Friday, November 29, 2013

Volunteering in Rocinha


A foto of some of the people who work with Favela Adventures, from left to right: Jody King (Dj, Tour guide and hostel manager), Dembore da Silva (Dj and instructor at our NGO Spin Rocinha, Tour guide), Andre (local football coach), Freddy Gomes (Dj, volunteer at Spin Rocinha, Tour guide, football player, NGO director of Sonvela), Zezinho (Director Favela Adventures, Founder of Spin Rocinha, Dj and Tour guide), and Erik Martins (English teacher and Tour guide).


I often get emails about people wanting to volunteer or help out in some way. I have access to many projects here that need or would welcome help from anybody. I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people that have come here and help out. I usually post about their work here.


We welcome people to come bring their talents to share. If you are a juggler, can teach magic, teach dance, anything will do. I have access to a large space that can accommodate you and your "art" or project.


To volunteer through us, all I ask is if you are going to be working with a specific project to bring materials. For example if you are going to teach English bring notebooks, or English books. If you can't afford that, make worksheets for the students. People in favelas don't have money to spend on this but they desperately want to learn.


I had a wonderful woman Lucy from the US come and visit and she brought art materials for the small school. She brought crayons, paintbrushes, colored pencils and paints. She said she went to a "99 cent" store in the US and spent about 50 US dollars on the materials. After her doing this, I thought this is a great way to directly put back into the project. Many non profits receive money but often very little of the money gets to the project. Or if money does get the project, it doesn't get spent on what is needed.


As you see from my previous post, Beccy McCray only spent one week here yet contributed so much to Rocinha! She brought her own supplies to aid in the completion of her 3 art projects!


I have always been against travelers volunteering and having to pay some organization astronomical fees. I see value in volunteers. You spend your hard earned money to travel to some far off place to give freely your time and energy. You should not have to on top of that pay money to some organization that pockets most of the money. Please do your research if looking to volunteer especially in some developing nation.


What I recommend for people coming to Rocinha, who want to volunteer and who do not want to pay a service charge to an organization is to contact me directly. I will do the best I can to find you a project that suits your needs. All I ask, is to bring donations of materials for the project you want to work with. I also receive many donations that we distribute throughout the favela to different projects. In past blog posts you can read about our distributions here in the favela.


Some projects we have lined up are a photography class and a solar energy project that is in the beginning stages. We hope to expand to more diverse projects that can improve the lives of people living here.


We also have access to housing or staying in the favela as well. If you want to stay short term or long term, we have places for you to stay that will fit your needs. Anything from a homestay with a family to a two bedroom house.


For more information contact me at:

A Special Visitor


All photography by Beccy McCray and Rachel Tanugi Ribas


I love the work I do. I can meet awesome people from all over the world. I received a email a couple of months ago about a woman who wanted to make an art project here. She also wanted to stay in the favela which was even better. Her name is Beccy from the UK. She wanted to do three different art projects and was able to hook up with two NGO's here to work with residents to complete her ideas. The first of her projects was teaching residents how to weave or make friendship bracelets with colored string. The second project was making a huge art board of a favela but made with items used from garbage or recycling. The third was these kites with messages written on them that would be exchanged with people in the UK. I had a chane to interview Beccy about her visit work here in Rocinha!


1. Whats your name? Where are you from? Beccy McCray; I'm an artist from the UK, based between Hackney and Hastings.


2. Talk a bit about your background with art (mention your website, blog) I explore playful, socially engaged art and design using a multi-disciplinary approach in whatever realm necessary to create imaginative acts of resistance and more human moments in the world. Elevating the everyday and the things that really matter, I aim to break down boundaries between art, activism and everyday life. Her practice ultimately aims to spread a little joy and inspire positive change at a grass roots level, using creativity to communicate environmental and social ideals that go hand in hand: I also work under the name of Crafternoon Tea Club, a project with collaborator Hannah Elbourne, which explores participatory and community art, combined with DIY craft-based tradition which can take any form; from games and installation, to collage, baking, parties and painting. The project acts as both curator and collaborator; creating artistic frameworks within which unexpected situations can occur. It aims to blur lines between artist and audience, bringing people together through the sharing of materials and ideas, and use collective powers for the greater good. To find out more about Crafternoon Tea Club and further Crafternoon projects click here: Recent projects and latest artworks have been commissioned by the Turner Contemporary, The Olympic Park Legacy Company, The Barbican, The National Theatre, Secret Garden Party, Home Live Art, Hastings Council, Coastal Currents arts festival, Create London, and the Women's Institute.


