Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Outsiders can have a profitable business inside the favela

I have received many emails about this subject. There are many foreigners who see the favela as a oportunity to earn a lot of money but it is not that easy. I have friends in many part of the world who want to do this. The only real way to do this without much politicing is to LIVE here in the comunity.

With the whole favela tour business going on, some of the residents are now realizing what is going on. The majority if not all the tour operators live outside of the comunity, yet they make their money HERE off the backs of we who live here. Some give back a small amount into the comunity, but not enough to really change things or make a big diference in the lives of favela people. People in the favela are seeing outsiders now trying to take advantage at the expense of people who live here.

I will tell foreigners this, before deciding on opening up a comercial enterprise, it is best to come visit the comunity for one month and see if you like it here. Visiting the place is very diferent from living in the favela. You need to see how life works here and how people interact. After your one month then you can make the choise of you think is right to open a business here in Rocinha (or any other favela).

The mention of a hostel has come up several times by people I know. I have been thinking of this too becase I have so many friends all over the world who want come and stay in the favela. A hostel would work, but really depends on where it is located in the comunity as there are certain areas I would not want visitors to stay in Rocinha. The visitors as well, you would have to trust, would need be on their best behavior, which means NO ILLEGAL ACTIVITY..people from the outside do not know but the police will target foreigners leaving favela comunites assuming they bought drugs there. When you live there it is ok to enjoy the culture and people, but stay away from bad influences.

The kind of business matters to becase, to be honest Rocinha, does not need another bar opening up. We already have enough of them..A night club maybe, but a bar, no! This is why living in the comunity for a month you can do research and find out what the comunity wants or needs. If you want a business that is sucessful, find out what will sell....talk to the people about their needs and wants!

The first thing to think of is how will your business be a benefit to the comunity. Remember as a foreigner, the favela is not your home. We are to a degree very protective of our own. This comes from a history of having to do everything ourselves and not relying on the goverment to give us anything. So, of course we will look out after our own interests to benefit our comunity first. This does not mean it cannot be done. But you will be scrutinized as to your intentions in the favela.

What advise I tell these people is be prepared to contribute something to the comunity. The favela doesnt take well to people using the comunity without contributing "something" back to help the favela. So, when you think about your idea, keep in the back of your mind how you can make money but also give a small portion of your profits to a NGO or scholarship fund for kids etc..If you do this, forever you will be welcomed as a member of the comunity. If you only think of YOURSELF, you will not last long here in Rocinha.

I live here and am born and raise here and I contribute. Not a lot becase right now I do not earn a lot and people know me and my intentions. But for me right now, helping other favelados is a big plus for me showing that I do not think only about myself.

I could go into more details here but I think people understand what I am talking about.

My Rant
Another form of Exploitation

*** A note about tours, yes I make tours but anyone who knows me or has seen my website know exactly what I do.
I often receive emails like this:

"I am doing a project to study (fill in the blank) and I am interested to learn more about the community. I am not interested in a tour but would like to come to your favela and meet and talk to the people about (fill in the blank). I want to see what the life is like there"

I realize that there is much interest about favelas, first because of the glorifying TV or Films that show all the violence, drugs and bad things. Movies like "City of God" make favelas seem like hell. The second being that the favelas are independant of formal goverment control. And of course how favela comunities exist and have been able to create their own comunities is a curiosity for foreigners.

***Interesting to note, is that for ALL the research people have done about favelas, little has been done to change conditions there. I wonder why that is? Many books have been written about the people, Social problems, lack of healthcare, education, architecture, anthropology etc..but still the favela has not made drastic changes..

Now its a good thing that people want to help educate and learn about our comunities, but again you need realize people here are poor and NEED money just like you. People in favelas will never have the chance like you, the foreigner, to get on a plane and visit your country. In favelas 95% of the population has never travelled outside their state never mind travelled on a plane. You are blessed that you live in a country with out "Favelas", you may have poor areas, but nothing compared to favelas, and I am talking about North American and the majority of Europe. Unforunately there is no upward mobility for favelados unless you are a famose futebol player or singer. In Reality 99% of favela residents who live here will never be able to leave here and will die here.

What I am getting at here is, you have the available resources to come visit Brazil, you WANT something from a POOR area, to complete YOUR projet, but what are you willing to do to help the comunity you are TAKING from? I have given many people free tours of the comunity, but the majority have given something to the comunity. Most come to volunteer, others donate clothing or school supplies to NGO's and I support this 100%. Our comunities need help and so many people think it is ok to take advantage.

But for the University student from the modern western world (where running water and eletricity are certainly not a problem to receive), who expects me to drop everything for them, including pass up work (which I need) to service them, I am tired of this. I feel I am being taken advantage of. I live in the favela, becase I can not afford to move out. You the foreign student, although you may not be rich, somehow got the money to get airfare, hotel, hostel or place to stay "outside of a favela" (if you were staying inside the favela, I would be more sympatetic), you have plenty of food, clean cloths etc...and you can not afford 60$reais (about 30$US) to come learn about the comunity, meet with the locals ect for 5 hours???? It would be diferent if I was NOT a guide here in the comunity but had a totally diferent job doing something else. But some of you are expecting me to do MY JOB for FREE. Just like YOU, I NEED to work to eat too! So, PLEASE respect my right to earn a honest living...

Ok here is example for those of you who still may not understand. I have a friend who works doing websites. This is his JOB! All day he makes websites. When he comes home from work, the last thing he wants to think about is websites. Do you think it fair for me to expect him to make a website for free for me, just becase we are Friends??? I do not expect him to do for free becase this is his JOB and I RESPECT his way he makes his living..It would be selfish of me to expect this of him..and unfair. He has value and his work has value. So, If i respect him, I need pay him for his work.

So, for all of you out there who expect to want information by coming/visiting to the comunity, if you want it, PLEASE contribute to the comunity in some way, volunteer, give something back, and people in the comunity will be more than happy to help you with your projet. But to come in and expect everybody to service YOUR wants, is not the way to go.
Think of this when you email me that like you, I have a job and if I do not work, I do not eat or pay my rent. It is that simple!

Somebody who emails me wanting information about my comunity, I have NO problem responding, becase I can respond "When I have time", but to take the time to show somebody around, bring them in the favela, then escort them out etc..this is very time consumming. This is why I am a guide becase if I am earning money doing this, I can provide for my family and provide a great service to my guests. If my work is valued, I am happy. Like everybody on the planet, I am trying to contribute my small part to help my comunity of Rocinha!

ok I think I said enough!

Rant over. I feel better now..


Tchau, tchau, maiow!