Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rocinha Welcome's Loughborough Enactus Students

I have been in contact with Matt Ong from England who works for an organization called Enactus and its part of their University program. Enactus is a non profit company that has offices in many countries. Loughborough University has a Enactus program. They want to help us raise money to buy a building here in Rocinha to make a community Centre. This is what social entrepreneurs do!

This is a description from Enactus website as to what they do:
"In villages, towns and cities around the world, Enactus students are demonstrating that business has the power to inspire hope, create opportunity where little existed and ultimately improve lives and strengthen communities. As these students succeed at helping others they develop stronger business and leadership skills, as well as a sense of service and responsibility to the community and world around them. They’re emerging as leaders who understand the opportunity for business to make a positive economic, social and environmental impact. Their achievements are the story of Enactus success."

I met Matt through Jo, a girl who was staying in Vidigal volunteering for some projects there. He had emailed me almost 1 year ago wanting to get information about community activities and projects. Matt had asked me if I knew of any projects that needed help and I told him that I would get back to him. I had heard of a few people in Rocinha who had ideas but nothing yet put on paper. I opened Spin Rocinha in 2011 and always thought that in the future I could expand our project to include a recording studio and a production room for students to create their own music on computers. Our Dj school Spin Rocinha currently operates out of my bedroom and I have been wanting to eventually buy or rent a space for the school. So having a building would be the next step.

I was talking to many people about my idea and the community knew already about Spin Rocinha. This caught the attention of Matt in his wanting to link up with somebody who already has an idea and a plan. The idea is to have independent projects that have their own directors, coordinators and volunteers have access to the space to use. The building would be managed by two people who would over see the scheduling of the projects to ensure open space and time.

Some of the projects that we want in our community centre already have a basic structure of operation in place. Rogerio has Espaco das Artes, an art project for children, Jody has Favela Pheonix, and there are others that have interest but have not yet put in a commitment yet until they see we will be buying a building.

Out of this, the students developed a specific name for this project now dedicated to fundraising for the building. Its called Project Vida. There is a Facebook Page and a Website where you can find all the information that you need. With the students starting their promotion, Matt contacted me to let me know that 4 of the students from Project Vida would be coming to Rio and would be staying in Rocinha. The 4 students are Tom Gray, Gabrielle Ross, Oliver Thorp and Fiona Robinson

Friday June 19th, David Kiss, a friend of mine who owns a taxi service picked up Tom, Gabrielle, Oliver and Fiona at the International Airport and brought then to Rocinha. Obi of Rocinha Guest House met them and took them to the guesthouse where they will be staying for 10 days. They arrived in the evening about 7:00 and it was dark so they didn't really get to see much. I met them and we took the van to the bottom of the hill. I wanted to show them about how the vans operate in the favela. We ate dinner at Trapia Social and then we took the van back up the hill. We planned the tour for Saturday so they could see everything during daylight. They want to have a better understanding of the favela community.

Saturday June 20th 11am: I met the students at the top of Rua 1, complete tour of Rocinha. We walked through the community where I explained about how things work here and for them to see the neighborhood and get comfortable walking around. We started at Rua 1 and ended up at the Valao after eating lunch at the por kilo place Trapia Social.

from L to R: Oliver, Tom, Fiona and Gabrielle

Later in the evening they came by to see our Dj School Spin Rocinha and took turns playing the equipment until the students started to arrive.

Sunday June 21st The group had their first opportunity to leave the favela and walk around Copacabana and Ipanema. Later early evening the group went to check out Sushi Roma one of our favorite Sushi places in Rocinha. Jody and I met them and we watched Brazil beat Venezuela 2-1 in a football match.

  The gang at Sushi Roma.

Monday June 22nd 12:00 I met the group in front of my house and I took them by to see a building where the government used to run a project teaching youth how to build computers called Fabrica Verde. Its 4 floors and its a new building. This would be a great space and its big enough to do everything that we would want to do.

 This is the outside of the building of Fabrica Verde.