3. How did you find Rocinha? When I started looking into Rio's favela's Rocinha's name cropped up many times. I guess primarily due it being Latin America's largest favela, and because at the time I was researching the project there were some big news stories happening around Rocinha (e.g. the Amarildo de Souza case).


4. Why Rocinha and not some other place? I wanted to explore favela life to get a better understanding of how other communities and social systems operate. I knew that community spirit is very strong there and wanted to experience this first hand. I also wanted to use this knowledge to challenge misconceptions that most people have of life in favelas and the people who live in them. Rocinha felt like the most accessible favela for a first time visitor and the community centres I connected with were both based there.


5. Explain a little about the projects you were doing here. (mention two brothers and fabrica verde) I believe that art can be a catalyst for change, altering the way people see themselves and the world around them. Many people associate favelas with violence and drug trafficking; yet the vast majority of people here wish to live in peace. I wanted to challenge these misconceptions by using art to tell truths about favela life and its people. So during November I was based in Rocinha working with the local community at 2Brothers and Fabrica Verde community centres. Art can offer a different identity for people living in deprived areas like Rocinha and open up options that they may not have otherwise considered. Art can teach people of all all ages new skills and new concepts, such as recycling, making them realise that they can make a difference to their own lives and those of others. I have hopefully developed an on-going relationship with the people of Rocinha and have brought an opportunity to reach outside the favela, and even their country, to demonstrate the community spirit and creativity which is intrinsic to life here. If we can show the outside world these qualities it will not only help breed understanding, but also inspire hope and generate a feeling of empowerment for those living in the favela. Using art we have made connections with the UK and taken positive messages to the wider world we can generate media awareness and therefore make our own contribution towards combating social inequality and poverty in the area. You can see more about the project outcomes and final artworks here:


6. What did you like about staying in the favela? The people. Everyone I met has been so hospitable, friendly, warm and kind. The street food is great too - people warn you off but I had churrasco every day for my dinner with no problems! Being in the heart of the favela; the alley ways, the hand painted signage, the tiny cafes, the live street samba, the amazing view of Rocinha on the hill from Dembore's window, the friendly faces - intriguing, beautiful, atmospheric and inspiring.


7. What didn't you like about staying in the favela? I was shocked at the amount of waste and rubbish everywhere. Also the dog poo! The constant noise and the density of the area became quite intense and opressive after a while too - it's really true that Rocinha never sleeps.


8. Would you recommend others to come stay in the favela and make projects here? Absolutely! The people of Rocinha are so uninhibited and creative.


9.What kinds of projects do you think are needed here? Projects which have educational benefit to the community and inspire hope. Also any project which raises awareness to the outside world of how life here really is and all the positive things about the community in Rocinha.


10. Overall how was your experience here in Rocinha? Incredible. It's impossible to fully prepare yourself for what its like here.


11. Anything else to add or advice to visitors/volunteers coming here? Bring earplugs to help sleep at night! If you want to look like less of a gringo, slow your walking pace down and get a pair of Havianas! Talk to people, don't be afraid, get to know the people you meet.


Its people like Beccy McCray who bring her art that helps to make the favela a better place to live. Thank you Beccy! If you have interest to make a project or volunteer here in Rocinha, please contact me at:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bad Start, Great Finish!


The first two fotos you see were taken from my cel phone inside the bus just minutes after the tree fell. I stuck my arm out the window of the bus, pointed and tried to get the best foto that I could of the fallen tree. The first foto you can see the huge green thing that covers the whole foto is the big tree. The second foto is people running to make sure nobody is injured. The last two fotos were taken by one of our guides, Jody King as he was heading up the hill around 11am.


