Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rocinha welcomes Graham for the 3rd time!

Graham has been coming and staying in Rocinha for many years after his first trip to Brazil in 2006. He is in university in Sydney Australia and doing studies in film making and Art. Welcome back to Rocinha, Graham and I hope it is even better than your last visit.

- Can you tell me your name, where you are from?

My name is Graham Burchett and I am from the city of Sydney, in Australia.

- Why did you come to Brasil?

I first came to Brasil in 2006 to explore the potential for cultural, artistic and creative exchange in Rio de Janeiro.

-When you arrived where did you live?

In the district of Saúde in Centro.

- How did you find out about favelas?

Rio de Janeiro and the favelas go hand-in-hand, and it's impossible not to hear about them when inquiring about Rio. Unfortunately, they are usually mentioned or portrayed in a negative light.

- Why did you decide to move into a favela (Rocinha)?

While researching potential ways to get involved in creative exchange in Rio, I came across information about the Instituto Dois Irmãos, a non-profit organisation in Rocinha. As my interests are based on mutual exchange and collaboration, it was therefore extremely important to me that I would be able to experience the day-to-day life of the people I would be working with.

- Before moving here what did you know about favelas?

I tried to educate myself as best as possible about the reality of life in a favela. It's one thing to see how favelas are depicted in movies and the media, and quite another to read first hand accounts from residents and others who have spent time there. One thing that I didn't initially know about was the abundance of social programs and opportunities for outsiders to get involved in the community.

- Since living here, have you impressions of favelas changed much?

I went to the favela without any expectations. The reality I discovered was that of a strong, proud community that broke all the stereotypes and preconceived notions it has been branded with. In that regard my impressions have only changed for the better. 

- What do you like about living in the favela?

The people, the vibrancy, the sense of community. Rocinha is always breathing, there is a constant sense of liveliness. Plus in Rocinha you can find almost everything you need!

- What don’t you like?
There are big issues with sanitation and health that need urgent addressing. Also, it must be said that the gang looms large over the community. Care must be taken when working with media such as photography and video. The constant noise can be trying at times.

- If you had a magic wand and could change anything, what would you change about the favela?
Methods of and education about rubbish disposal. It would go a long way to creating a healthier community.

- Has your experience been worthwhile?
Absolutely, my stays in the favela have been amongst the most enriching and worthwhile experiences I have had in my life to date. I have made many, many friends and been involved in some wonderful projects during my time there.

- What advice would you give someone who wanted to move/stay here?
Rocinha is an intense place and can be overwhelming, so it's important to research before you jump in and decide to stay there for a good period. Get in contact with NGO's and people like Zezinho to get first hand accounts of life in the favela. Ask lots of questions. Then, once you think you're ready to commit to staying, leave your expectations behind, go with the flow, and make the most out of your stay—get involved with the community!

- Would you come back to live here again?
Absolutely, Rocinha feels like my second home. I will be going back for my third stay and I hope there will be many more in the future.

- Anything else you would like to comment about regarding life here?
Rocinha is a unique community. It is like a small city in itself, and has infrastructure and services that many other favelas lack. Despite this, there are are still issues of concern in Rocinha that are endemic to the favelas, such as education, health, sanitation, police invasions, water, and electricity amongst others. Rocinha is a place that is fast changing, and constantly growing, but it is still a low-income community. Rocinha's residents work hard to live a humble life and provide for their families. Despite living in such a developed favela, they often still face prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives simply for being favelados. With this in mind, approach living in a favela with humility and respect and in return the people will welcome you with open arms.