quite easy for us to come there often. So I just fell in love with this country. Besides, each region in Brazil is different : the population, the food, the people, the music, even the culture. So need more than one travel to know them all and I really wanted to come back in Brazil as an adult to (re)discover and learn everything again. So far I’ve came 4 times since 2010. However, I decided last summer to come back in Brazil and to stay longer enough to live like locals, practice my Portuguese, help the community if I can and to feel like I was part of something, part of the country.

- When you arrived where did you live?
I arrived on the 5th of November in Rio de Janeiro. I didn’t to go to an hotel in Ipanema, I didn’t want either to go to a pousada in Lapa. I knew exactly where I wanted to be : in Rocinha, the biggest favela in Brazil. Thanks to Zezinho, our tour guide when we first visited the favela a year ago and Adam who’s in charge of the Favela Experience, they helped me finding an accommodation in Rocinha. I wanted to live in a family : it’s the best way to get knowing people, their habits, culture, language and of course sharing my experience and stories too.

- How did you find out about favelas?
One of my friend told me about the Favela Experience and the tour he did in Rocinha. He gave me the contact and I asked to be with the same guide, Zezinho. I read his blog and I contacted him.

- Why did you decide to move into a favela (Rocinha)?
First of all I wanted to do a voluntary work. The best way to help the community is to live with the community.

Second, I wanted to live “the real Rio”, far from the spotlights, the tourists and the people who live just like in Europe. I wanted to meet people who are just happy with what they’ve got, people who are proud of their favela and who welcome you like family. No fuss, no bling bling, no English or French speakers, just simple things.

Some people would say : it’s cheaper to live in a favela than in a pousada or in a hotel in Rio. It’s true, but it’s not the money who will attract you in a favela. It’s the experience and the people.

- Before moving here what did you know about favelas?
We all have clich├ęs about favelas : poor neighbourhood, ghetto, violence, poverty, slum, drugs, dirt, no drinkable water, no electricity etc.  The place to avoid according to many guide books.

- Since living here, have you impressions of favelas changed much?
Since I’ve lived in Rocinha my vision has changed of course. Well, all favelas are different, some are more dangerous and poorer that some others. But people need to get their own opinion and not the one the medias want us to get. You need to get there and see by yourself. People may not be rich as people in residential districts, but people are happy, respectful, real, helpful, friendly. Kids are going to school, people are hard workers, brave, people don’t steal and even if some streets are dirty, it’s not unbearable.

Besides, it’s not dangerous! I mean each city, each district are their own areas where you shouldn’t go for a walk. In Rocinha it’s the same and I felt safer. Rocinha for me it was just like a town : many shops, bars and restaurants (even sushis restaurants), a hospital, schools, a post-office, makers, great street party until 8am, clubs, banks, a surf school, a sport complex, swimming-pool, supermarkets, public transports who lead you straight the other side of Rio… even the beach is only 10 minutes by foot.  

I thought also as a foreigner who knows no one I would be alone, or hanging more at the end in the tourist areas of Rio. I met great people in Rocinha, I had, have still, friends there. And this is make my experience even more beautiful.

- What do you like about living in the favela? 
The people, the fact that I felt alive there and safe most of the time, the amazing view I had from my house and the fact that I could do whatever I wanted : practicing sport, helping the community, doing some shopping, going back home late, partying, meeting friends at the beach or at the basketball playground, surfing….. I was just living normally basically. No stress about anything. And if it could get unsafe, people who just tell you “don’t go out today it’s not safe”. That the thing in Rocinha, people are talking to each other, people’ve got your back.

- What don’t you like? 
Sometimes it can get dirty (trash in the streets) and the traffic can be horrendous. Also, the neighbours can be very loud, nothing to hide, but at the same time you can enjoy the party next door!

- If you had a magic wand and could change anything, what would you change about the favela? 
I would make better stairs/ways for elder people to go up and down easily, I would fix some playgrounds so the kids can play football or basketball safely without getting wet when it’s raining. Just little things to make things even better there.

- Has your experience been worthwhile? 

- What advice would you give someone who wanted to move/stay here? 
Don’t be afraid just live it at 100%.

- Would you come back to live here again? 
I can’t wait to go back to Brazil, live again in Rocinha and see my friends again.

Anything else you would like to comment about regarding life here?
I love Rocinha and nothing, no one would make changing my mind. 