Where was Rambo when we needed him? (Rambo is a tree trimmer who lives and works in the favela)


I left my house this morning feeling upset because the weather was crappy, drizzling rain.. I had already cancelled our planned BBQ for our special tour for our Danish visitors. The day wasn't starting off so good. I got onto the bus to go to Copacabana at 9:15am, plenty of time to arrive to my destination. As we are driving up towards the painted houses in the favela, we stop close to the entrance to Rua 3 when all of a sudden I hear this cracking sound, like tree branches breaking. All of a sudden a big thud and just behind us about 5 meters. I see a tree down on top of the bus directly behind us. After that, you could hear power lines dropping and electricity power boxes exploding and all sorts of popping sounds. The driver of my bus opens all the doors and people are running frantically out and screaming about the loud noises they are hearing. They are running up the hill away from the tree and noises scared! Because its my job to notice everything (I am a tour guide), I knew I was safe inside the bus. The tree dropped behind us with plenty of space open and there were no power lines close to the bus. That's when I decided to snap a few fotos with my cel phone. I know they are not the best quality but I was a bit far away and my positioning of having to stick my arm out the bus window was not easy. I see that after 5 minutes the bus is not moving so I tell the driver that its best that we move just incase more wires fall down. Actually I wanted him to move because I had guests to meet at 10:30am in Copacabana. We finally started moving after 15 minutes of sitting there. As the bus was leaving the favela, I started to think of how lucky I was to be on this bus and not the one directly behind me that got hit with the tree. I was sitting towards the back of the bus and if our bus had passed just 20 seconds later than it did, our bus would have gotten hit. As we entered Leblon, thick traffic and I am starting to worry because I do not like being late to appointments.


I finally arrive at my destination 20 minutes late! I meet my guests of 30 Danish students between the ages of 15-17 and 4 teachers. We walk to the bus stop to head back to Rocinha. We wait about 10 minutes and our group of 30+ people board the bus. I think the driver was surprised at the numbers of foreigners invading his bus! I sat down, took a deep breath and just started to think of the day ahead. We arrived at the top of the hill in Rocinha and directly took the students to the indoor football area. I met with Andre the local football coach and Dembore and I started to organize teams. Out of the 30 Danish, about 20 took part in the friendly game with the locals. We played 4 on 4 with a goalie (5 a side total). Nobody was keeping score as this was just a friendly game of mixed teams. Everybody played together mixing the Danish students in with the favela kids. This was great to see the passing and goal scored with team work!



After the friendly was over, we called the kids into a circle in the middle of the playing area and Rasmus Schack, the person who organized this special tour gave out some gift bags to 10 of the players. One of the Danish teachers gave Andre a cap and water bottle of the team in Denmark.



We all gathered for a foto with everybody who was involved in this game. The students and players sat together as it should be. I know the kids from the favela will remember this for a long time.



Before we left the football game, Andre wanted a foto with the guides! So from Left to Right, JODY KING, DEMBORE DA SILVA, ANDRE THE COACH, FREDDY GOMES, ZEZINHO DA SILVA AND ERIK MARTINS



After football we separated the students and teachers into smaller groups so we wouldn't look like a mass mob moving through the favela. We agreed to meet at the bottom of the favela at Trapia Social one of our best por kilo restaurants. After we took everybody up on the pasarella for foto and to say our goodbyes before they had to leave!


I need to thank RASMUS SCHACK for organizing this great opportunity and the teachers from Denmark for trusting in us here at Favela Adventures to show the Danish people our favela.


Before we separated ways, the guides, wanted a foto together..Freddy, Dembore and Jody!


After the tour I went back up the hill to see how things were going with the electricity and tree that fell. I spoke with some people at the site and they said the tree that fell was 60 years old. Nobody was injured. They were still removing the tree and trimming others in the area to prevent this from happening again. Electricity is down in the area and not expected to return for a few days as they have many power lines to fix. There's never a boring day in the are some fotos from the clean up. Notice the size of the tree that fell.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Why English?

My friends in Rocinha have asked me why I write the blog in English. I tell them that if I write it in Portugues only people in Rocinha would read it and I am trying to reach more people with the blog. People in Rocinha know how I feel about this place! I am trying to send a message out to the whole world about the place I live. And people in Rocinha already know about life inside a favela. I don’t want to bore them!

My blog covers all sorts of subjects as I write about life here in Rocinha but have different eyes because I had the opportunity to live outside of Brazil. My understanding and appreciation for Rocinha is much different now than when I was younger. I am thankful and proud to live here. I have no shame to say that I live in a favela or that I am a favelado.

