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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dembore gets his yellow belt! Congrats!

Congrats to Dembore who works with us making tours of the community and volunteering with our Dj School. He went through difficult training on Sunday afternoon to achieve his yellow belt in Kickboxing.
Just outside of Rocinha, we have a Sports Complex that has opportunities for residents of the community to train in several different sports activities. About a year ago Anderson  Silva helped by sponsoring a Kick Boxing/Muay Thai school here. Mauricio (Max) Casaes is the head instructor. The students were put through a heavy workout that consisted of about 1 hour of continuous exercises from push ups, sit ups, and various punching and kicking combinations. After, the students lightly sparred with each other for another 30 minutes. After about 5 minutes they would switch partners. Just watching them train, I was tired.
Here are some Photos, Enjoy! And Congrats Dembore!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bringing Joy to children's lives!

Last week was really stressful for me and sad with the police shootings. I decided I would go through some of the donations we received over the World Cup and make some kids happy. Most of what we have received is through the promotions of Pack For A Purpose. They encourage travellers to bring donations to developing countries and various projects. Normally I separate the donations into three groups, school supplies, art materials, games & toys. There are 4 projects we support by distributing these items.

Working in tourism has many benefits. Through my many contacts, I am in a position to help many people. I wish I could help the whole favela but I know thats not possible. If we all can help a little then everyone benefits.

Yesterday, I decided I would make "kits" for 15 children between the ages of 7-12 years old. The kits include, a notebook, a pen, a box of 12 colored pencils, a eraser and pencil sharpener. So, I packed up the 15 kits and went out into the streets of the favela with my friend Ana Paula Telles. She requested that we find children in her area. She works for a NGO called Fabrica Verde, here in the favela and know who the most needy children are. We started by walking through some of the alleyways close to her house. We stopped at several houses as she called out names of the children. They would then come to the door and we would give the child their kit. The smiles on these little faces were priceless. And the same from their parents, just awesome.

I will never forget the fundraising project we did with Jim Shattuck and Tio Lino about 6 years ago. Through tourism and Jim's fundraising expertise, we were able to buy 40 string back packs and fill them with school  supplies and then we gave them out to the kids at Tio's project. Again what an awesome feeling to see kids smile and happy that they have supplies for school. I want to do this again. But I would like to do it on a bigger scale. 

I wanted the kits to be given to children who I know were in school and who would appreciate this. The idea was also to spread a little happiness after the previous week of violence and sadness. I know I felt so much better too. Here are some photos of these awesome kids!!!! Enjoy! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A sad week in Rocinha

