Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life in the Favela Pt.2

With all the lifes challenges, I still LOVE living here. We can choose to see the bad or good. I prefer to see the good and positive that lives here. I have always said “It’s not the poorly built houses, but the people that make this place special”. Life is good.

Living here has challenges and I want to put out a special get better wish to my friend Robert and Lilia who have been sick due to Dengue. Get beetr soon!!!

I wanted to continue from Part 1 as some of you want to know more. I have been very fortunate to have people who after reading my blog, come here to see for themselves. I am back now and hope to be able to give updates one a week now that I have formal internet in my house.

Why favelas exist
Favelas exist because of the lack of affordable housing for the poor working class. We do not have public housing or a welfare system that aids poorer people, so favelas are the only option. If Rio wishes for the favelas to go away, they need affordable housing or they need to raise the minimum wage so people have the option to move out of the favelas. I know that I could not afford to live outside a favela. Favelas are not bad places, just places where regular people live who make little money. The majority of people who live here in Rocinha, have no interest in leaving. I am one of those content with my life here. Instead of leaving, I would like to help improve life for people who live here. Leaving? Where would I go? What friends or connections would I have to a new place? Many things to think about.

Work, jobs, job opportunities
Most of the jobs favela resident do are simple type work where education or higher education is not needed. Favela residents are construction workers, domestics, bus drivers, cashiers, hotel and restaurant workers. The job you get decides on many factors, like education, where you live and your race. Brazil does not like to admit this but there is racism here. Rarely do you see Afro-Brazilians in high professional type jobs. The biggest stigma is coming from or living in a favela. I am considered white and to Brazilians considered one who probably has opportunity but becase I live in a favela, my status or class drops. I think more people suffer discrimination because of living in a favela. Because favela residents receive poor education, they are not able to pass the difficult entrance exam (called the Vestibular) to get into university. Only the rich or people who can afford tutors can gain entry for university. There is the odd scholarship but it is rare for favela resident to get into university. The guy on the beach selling you water or renting you the beach chair most likely lives in a favela.

Shopping and Commerce
In Rocinha, we have over 6,000 businesses. I love living here because I do not have to leave here for anything. Why? When I can buy everything here? We have three banks here, Bradesco, Itau and Caixa. They are now building a Banco do Brasil as well here. The prices are very cheap or reasonably priced. Every Saturday the nightclub Emocoes (Emotions) located close to the entrance of the favela, opens up a shopping market. It is mostly clothes and shoes but other things can be bought there as well. On Sunday we have the Feira Nordestina located in Largo do Boiadeiro. This is a true Brazilian cultural fair as you can but fruits, vegetables, meat and everything, even a screw driver! There are also the “Repentistas” who sing or “insult” each other through song. But it’s all in fun. I often receive tourists who would prefer shop in Rocinha not only because the prices are cheaper but also because the want to support the favela economy. Most of the commerce is located down at the bottom of the hill.

We have a water resource high deep in the forest of a area called “Laboriaux”. It is a fresh water spring that people can drink the water from. When the water is pumped from there through the pipes to people homes in the favela, minerals build up in the pipes and the water is not good to drink. Most people here drink bottled water. Where I live, I get water pumped into my tank once a week, so conservation of water is important. Water is free and the government built a pumping station at the top of Rua 1 for the residents. I think it is important responsibility to conserve water.

Most people pay for electricity but of course you will always have those people who have “gatos” or illegal hook ups to the grid. When I was a kid, it was all illegal but now we have a formal company called “LIGHT” which is a Brazilian/Canadian company which provides formal electricity to about 85% of the residents. I receive a bill every month and I pay between 20 to 50 reais a month depending on how much energy I use.

In Brazil we have a law that if you make under 1200 reais a month you do not pay taxes. Most people who live in Rocinha earn between 600 to 900 reais a month, so they don’t pay income taxes. We do pay taxes on good and services though as this tax is built into the price.

I think most people know that public education in Brazil is poor and even worse for the cities 1.8 million favela residents. Education or real education is for the middle and upper classes. We are educated to the point we can function but it is not common to see professional people coming out of favelas. This is sad becase intelligence has nothing to do with where a person lives. But that intelligence has to be nutured and fed to grow and prosper. Many bright favela people will never amount to anything more than a common service worker becase they do not have access to quality education. And becase the minimum salary is low many kids have to leave school and work to help support their families. It is common in Rocinha to see a 12 or 13 year old kid giving you back change in a store. These kids should be in school but many see the lack of opportunities becase the education prepares them for a bleak future, so why waste the time with this. There are some scholarships, but they are rare. I have a friend who was lucky. He is a architect but he and his friends in order to get better job opportunities are renting a place outside the favela. He can not even tell outsiders the truth about where he lives. This is sad. It is common that many employers will not hire favela people.