We in Rocinha understand the class system and that people outside of favelas don’t really have interest to want to read about them. It is sad but this is the truth. Sometimes I think that these people wish that the favelas just disappear. Brazilians who don’t live in favelas, out of ten people, eight despise the favelas and see them as factories of criminals. Most of these people have probably never been inside a favela. But, their domestic help probably lives in a favela. I have met very few people who live outside of Rocinha that have an interest in the place. It doesn’t help that media like “O Globo” rarely write anything good about favelas.

The majority of people who read my blog are foreigners. People usually find my blog through searching google. I receive many emails from students, researchers, journalists and film makers who read my blog as a resource. They contact me and often times they want to meet personally to discuss their work. I then try to connect them with the right people who can help them.

Through my blog, I want to show the world my life here in Rocinha. The only way I can do this is through writing in English. I can reach more people with my message. For those who are interested in learning about favelas, my blog can give you an inside view that you cannot get in mainstream media. As I have told many people, there is no such thing as a bad place, only bad people, and every place has bad people!

I enjoy hearing from you. If you have any ideas on subjects for me to write about please contact me at:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Questions from a teacher in New Jersey, USA


The last four Photos in the sequence were taken by Miranda Patrucic


How does poverty in the favelas affect you or your neighborhood?--- Poverty is relative depending on where you live on the planet. Nobody in my favela is starving or dying. People struggle and have it tough because of lack of opportunities and institutionalized stigmas against favela residents. People from favelas often lie and don't tell where they live for fear of discrimination. This is sad because what do we teach our children when we lie. We teach them that there is shame because of the place we live. Favelas were hand built by the residents from those communities. We don't wait for government to help us. We do what we can with what we have. All we ask is to have the same rights and opportunities that any Brazilian citizen has!


Do you think the situation is getting better or worse?--- The police are here but no real improvement of public services. We still have the trash dumps that spill into the streets. You would think that if the country can spend 30 billion on sports stadiums for the world cup that they should be able to help with basic sanitation. We still have open sewers that run through parts of the favela. We need more schools with decent quality for our children and we need trade schools to teach young adults and provide opportunities to get into the workforce and earn good wages. How can somebody who earns minimum wage of 600 reais a month ever move out of a favela? You can not at that wage! We need more education and less guns (police)! (See the last four fotos which show the garbage and open sewers in the favela)


How would better security help you and your family?--- Security is relative. I have never felt fear living here. There are at times dangerous situations but I have never really felt scared. I have more fear outside the favela. Inside here we have rules. You break the rules, you pay, depending on the crime like rape or killing someone, you can die. The problem is we live in a country with a lot of corruption and where the life of a favelado does not have value the same as those who don't live in favelas. My ideal security would be a fair, respectful and honest police to every citizen. Most favelados are honest hard working people who just earn less money. We live here because there is no other option for us.


Have you ever thought about moving?--- No, My life is here, my friends are here. If I move, where do I go? I then need to start again to build a foundation of associates and friends. Even if I move, I will always be a favelado. Will the outside world accept me? I don't know. I love living here for the good things. The good things outweigh the bad. Its not the poorly built houses here, its the people who live here who make Rocinha a good place to live. In Rocinha we have everything, why would I want to leave?


What daily struggles do you think people in the favelas face?--- The first is quality education for children and youth. With education comes knowledge to help change or improve your living situation. Basic sanitation is a big one, nobody likes to pass the garbage dumps and see rats running around. Sometimes we go without water. Where I live I have a tank on my roof of 1000 liters that is refilled once a week. Sometimes, it doesn't get filled which means we go without until it gets filled. This past July, I went without water in my house for 15 days! The biggest complaint I have is just being treated with respect. Outsiders (Brazilians) treat us like we are slaves, drug dealers or some kind of criminals. Every social class has its crimes.


Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? Would you like better security in Rio?--- I feel safe in Rocinha. I think tourist places need better security and places like Lapa need police that will reinforce the laws. In Lapa I always hear of tourists getting pickpocketed or robbed.


How do people in the favelas support their families?--- People work as bus drivers, construction workers, cashiers, restarants, hotels and any other service industry work where college or university is not needed.