Life in Rocinha with police presence. This photo was taken in the lower part of Rocinha, a area called Via Apia not far from the entrance to the community.
I get asked all sorts or questions in regards to living in the favela. Life is very complicated here and not as easy to explain. I like living here for the many good things but theres a bad side too. Favelas are marginalized communities and how the outside world views them is very different from the reality inside here. We have good and bad, just like any place.
People often talk about the violence and its causes. There are many, poverty, inequality in society, lack of opportunities, quality education and poor health care. Rocinha is one of the biggest favelas located in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Last Sunday our favela experienced one whole week of violence marked by intense shootings between police and drug dealers inside the community.
On Monday November 11th around 5:30am,  there was a shootout for about 2.5 hours that left 3 people killed. I knew one of the people killed by a stray bullet and he was not involved in drug trafficking or crime. He was a 27 years old father of two young children who was a worker who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I often wonder, when will this situation change for us here in these communities? I cannot accept the fact that society has refused our people the right to advance ourselves. This is true in that very few residents born in a favela ever end up moving out. I can not accept the fact that the slum dweller only has rights to be born to serve society in constructing the city and taking care of other peoples (rich & middle class) children and only to serve like one step up from slavery. Many may disagree but how can a person live on 750-1000 reais a month. Even living in a favela its not easy. We will not have peace here as long as we live in this misery and lack of opportunities to have a better life.
The "Pacification" of the favelas is not working. In Rocinha, every time there is a shooting, I write it down in my agenda book. Since January 2014 we have had about 38 shootings here. This doesn't include the shootings that happened that I did not hear myself. When the drug dealers were "in control", we would have maybe one or two shootings a year. Now its more like 2-3 shootings a week. Don't misunderstand as I am not trying to say that drug dealers are good, because they are not. All I can say is the truth and that is Rocinha is far more dangerous now than before the police came in here. Its awful because people are stuck in their houses and cannot go to work and children can not go to school. What kind of life is this? 
Now that the police are stationed inside the favela at certain areas, there's more possibility of being problems. The police walk through the community and now when they encounter drug dealers there are shootouts. This pacification idea needs to be changed. The problem is since favelas were formed, the previous military dictatorship, there has always been a mistrust of police and the government. This has to do with widespread corruption. And the poor are blamed for many social problems. Nobody chooses to be poor. The majority of favela residents are honest hardworking people who just make less money. Imagine being stigmatized just because you earn less money? But where does this originate? It comes from businesses that don't want to pay workers a decent wage. The rich and middle class talk about fear and dislike of favelas and its residents but only at the convenience of them does the favela serve it slave like long as they have their access to their drugs, maids and doormen etc..then the favela is ok, otherwise we are ignored and despised. We are not the problem. The government and society has failed the people in the favelas! I live here and see so much potential and talent going to waste, all because of prejudice.
How can we change this? We need to speak out more about what our community needs are. We need to transform this idea of the favela being "a fabrica do marginal" or a factory of criminals. We need to get the residents together with good actions that can improve the quality of life with better public services.
Living in Rocinha has many challenges for our people. Elderly and disabled people can have much difficulty in walking here with improvised stairways and alleys that are not flat.
Children growing up in small houses that lack proper ventilation that they can get sick from mold created by the humidity. These same children going to public schools that lack proper materials or preparation for graduation. Lack of proper curicculum to develop our children in the hopes that they can go to university. How can a child go to school for 4 hours a day and get a proper education? Because of poverty, most kids will drop out of school around 15 to go to work to help support their families. Both parents working in jobs where they work 10-12 hours a day and spending less time with their families. I have the idea that many societies have this structure that the majority of the population is kept ignorant so that the elites can rule. If you keep the masses stupid, they are more easy to control. And best to keep them distracted by getting them to buy stuff they don't need and encouraging them to watch television, the best brainwashing tool ever invented. if poor people had the same opportunities of the middle classes they can then improve their own lives, but as long as businesses pay little wages, the poor have no choice. How can one improve their life if they don't have access to education so they can get better paying jobs?
Back to the government in the name of our community of about 300,000 people,we NEED to transform this idea where our favelas are at war. The schools and all educational and cultural projects need to be a priority. We need quality education that can prepare our youth the same opportunity to go on to university. Our children deserve this as we are part of the future of the country too. In Rocinha we have many social cultural projects that receive no help from any government organizations. Just last year the city government removed a school next to the Sport Complex that gave courses for those residents wanting to go on to university. This school was soon shut down and replaced by a police station. To me, that means the city sees police as more valuable then our people having access to bettering our lives through education. We need less guns (police) and more education.
Monday morning around 5:30 am police forces from the PM, CORE and BOPE and two helicopters ran an operation here to find drug dealers. Theres was intense shooting that woke me up. You could here grenades, machine gun fire and pistols being shot. It sounded like a war. The drug trade only continues in our favelas because the involvement of some corrupt police. These police know when are where the drugs are being sold. I live here and know where the guys sell their drugs and I'm sure the UPP's that are stationed inside here know too. The police put on this big show of force that interrupts our lives. How can we earn money and pay our way if we can not go to work because of a shootout in our favela? Often times these police kill many innocents as well. This is all a game the system plays to show the world that they are doing something  about the drug dealers. The question to ask is why do these young men sell drugs? Because for them, who have no other opportunity, they don't have a choice. Anywhere you go, as long as you have buyers of drugs there will be sellers. And this is worldwide and not only in favelas! Just take a walk on Ipanema beach as the sun goes down and you can see the rich smoking their marijuana without police abuse. But do the same in the favela and you could be killed by police!

This photo is the police and a resident carrying the body of my friend Mikael Patrick, 27 who was killed by a police bullet in the "Valao", which is a area at the bottom of Rocinha. He will be missed!

These are casings from bullets fired by the police. This was just one area of the favela but the shootings took place in about 5 different areas of the community.
I wonder, where do all the bullets go?

When will this stop? We are not against policing. What we want is a respectful police force that doesn't abuse us and treat us like we are all criminals, thats all!

Here is a video taken from a resident of Rocinha. Its a long video but you can get the idea of what its like here when there is an operation.

In Rocinha, all we want is peace and safety for all  residents!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Explanation of what we do!

Many people have emailed me asking information about the work we do here in Rocinha. I thought it best to write a full explanation so everybody has a better understand of our involvement in the community of Rocinha.

I am going to explain the 4 parts of FAVELA ADVENTURES. We are not just a tourism company. The idea is to use tourism here as a way to benefit the people here. The more people we can involve with out work, the better for everybody. Its obvious that we can not help everybody but if everyone does a little to help out, then great for everyone.

1.) Tours of our community- This is the base of how everything else operates. Without the tours, the other 3 parts would not exist. The tours of Rocinha are the only income from our work. Our visits are walking through the community explaining how life operates here. How are we different many ask. All our guides reside in Rocinha and part of our projects or other projects inside the favela. Our tours are longer than most starting with 4 hour visits. We feel that the only way you can really understand a place is to be here for a while. Our tours are supported by the community because of the other volunteer work we do here.

2.) Dj School Spin Rocinha- Started in August of 2011 is our social project. We teach residents from 16-58 years old who reside in Rocinha. Currently we have about 16 sudents and operate the classes 6 days a week, from 7-10pm Monday-Saturday. We have a professional studio with the top of the line DJ equipment. For those wanting a career in DJ'ing we can refer them for jobs when they are ready.
Spin Rocinha is a comprehensive program and students are provided instruction in the art of Dj'ing for free!
We welcome Dj's from all over the world to come and visit our school to see or to give a workshop. Check out some of our previous posts of visitors we have had here to our school. We are developing the next generation of Dj's!