 This foto is of one of the classrooms on the 3rd floor where English classes were taught and meeting were held.

This room is on the first floor and was used as a internet cafe and learning centre.
This photo was of a Fabrica Verde Party. This would be a perfect building to buy if its available.

After checking out Fabrica Verde we descended the hill to meet Allan at the Real Estate Office at 12:30pm. He arrived on time and we spoke about the objective of our wanting to buy a building the favela and make it a community center. Allan briefly spoke about buildings for sale in Cidade Nova, Cachopa (neighborhood names in the favela) and apartment for rent near Bob's Burgers.
He could not show us places today so he suggested we return on Wednesday morning at 9:30 to meet again when he could show us places. After we went to eat at Trapia.

Tuesday June 23rd 11:45 Met at Bob's Bill a great breakfast stop and briefly stopped by Garagem das Letras, Barbara Olivi's Project and explained a little about the library cafe that they are opening.

We then went to Oficina do Sucesso to meet Alessandra or "Leca" at 12 noon. The building that houses the projects is huge and sponsored by a church Maria Nazare Spirituist group and by individuals who keep things running. They have many different classes there from swimming, football, English classes, Music, Breakdancing and classes to prepare youth for their future. The students wanted to see how the project was run for ideas about how we could organize our building. It's good to learn from others. Later we stopped by the new library as I wanted to show them a government run building. The problem with the library is because its government run, its not easy to get a program put in there. Theres a lot of red tape.

I met some guys doing a dj presentation and the students went back to interview some of the students from Oficina do Sucesso and Leca. There is a definite need for more buildings and projects like what Leca is involved in. I admire what she has helped to create there and hope with our project we can do the same.

Students from "Oficina do Sucesso"

Wednesday June 24th I met the group in front of my house at 9:20 and we arrived at the Real Estate Office at 9:32. Alllan was not there and he finally arrived at 10:00am. He said that he had come by my house last night at 10pm but I never heard a knock on my door. Allan had apparently tried to get in contact with some of the people selling their places. He told me that out of the 3 places, two of them he thought would be too small. The other place he could not get in touch with the owner in time to get the keys. But he took us to see a penthouse apartment for rent. I was curious about the apartment, but I wanted the students to see the view and get an idea of what a "luxury" place in the favela would look like. And the view was awesome!

Incredibly huge roof top view! I would rent this place but the price is a bit too high for me. Allan is the property manager of the building where I live now so he is someone that I feel I can trust. Its sad because today we did not accomplish anything and I had to explain to the students that unfortunately things work differently here and it takes time. I explained to Allan on Monday why the students were here and I told him the students need to leave on the 30th of June so theres not much time left for the students to get an idea of what things cost here. The group is also involved with other meetings while here in Rio so their schedule is tight. I am not sure if Allan will try to set up another meeting before the group leaves. When Matthew comes in January, I am hoping we have better luck. I think its best if those that come are able to stay for 2 weeks.

After the visit to this apartment, the group went off to see a football game in Maracana Stadium. Fluminense played against Ponte Preta of Sao Paulo and won the game 2-0.

Thursday June 25th This day was to organize and for the team to meet and discuss objectives and ideas about fundraising. They also were updating and working with social media about the project.

Friday June 26th Today we visited Wark Studio, the grafitti artist who paints the angel figures that one can see around Rio and all over Rocinha. Many of the group bought art from Wark so they are supporting a good project. Wark also teaches art classes for youth in Rocinha.

Wark in the red Canadian jersey with Enactus Students.

After we walked to the Residents Association in Cidade Nova, but there was a special retirement party for one of the workers there so we were unable to go into the building. On the wall of the RA there were several programs listed that were about extended learning online. I also explained about the other services that the RA offers.

We walked to the AMMAB community building which offers computer classes by Microlins. The centre has jiu jitsu, muay thai, boxing, dancing and English classes. Its good for the group to see the projects that exist in Rocinha. Its obvious we need more programs.