How do you feel about having the World Cup in Brazil? Will it hurt or help Brazil?--- It will help the rich, tourists, FIFA, and the investors but other than watching it on tv, favelados will not benefit from the games.


What does the government (and President Rousseff) do about the favelas?--- They do very little. They will provide something like a fancy footbridge to cross the highway yet leave open sewers running through the favela. Somebody once on a online forum made the comment that it would be easy to get rid of the favelas if they dropped a bomb on them. When I read this, it made me sad that people have such evil in their hearts and yet these same people claim they believe in god! (I am a atheist by the way). Its difficult to say what will be the future of favelas. Its now 2013 and not a lot of progress has been made. Favelas are convenient for the outside world when they want their cheap slave like labor or they want their cocaine, otherwise, they prefer the favela and favelados out of sight. The rich woman will despise the favela yet the cleaning lady or baby sitter comes from there. We may have police here but we have more shootings now since the police occupation than before. Ironic eh?


How do people end up in favelas?--- The favelas started because of people migrating to different parts of the country looking for jobs. When they arrived in Rio, they could not afford the rents so they were forced to live in favelas. This has to do with value of work. When you earn between 600-900 a month, you cant afford to live anywhere else but the favela.


How do children in the favelas get education and medical help?--- We have a few schools but the quality is not good and even if you graduate with top grades you still need to take a difficult entrance exam to get into the free universities. We have three health clinics, they are ok for basic health care but if you need surgery of some kind you need to go outside the favela. Health care is free but not very good.


Where are the worst favelas?--- The poorest favelas are in the northeast of the country. In Rio the worst favelas are in the outskirts of the city the north zone or west zone.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Danish Cultural Invasion


I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing people through the work I do. I never imagined my life would change so drastically for the better. Working as a guide here is one thing but having the Dj School Spin Rocinha has opened up opportunities to benefit many here.


I was first contacted about 6 months ago by Rasmus Schack. Rasmus lives in Rio and is part of many projects. He's a DJ, Tour Guide and part of bringing Danish Culture to Rio de Janeiro. Instituto Cultural Da Dinamarca was founded in 2009 to expose Brazilians to Danish culture through events including, music, art, shows, cinema and workshops. Rasmus is also part of DinĂ¢mica Dinamarquesa is the project under the umbrella of Instituto Cultural da Dinamarca and its Rasmus who promotes Jazz and Danish Electronic music in Brazil.


He first contacted me about wanting to know more information about Spin Rocinha and having some workshop exchanges with Danish Dj's and producers. At Spin Rocinha, we have hosted some top Dj's in Brazil and believe its is a honor to have foreign Dj's that can bring enrichment to our programs. So, when he told us about Asmund Boye Kverneland or Dj COPYFLEX come for a workshop, we said sure! Dj COPYFLEX has an interesting background as a Dj but also has his own band COPIA DOBLE SYSTEMA which plays a mix of electronic music with Latin Beats.


So, we had Dj COPYFLEX and Dj Rasmus give a 2 hours seminar at our school. We also celebrated our 2nd anniversary of our Dj school Spin Rocinha.


Please check out whats going on with Instituto Cultural Da Dinamarca on their website


Rasmus is also a tour guide who specializes in walking city tours. His website is


LULU ROUGE come to Rocinha



Lulu Rouge consist of Torsten "Buda" Jacobsen and Thomas(T.O.M)Bertelsen who have been working together as Dj's and producers now for over 20 years. They released their debut album "Bless You" in 2008 and are now one of the most respected producer teams in Northern Europe. Their music is a mix of techno and dubstep with a deep bass sound that makes the ground shake. They have produced more than 100 complilations including soundtracks for advertisements and movies.


When DJ'ing, the duo never play any tracks in their original form. They only play their own edits and bootleg mixes, custom made for their sets. And as a live act, the Lulu Rouge sound really comes to its right elements with their famous heavy bass sound flooding the room. Played with live instruments, guest musicians and space for improvisation.


They came to visit Spin Rocinha on November 6th to show our students some of their skills. They played a 25 minute set of their music and after fielded questions from the students.


I want to thank Rasmus Schack for his constant support of our Dj School Spin Rocinha and exposing our students to these amazing talents!