Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shelly and the Capoeira Project

2 November, Tuesday 2010

In the foto: Shelly Steffler is seated wearing black with glasses)

My day was planned to meet my friend Shon Starr and take him around Rocinha to take fotos and film of my community. I had no idea how interesting the day would become.

I first met Shelly Steffler through a friend who booked a favela tour with me about 1 month ago. I met the group at the General Osorio Metro station in Ipanema.

After the groups visit to Rocinha, Shelly kept in touch with me and made many contacts with people in Rocinha and wanted to help in some way with something here in the favela. She met with Leandro Lima who works with the PAC project in communications here in Rocinha and has a website about life here called Its in Portugues but it talks about all the goings on in the community.

For the past two years I have had contact with the ACORDA Capoeira school. I have always liked and respected Mestre Manel. He is about 50 years old and has 3 sons who also are Capoeira players. He has been teaching now in Rocinha for over 28 years. He lives Capoeira and only wants to share his love of it with everybody.

About one month ago Manel came to me and asked me if I could teach his students English. I told him that I know nothing about teaching English. But I could find some people who could help. I know that things take time and I wanted the perfect person to help me with this. And I know that I could not do this alone.

In the past I have referred volunteers to other NGO’s and organizations here and will still continue to do this. But for this project there is more concentration and commitment needed. I do not want to let down Mestre Manel. I want this project to work and continue.

Shelly had told me that she wanted to be more involved and help out in some way in the favela. So I ran this idea of helping with English classes, and she said yes. I knew that I would need support and help her with this. I am so happy she decided on helping the Capoeira class.

Shelly is so organized and has access to many people who can help. I also put up a post on the Couchsurfing website looking for those who have interest to volunteer and help out teaching English. Shelly has put out group emails to keep people informed about our English classes with the Capoeira students. So, now we have classes that began this past Tuesday at 9pm after the Capoeira class.

Shon, who has a Brazil travel agency called Brazil Geeks, wanted to film in Rocinha and also do a promotional video for Ricardo and his work with the Rocinha Surf School. Shon and I met Ricardo at 1pm to film and do the interview but when we got there, Ricardo had 6 students going to the beach for a surf lesson. So we went to the beach with them to film Ricardo in action teaching people to surf. I had no idea that these same people after would be meeting up with Shelly for the first English class with the Capoeira people. After the surf lesson Shon, Ricardo, Chiquinho (Ricardo’s assistant), Shelly, I and the group of 6 all went to eat at Trapia “por kilo” restaurant in Rocinha.

The class was at 9 pm and we ate and had about 3 hours to kill. I had plans to bring Shon to the new Ecological Park here in Portao Vermelho in Rocinha to do more filming. It ended up that I invited everybody to come along if they wanted to. So we brought this huge group of like 12 people. My friend Robert Nestor from Germany even took a bike up the hill to meet us. So, Shelly, her English volunteers, Ricardo, the surf students, Shon and I managed to get everybody on the bikes and up to the park. We went in the park and looked around at what they are building. We saw a ampitheatre, construction for a multi sport building, playground for kids, nice bathrooms, a kiosk which will probaly be used to sell food/drinks and we saw areas where people can have churraschos (BBQ).

Before the sun started setting, I invited everybody to my house to sit on my rooftop. My roof can accommodate maybe 12 people but we managed about 15 in total. People sat, drank, talked with each other, ate snacks and took fotos of the view I have from my roof. Around 8 pm most of the people had to leave to get some food and to get ready to teach at 9 pm. Angelo (Shelly’s friend) and Robert stayed at my house until 9, then we walked down to the Casa de Paz where the class was taking place. I was able to get to know Angelo, who is a professional English teacher. He told me about where he lives and we shared Dj and music stories.

Our first class was very informal. We do not have access to proper desks so everybody sat in a circle. Shelly and her friend Angelo who teaches English professionally, ran the class. We had about 8 volunteers who came along to help.

For those interested in volunteering with this project please contact Shelly Steffler at:

We want to keep this program ongoing and not have it die. Currently, classes are every Tuesday & Thursday from 9-10pm at the Casa de Paz (Peace House) in Rocinha. If people reading this have interest in helping out with the classes in Rocinha, you can contact Shelly or myself.

Thank you all for your help this past week.