Saturday June 27th I met Emzingo students and Ramon at Posto 5 in Copacabana to do a tour, play football and get to interact with the Enactus students. I think it was great for those from Emzingo to meet the students of Enactus and exchange information about what each company does as far as social entrepreneurship. Both Enactus and Emzingo have lots in common. We walked through the community ending off with a late lunch and then over the bridge.

Enactus and Emzingo groups mixed with players from Rocinha. The game was close. I think a good time was had by all.

After the football both groups got a chance at introductions and we able to explain what they are doing in Rio. Emzingo has organized their social entrepreneurship help with an NGO called Favela Verde which promotes green spaces and the importance of recycling and the environment.

After our meeting we separated into two groups. Jody took one group and I took the other. We ended up meeting in Cidade Nova and we walked to Trapia. Everyone was really hungry so we ate a hearty meal and ended off the tour with some fotos on the bridge.

The two groups separated and Emzingo took the bus back to Copacabana and Fiona, Gabriella, Tom and Oliver made their way back up to the top of the favela to rest.

Sunday June 28th, The team finally got to be tourists for the day. First stop was the Christ statue, then off to meet the Enactus Rio Group to check out their project on Copacabana Beach. For the evening they hiked up Sugar Loaf to see the sunset then home after a long day.

Monday June 29th, The Enactus group went to visit a NGO in Vidigal to see how their project through having a hostel was able to support the NGO's activities in the building. The hostel charges 30 reais a night in low season and up to 4 times that during New Years, Carnival and the coming Olympics. This kind of research is good as it will help gives us ideas on how we can run our hostel as well.

Later we met to eat at Bom Appetite a nice little local eatery close to my house. Jody came along and we had a chance to chat about the future of the purchase of the building and plans of we want to do.

Fiona practicing her "building" skills in Bom Appetite restaurant.

After eating I wanted to get fotos of the Fabrica Verde building. This building would be perfect for everything that we want to do. It is 4 floors. The first floor is a big open space with an office in the back, small kitchen area and bathroom with shower. The second floor is two large open space rooms and two bathrooms. The third floor is two big open rooms. The fourth floor was under construction the last time I saw it. The forth floor would be big enough to have 3 to four rooms for the "hostel". From what one of the neighbors told me tonight, the guy who owns the building is living inside there. At some point I plan to get in touch with him and see what his plans are with the building.

Front row--> Gabriella, Tom and Oliver, Back row--> Fiona and Jody King.

Tuesday June 30th, The team woke early and passed by to see Leca at Oficina do Sucesso then descended the hill to give Enactus Rio guys a tour of the favela.

They met Henrique Cecconi and Alan Almeida de Andrade at the pasarella at walked up the hill to show them the community. This is the first time they had ever been inside Rocinha. Everybody stopped by the dj school where I was able to give them information about our project. My cat Jaki really loved Alan. As you can see her sitting on Alan's head playing with his hair.

And finally I wanted to get Enactus Loughborough and Enactus Rio together in a foto.
Left to right: Tom, Henrique, Alan, Oliver, Gabriella and Fiona

They left the Dj school to continue showing Alan and Henrique the favela. I later met the group at the top of Rocinha to see them off with David who was taking them off to the airport. I was able to take some fotos of them before they left.

I think for the limited amount of time that the Enactus Loughborough team was here they were able to visit many projects, get an idea about the community and its needs. Unfortunately it was difficult for me to schedule meetings with people who are selling places. For Enactus Team it would have been nice to see the insides of places for sale. Alan, the real estate guy was unable to work out any meetings with prospective sellers. I think many people in Brazil are used to people talking but not doing, so I think Alan was surprised when I brought the team by the Real Estate office last week. I had written him a letter and put it on his desk on the 10th of June letting him know the arrival of the team. I don't know, maybe he didn't take me serious? Anyhow the biggest problem in Brazil is people do things when they want and it doesn't always fit people's schedules.
I was able to have them see the Fabrica Verde building if only on the outside, They saw Leca's project and building, the project in Vidigal run by favela experience and they saw the inside of the building that AMABB runs where Microlins has their computer courses.