Stephanie F-E

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Questions Answered regarding our tours

One of our Football & BBQ tour groups! Tour guides in front from L to R: Dembore, Erik and Obi

I decided to write this because I think its a good idea to cover common questions people have about our work. In order to book a tour we will need some important information from you. Many times I end up sending many emails back and forth to people because in their initial contact with us, they don't give us enough information to book the tour. So, to make everything easy, I have answered the many questions I receive from guests having interest to visit Rocinha. In 7 years of doing this we have managed to correct many problems and now all of our guides are on board!

we will need....

1.) You first and last name and correct email
This makes a difference especially if you are staying at a hostel or hotel. We can access you by having the front desk call or you the hostel receptionist find you to let us know that we have arrived. If you are filling out the form, please double check your email address.

2.) How many in your group
Its is important because many times we combine groups. If you decide that you want a private tour then we charge a little more for this as we lose money if we don't allow others to join. So when you write us let us know how many are in your group including yourself. We can only do a tour if there is a minimum of 2 people. If you book with us and later decide to cancel, please let us know so we can open up space for other people.

3.) Where you are staying
This is one of the most important things. If we have no idea where you are, how can we meet you? A complete address with street number and name of hostel or hotel if applicable. If you are staying in an apartment then we need the and street address apartment number so we can have the doorman call up to you to let you know that we have arrived. In most apartment buildings they will not allow outsiders inside the building. So, we can meet you outside the front door of your apartment.

4.) Day and time
We need to know which day you would like to visit. Try to have two choices of days that you are available so we can accommodate your request. In the summer months, it gets very hot here so we recommend to start early in the morning between 8:30-9:30 am. This way the tour will end before the sun is highest in the sky and the hottest throughout the day. Also afternoons are great for the beach. so, you can do the tour then after have plenty of beach time.

Here is an example of how a email request should look:

NAME: John Smith
LOCATION: Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlantica, 1702, Copacabana
DATE & TIME: March 12th, 2015, prefer 9:30am or March 13th anytime
Special request: On March 12th we need to be back to the hotel at 3pm.

**** You can fill out the form on the website or just send us a regular email.
Our site: Favela Adventures  email:

In preparation for your visit to the favela

1.) Please wear good walking shoes or trainers. The streets here are not like in the "developed" city. The favela is an organic self built community. We also will walk through the tight alleyways and the ground is not always flat and there are stairs. Our tours start at the top of the favela and we walk down to the bottom of the community so there will not be much walking up stairs. If you have problems with stairs, please let us know so we can cater the tour better to your needs. We can walk different routes that don't have stairs.

2.) Wear comfortable clothing. This is a walking tour at a slow pace as we want you to see everything and take in the vibe of the community. Dresses that don't hinder your walking, T-shirts and shorts or loose pants are the best.

3.) Things you may want to bring. A camera is no problem here. When you wake up in the morning, check the weather and dress accordingly especially if it will rain or be colder. Keep in mind if its raining the use of rain coat or umbrella. We still make the tours as long as its not a heavy rain or down pour. If its sunny, wear sun protection and bring water. Water and sunscreen can be bought inside the favela if you forget.

4.) Safety. Often people ask is it safe. To be honest, nowhere on this planet is 100% safe. You can be robbed in Rome Italy or pick pocketed in Barcelona. The one thing we can guarantee you is that you won't be robbed or pick pocketed here inside Rocinha. All our guides live here and the community knows about our work here. Your camera will not be stolen here. In the 7 years that I have been doing tours, I have never had anyone have a problem here. If there is a safety issue in regards to conflicts between drug traffickers and police, we will let you know. Only twice since I started doing these tours have we had to cancel visits due to police conflicts. They do happen but its not an everyday occurance. Your safety is always priority number one!

5.) Money. We work with Brazilian reais which is our monetary unit. It becomes complicated if people offer to pay us in another currency. Inside the favela we don't have a "cambio" or a money exchange. We have to leave the community and go to Copacabana or Ipanema to change the money and it can be time consuming. Also, several times guests have shown up saying they can not get access to ATM's or cash. We have some ATM's here inside the community but your card may not work here so please make sure that you are able to put aside cash for your tour in advance.

6.) Location and Meeting points. People who arrange tours with us in advance get priority when it comes to meeting points. In advance for us means trying to book at least one week in advance. There are high season periods from December to March where we get very busy. Booking two weeks in advance is best during busy season. This does not mean that we can't accommodate last minute requests. But you will probably be referred to one of our meeting points close to your location by foot or easy for you to get to by metro or bus. When there is a meeting point involved, I will send you a photo of the guide so you know who to look for.

We ONLY meet guests in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.

Some common meeting points are:

Cardeal Arcoverde Metro Station in Copacabana
JW Marriot Hotel, Av. Atlantica, 2600, Copacabana
Copacabana Palace, Av. Atlantica, 1702, Copacabana
Atlantis Copacabana Hotel, Rua Bulhoes de Carvalho, 61, Ipanema
General Osorio Metro Station, Ipanema
Post 8, 9 or 10 (life guard posts on the beach) Ipanema
Post 11 or 12  (life guard posts on the beach) Leblon
Fashion Mall Shopping, Sao Conrado, inside by the McDonalds

7.) Meeting Times. We set meeting times according to those who book in first and have confirmed. Our responsibility is to respect your time and show up at the designated time agreed upon. Arriving 5-10 minutes late, we know that this can happen. But it is your responsibility to make sure to arrive on time. Our guides are given strict instruction to leave meeting points maximum 15 minutes after the meeting time. So, if you are expected to arrive at 10 am and you haven't shown up, the guide will need to leave to start the tour at 10:15 am, for the others who have arrived. If you don't plan on showing up, or you get sick etc, please email us at least one hour before the expected meeting time. Also, many times on weekends we experience cancellations last minute because people get too drunk the night before then suffer from hangover in the morning. Please don't book with us a morning tour if this is going to happen. If we book a tour to meet at for example, the General Osorio Metro Station we will send you details and a few photos. You can find many of these meeting points if you use google maps.

8.) Children. We welcome well behaved inquisitive children. If your child is figgety or cries often, maybe our tour isn't for you. We have had mostly great experiences with children and some not so great. We suggest that a child be at least 7 years old to really get any benefit from this type of experience. Our content is explaining what life is like in a favela and there's a lot of exchange in conversation and questions which may bore a young child. At times there is opportunity for children to meet and interact with local children. There is also the environment which may stimulate a child's interest. If you have an inquisitive, curious child, have some questions set aside for them to ask so they feel like a participant in the group. The the experience is great for everybody. Sometimes we can find kids that will want to play football (soccer) with children visiting. So, during the tour we can allow the children to play for 10-15 minutes and the adults can talk more about the favela.

9.) We do accept donations of school or art supplies. These are things children and youth here need. Please don't bring candy as its bad for a child's teeth and doesn't really help. Many children in favelas unfortunately do not have access to quality dental care. Donations of school or art supplies are given to four different projects here, two day cares, one English school and one art school. On our Blog "Life in Rocinha", we write about projects that receive your donations. Check it out!

10.) In our activities we do not solicit or expect tips. Tips are given usually to show appreciation for a service worker who delivers a great job for the guest.  If you tip your guide, its always appreciated but not expected.  Thank you!

11.)  Photos. It is expected with the different environment that you will want to take photos. We suggest that you can take pictures of almost everything. Please do NOT take photos of the police as most of them don't like it. Also, please do not take photos of people up close. Most people don't want a camera stuck in their face.  Taking photos of street scenes with people in the background is not a problem. Some people in the favela don't mind their picture being taken and may come up and want to be in a picture with you. If you have concerns, ask your guide.

12.) The locals. Don't be surprised if people come up to you during the tour. Just as you have interest in the favela, they have interest in you. Probably 90% of the residents have never been on a plane or ever will. Their only contact with foreigners is YOU!  People are friendly so don't be shocked if a local wants to shake your hand, hug you or give you a kiss on the cheek. Rocinha residents know us and our work. They support us because we do allow this kind of interaction. Its the best way to "get to know" the favela!

13.) Eating in the favela. When I started doing these visits back in 2007, I wanted to include a lunch where guests could sample the food. I found 3 really good places to eat for great prices. I know many people wonder about hygiene in a favela and it is  understandable. All of our choice restaurants are clean and the food is quality. You will not get sick from eating the food here. We take guests to a 'por kilo' restaurant which is like buffet style but you pay by the weight of your plate. For vegetarians there are plenty of choices as well. The restaurants accept all major credit cards, VISA and Mastercard being the most popular.

14.) Souvenirs. There is one place at the top of the hill where we can visit that has arts and crafts made by locals. There is an awesome view from the souvenir shop where you can take pictures. If you need to use the bathroom its a good place to stop and rest. If you have specific requests for a certain type of arts & crafts or souvenirs, let us know.

15.) Drugs etc.... at NO time will we advocate or take part in any kind of illegal activity. If you are looking for marijuana or any kind of illegal substances, we cannot help you with this. We don't judge your activities but police do "keep an eye" on foreigners who may be looking to buy drugs. As you are in a foreign country please be careful what activities you participate in.

If you have questions about something not covered here please contact us at:

Enjoy your visit to Rocinha!

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!