3.) Volunteers- We also receive many inquiries from foreigners wanting to help the favela by offering to volunteer. We are not a business for this. We can refer you to several different projects who have told us that they are open to volunteers. Basic spoken portugues certainly helps the experience for the visitor. If you are interested in helping out here please send us some information about yourself, why you want to volunteer and what projects you have interest in. we are connected to about 15 different projects, anything from Sports, Art or Music related activities. It helps if you have a Facebook page because we can then refer you to the page of the project that you are interested in. You can look over their page and see if the project interests you. We do not believe volunteers should need to pay for volunteering so please do your research on this. We give you the referal to the project and you do the rest. The projects that we work with do not expect foreigners to pay money to volunteer. What I do recomend though is if you are going to volunteer at an art school, that you bring some art materials as a "donation" to the project. this way the materials directly are beneficial to the project. We do not recommend giving money to any projects as this sets up the project expecting or only depending on outside help.

4.) Donations- This is a fairly new project that we have started. About 2 years ago I was receiving emails from visitors asking how they could help out with donations. When I first started doing the tours in 2008, I would give art supplies to Tio Lino's Art School here in Rocinha. Once I started the Dj School, my focus changed on directing our money to be spent on Dj equipment which is very expensive. As this was happening for us, I noticed that Tio Lino was getting help with sponsorship and even had a building built for his art school. So our money focused on building our Dj School. But still people would ask about donating things. So, I had this idea of finding projects inside the favela that really needed help and who were not receiving anything from anybody. Without letting too many know of my idea, I would find projects that needed helpand then began to focus donations to be for specific projects. For example we help a Art Project called Espaco das Artes by giving them specifically art supplies and any materials they request that they need for their art projects. Many of the donations come from the help individuals who find out about Pack for a Purpose, a non profit that encourages travellers to bring donations to projects in developing countries. We have had huge sucess and with that we can help so many more projects in need.

These are the 4 parts to what we do here. This is why our website url is ".org".  We want tourism to benefit and help as many people in our comunity!  Thank you to all of the tourists that have visited with us over the last 7 years. We are slowly building to our objective to by a building here to house art and music projects.
But for now, the work we are doing is very rewarding! Always thankful!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Seeking Vinyl Records

As most of you know who visit my blog, we have a Dj School here called Spin Rocinha. Our next project is going to be finding vinyl records for our students.

We here believe that as a Dj learning to spin vinyl is showing respect for the origins of the art of Dj'ing. Our school has all the digital equipment and respects the advances in technology made available for the following generations of Dj's. I learned to Dj on vinyl as did Dembore, so its only natural that our school have vinyl. Our school will continue on with pendrives, CDJ's and controllers but its nice to have different media forms to experiment and learn.

When I started the Dj school, I knew it would be a challenge. You see in most parts of Brazil, Vinyl records are hard to find and are very expensive. At this time we do not have turntables because we dont have vinyl records. After talking to the students, there is now interest to learn to spin vinyl.

So I created this idea on how YOU can help us! For those who plan to take a tour with us we will give you a discount on your visit if each person brings one vinyl record. The type of music we would like is the types you would hear in a dance club. So, techno, trance, disco, electronic and anykind of house music will be perfect. Many of our past students are now playing in clubs so dance music is what is popular here.

I have committed to the students that once we get some vinyl records, then we can then by the 2 turntables so we can play these records. So, How about it? Can you help us build a small vinyl library?

Thank you!!!!

If you need any information, please contact us at:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Recycling Education through art with Espaco das artes Rogerio Roque

I wanted to distribute more of the art supplies and Espaco das Artes coordinator Rogerio Roque had a childrens art project going on in the Valao, which is one of the poorer areas. He set up around 10:30  and I arrived around 12 noon. I was able to put supplies into two back packs and carry them down to the Valao.

I made a promise to Debbie and Tom Bannister that I would not only distribute their supplies but also Debbie's hand made necklaces. I brought about 40 necklaces as I was not sure how many kids would show up. The majority of the kids were between 8-13 years old. THANK YOU DEBBIE & TOM!!!!!!

They say on a blue tarp the Rogerio rolled out right into the street. no shoes were allowed on the tarp
and the kids were given sheets of paper with images that they would color in with markers, crayons or colored pencils. All supplies that were brought by Pack for a Purpose visitors to our favela.

I spread out the necklaces and had the children choose which one they wanted and then I put it around their neck. There were two parents who also wanted one so I gave them too. I gave out all of them. There are still more but I will save them for the next event in a different location so Debbie's necklaces can be seen all over Rocinha. After the children learned about where to put each recyclable in proper place, Rogerio gave everybody chalk and we drew on the street. Even Rogerio and I got to making our "I (heart) Rocinha" designs with the chalk. Here are some fotos from today!



THANK YOU to everybody who has taken part in Pack for a Purpose. To find out more, check out their website!