My suggestion is that if representatives come from the UK for the purchase of a building that its best to stay for minimum 3 weeks. This should be plenty of time to organize meetings to see places. Also the team had many other activities going on which is understandable that there was not enough time to schedule time in just to see places. I still think the team coming was of great value because they were able to experience the favela from the inside and see how it works and what is needed here.

I want to thank Matthew Ong for being the person who was the first to believe in me and my ideas for a community center.  He has trusted in me about the goals we want to achieve and Enactus for their support. Thank you to Fiona, Dan, Gabriella and Oliver for trusting their stay in the favela would be a safe and productive one! Please come back to visit again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Saving Davi

I have always had a soft spot for animals, dogs and cats. Especially cats since I was 7 years old,  I always had a unique relationship with them. For some reason, they always liked me. I think animals know who has a good heart. So when I saw this posting on facebook about "Davi", it really upset me. I dont like seeing animals in pain. A friend of mine posted on Facebook the top foto you see and I automatically wanted to do something.

Vanusa Martins who started this page for Davi, she found him close to where she lives in Rocinha. She lives close to me in an area called Cachopa, where she saw this cat who's fur was all matted and exposed parts of skin was showing. She was on her way to work when she took a box and put this cat in the box and brought him to a Pet Hospital in Copacabana. The name of the place is Caopacabana

When Vanusa brought Davi in, The vet said that he was close to death and at risk. He was not eating so they are force feeding him through IV. He has two main problems, one is an infection of the Pancreas and the second is called Sporotrichosis and its a fungal infection that affects the skin. For more information on this read here.  Just looking at the fotos you can see the abrasions and skin exposure. In the favela contracting this is by coming in contact with soil, plants and decaying vegetation. The fungus can enter through cuts and scrapes on the skin. The fungus has eaten away badly at his tail so this might need to be amputated. So sad...

I saw that this cat obviously needed help. I wanted to see what I could do, if anything. This morning I had a dentist appointment planned but last minute the dentist called me and cancelled my appointment.  Before knowing about the cancellation, I left my house with 450 reais expecting to cover my teeth (about 300 reais) and then after going to visit Davi and contribute 150 reais to his care. Im far from rich but something about Davi, I don't know how to explain it but I saw suffering and wanted to help.

So I arrive at the dentist to find out my appointment has been cancelled. I wasn't happy as I have been trying to take more care of myself and these teeth I really need to get taken care of. So, kind of pissed off, I went off to see Davi. As I entered the pet shop/hospital I asked if I could see Davi. They told me to follow the assistant up stairs to the are where they keep the sick pets. I had to put booties over my shoes, obvious to prevent any germs from the outside affecting the animals. I got to his cage and saw this little Davi with his head down. I did not want to open the cage door as every place has their own way of doing things. The vet offered me gloves if I wanted to pet him. I passed on that as I just wanted to talk to him, look in his eyes and see if he still had "fight" in him.

I asked the vet what was wrong with him and she explained. I asked his condition, will he survive? She explained that he was weak but stable. He was being Iv fed as he could not eat on his own. They had just done exams on him two days ago so they were waiting for the results. The vet opened the cage and said if I wanted to take fotos of him that I could. I explained to her that I saw Davi's story on facebook and I wanted Vanusa to know that I was here to help. I spoke softly to Davi. He lifted his head and his eyes were clear, which is a good sign. I want this cat to survive. He is from the favela, like me. I want to help him if I can.

I spoke to Davi for about 10 minutes. He focused his eyes on me. I told him to fight and we will try to save him. I went down stairs to the place to pay and decided that Davi would get 400 reais today. I can always save again for another day to get my teeth fixed. 
I want this cat to survive!

UPDATE: This poor cat after so much suffering has passed over the rainbow bridge. Such a sad story of how humans can be so uncaring to throw a cat out into the street to fend for itself. I am in tears right now for the poor cat. Things like this affect me because animals are innocent in this word. We as humans, supposedly more intelligent, destroy so much. But it was nice to be part of this and trying to help this cat. His suffering is over and now he is in Peace!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How favela tourism can benefit the community!

How Tourism in the Favela can make a difference.

I just had a person email me and ask me about how this kind of tourism can benefit the favela. I can only talk about what WE do. What others do is not of our concern.

We started this tourism company back in 2008 with the idea of using socially responsible tourism to raise money to support different projects here in the community. This is how we operate. If it can’t help the favela, then what kind of social work is this?

The idea is to try to help as many people in the community benefit from the projects we support. We have several projects we support. We have our own NGO Spin Rocinha, Dj project and other projects that we are involved in.

There is an ethical side to tourism here that needs to be considered and I went through lots of taking with residents about my idea. The first is that at all times, residents and the community be treated with the utmost respect. This includes if approached by locals, to greet them and engage in conversation. Just as you want to "know" the favela, they might have interest in you and where you are from. Second, is about who and what you can photograph. Most people do not want to be in photographs, so don't take their picture. 

3 important factors when considering a tour like this:

1.) The visits/tours be done by local people. ALL of our guides are people who live here or were born here. We only employ people who live inside the community and all of our guides participate in some kind of social project outside of what we do.

2.) The tour must be on foot walking through the community for more than 3 hours. On foot you see everything and are part of our community. Rocinha is the largest favela community in Brazil. There is no way that you will receive a quality experience in under 3 hours. When you walk in the community, residents appreciate this. It shows you are not afraid of us and want to get to "know" the community better.

3.) Companies that support local projects and initiatives that benefit the favela. This is our most important aspect of why we do this work. Since I started in this work, I still live in the same small rented one bedroom apartment. I do not live a extravagant lifestyle nor do I want to. I enjoy helping with present and future projects. Other than our Dj School Spin Rocinha, currently we also support Favela Phoenix by donating school supplies to their English school.
We also support a Local Daycare called Refugio e Fortaleza run by Luciana who cares for 32 children between the ages of 1 year up to 6 years old. The object of the work we do is to try to help projects that receive no help. At this time we are working on connecting with more projects here to attract interest from outside people. The idea is to create a better understanding about favela culture and break down the barriers of stigma for those living in these communities.

Jody King, director of Favela Phoenix receiving school supplies from Favela Adventures.

We also started supporting (PLAR) "Projeto Lar Ao Animais da Rocinha", and outreach organization that spays and neuters stray dogs and cats in the favela. We just donated 2 carrying cases for animals to be transported to the vet. We always talk with the organization about other ways we can help.

Cristiano with the two carriers we bought for Lar ao Animais da Rocinha.

Here is a breakdown of our organization:

I am going to explain the 6 parts of FAVELA ADVENTURES. We are not just a tourism company. The idea is to use tourism here as a way to benefit the people here. The more people we can involve with out work, the better for everybody. Its obvious that we can not help everybody but if everyone does a little to help out, then great for everyone.

 1.) Tours of our community- This is the base of how everything else operates. Without the tours, the other 5 parts would not exist. The tours of Rocinha are the only income from our work. Our visits are walking through the community explaining how life operates here. How are we different many ask. All our guides reside in Rocinha and part of our projects or other projects inside the favela. Our tours are longer than most starting with 4 hour visits. We feel that the only way you can really understand a place is to be here for a while. Our tours are supported by the community because of the other volunteer work we do here.

2.) Dj School Spin Rocinha- Started in August of 2011 is our social project. We teach residents from 16-58 years old who reside in Rocinha. Currently we have about 16 sudents and operate the classes 6 days a week, from 7-10pm Monday-Saturday. We have a professional studio with the top of the line DJ equipment. For those wanting a career in DJ'ing we can refer them for jobs when they are ready. Spin Rocinha is a comprehensive program and students are provided instruction in the art of Dj'ing for free! We welcome Dj's from all over the world to come and visit our school to see or to give a workshop. Check out some of our previous posts of visitors we have had here to our school. We are developing the next generation of Dj's!

3.) Volunteers- We also receive many inquiries from foreigners wanting to help the favela by offering to volunteer. We are not a business for this. We can refer you to several different projects who have told us that they are open to volunteers. Basic spoken portuguese certainly helps the experience for the visitor. If you are interested in helping out here please send us some information about yourself, why you want to volunteer and what projects you have interest in. we are connected to about 15 different projects, anything from Sports, Art or Music related activities. It helps if you have a Facebook page because we can then refer you to the page of the project that you are interested in. You can look over their page and see if the project interests you. We do not believe volunteers should need to pay for volunteering so please do your research on this. We give you the referral to the project and you do the rest. The projects that we work with DO NOT expect foreigners to pay money to volunteer. What I do recommend though is if you are going to volunteer at an art school, that you bring some art materials as a "donation" to the project. This way the materials directly are beneficial to the project. We do not recommend giving money to any projects as this sets up the project expecting or only depending on outside help.

4.) Donations- This is a fairly new project that we have started. About 2 years ago I was receiving emails from visitors asking how they could help out with donations. When I first started doing the tours in 2008, I would give art supplies to Tio Lino's Art School here in Rocinha. Once I started the Dj School, my focus changed on directing our money to be spent on Dj equipment which is very expensive. As this was happening for us, I noticed that Tio Lino was getting help with sponsorship and even had a building built for his art school. So our money focused on building our Dj School. But still people would ask about donating things. So, I had this idea of finding projects inside the favela that really needed help and who were not receiving anything from anybody. Without letting too many know of my idea, I would find projects that needed help and then began to focus donations to be for specific projects. For example we help a Art Project called Espaco das Artes by giving them specifically art supplies and any materials they request that they need for their art projects. Many of the donations come from the help individuals who find out about Pack for a Purpose, a non profit that encourages travellers to bring donations to projects in developing countries. We have had huge success and with that we can help so many more projects in need.

5.) Housing- Many times after tours are given, people ask us about volunteering but they want to stay inside the community. We can help them find a place to stay. We have access to residents who have separate apartments to rent or home stays with a family. The idea is to have people from outside of Brazil get to know and understand favela life. If you want to stay in a guesthouse, we have a place where visitors/volunteers can stay. Its a 4 story house with plenty of room for 8 guests. Check out our housing option here. There are other options as well. Contact us for more information.

6.) We can facilitate 
individual projects here. In the past we have helped people from outside of Brazil who are involved in many different projects. They contacted me wanting to make interesting projects with the locals. In the future we plan to help facilitate some Basketball Clinics that will be run by Nate, a former visitor who runs a project in Philadelphia called "Books before Ball". These clinics are important to the development of youth, where the focus is on combining Education with Basketball.

Daniel Hoffman from the USA, brought disposable cameras to the favela and distributed them to children and adults to document their lives. When he receives the cameras back from the residents, he is going to make a blog and put the fotos and profiles of the people who took part in this project. See the post here about this:

Beccy McCray from England came and stayed in Rocinha and we referred her to two art projects that wanted to take part in her art project. read more here:

Ethan and Jade King from the USA, made a big impression on our football fans with their kind contribution. read more here: 

We just finished helping documentary film makers who were here to show the other side of the favela, the good stories that need to be told.

These are just some of the projects we have facilitated here in our favela and we are always open to making more great things happen here. If you have an idea of a project you would like to do, contact me and we can make it happen!

These are the 6 parts to what we do 
here. This is why our website url is ".org". We want tourism to benefit and help as many people in our community!  Thank you to all of the tourists that have visited with us over the last 7 years. We are slowly building to our objective to by a building here to house art and music projects. To contact us about anything regarding Rocinha, you can contact Zezinho at: visitrocinha@gmail.com  

But for now, the work we are doing is very rewarding! Always thankful!