***If any of you readers want information about a specific thing regarding to favela life or Rocinha, please email me what you would like to read here. My email is:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Giving Thanks to Friends

I know I have been away for a while. Between moving and work, the blog has been put aside but I am back. There are so many projects that I am involved with that are either finished or are ongoing. I want to mention some people who recently have been of importance to me and to helping my comunity here in Rocinha.

The Back Pack Project

I met Jim about 8 months ago as we found each others blogs online. Jim is married to a Brazilian and lives in Niteroi. He has many years experience in fundraising. I can not remember how we eventually met, but I think it had to do over a controversy on blogs over the ethics of slum tours. Anyhow we eventually wrote and started talking about favelas and where I live. I told Jim that I was involved in a art school here and that I donate a portion of my income to the art school. In April of last year my favela suffered much damage due to flooding and landslides. Many houses were destroyed and 3 people died. Tio Lino's Art school that I support had damage to their roof. Half of the second floor collapsed....

Jim and I had a idea to raise money for the school for Christmas. The idea we came up for was buy school supplies for the children at Tio's school. Both Jim and I raised money through friends and through our facebook pages. I decided that I would contribute a portion of my income through the tours to this project. We decided to call it the "Backpack Project". We decided to buy string backpacks and fill them with school supplies. Many children here in the favela dont have the extra money for notebooks, pens, paints, erasures and other things needed for school. We were able to buy and stuff 40 backpacks for the kids. With some left over money we bought, glue, scissors, tape and a tape dispensor for Tio. I donated 200reais from my tours and In 6 weeks we were about to raise a total of 850reais. Not bad for 6 weeks..

After new years we set a day to go by the school and present the backpacks to the read the outcome, please read on Jim's Blog as I feel he explains it much better than I, and he took fotos of the event.
Go here:
If you need more information about this fundraising we did, please contact Jim at:


This idea came from my friend Ryan and I sitting on my rooftop in my old house over looking the favela. Ryan, a doctorate student was staying with me for two months doing research here in the favela. We were sitting and I was telling him how beautiful I thought the comunity was. I said "It would be cool if we could make a jigsaw puzzle of the favela". He agreed but we would need to find good quality fotos and a reason to do this.

I told Ryan about half of Tio's roof being destroyed by the rains. We both agreed that this would be a great idea to raise monet to help fix Tio's roof. So the plan is now in action and the puzzles are now available. I need to thank Tee Cardaci for designing the website. I need to thank Chen Siyuan for contributing some of the fotos. But I also need to nthank the supporters in this project, you who have purchased these puzzles. Ryan has also included the YMCA in Orange County as part of the project as a educational tool for the members. They are also setting up a pen pal exchange where kids from Rocinha can communicate with kids from California. To learn more about this contact Ryan at:
The website for the Puzzles is:

Freddy Gomes: For the Love of Rocinha

Freddy Gomes from the Netherlands contacted me about a year ago regarding his interest in favelas and especially Rocinha. He sent me many emails wanting information and researching about Rocinha. It was the only place he wanted to come to. Finally he set a date and told me that he was coming and needed a place to stay inside the favela. He wanted a favela experience. His background is from Cape Verde so he already had knowledge of Portuguese which would make it easier for him to assimilate here. He arrived and stayed with me for about 4 days and then I was able to find him a place.

Freddy is a unique person. There are very few who have the size of heart that this guy has. When he arrived he brought a huge suitcase of Art Supplies for Tio Lino's Art School. We had to count everything and record it becase Tio likes to keep lists of donations that come in the school. When people from the community ask about who is helping him, he has a ledger to prove that people like myself and Freddy are contributing. I like it as well becase then the favela knows that I am am using tourist money to help support his school. I like contributing as Rocinha has given me so much, including meeting people like Freddy.
Freddy not only gave these art supplies, he worked in the comunity volunteering with several football clubs in the favela. One in a poorer area of Roupa Suja and a girls program on Rua 1 (first street). Thank you Freddy for your contributions to Rocinha. I hope someday you contact Freddy about his favela experience his email is:

THE DJ PROJECT: Phi, Harry, Tess, Daren, Shon & Josef

All of the names I just mentioned are part of a big future project we are planning to unleash in June. I have been a Dj for many years and it has always been a dream to open a DJ school here in the favela. In June, Harry and possibly a few others are going to come to Rocinha to help me start this special project. At the bottom of the hill at the edge of the Via Apia, there is a project called "Pensando Juntos", which has a DJ class every friday afternoon but there is only one set of turntables and CD players. The monitors are old and many people have told me that there is more demand for a more regular set up. I want there to be a school that can have 20-30 students, not all at the same time, but a full time DJ school. Something that operates 5 days a week.

I have several DJ's on board here in the community and have many DJ's from other countries who want to help by visiting and having seminars or just teaching the odd class. Music is the soul of Brazil, especially here in the favelas. I have spoken to people here in the comunity and have 100% support. Finally something that I can put my heart and soul into. My gift to the favela I care about so much.

For more information about our project DJ please contact Phi at:
or Harry Hood at: