Saturday, September 26, 2015

Update on future Community Center

Foto by Jody King

Recreational Space/Community Center

Rocinha needs more spaces for activities. I know of about 7 public spaces in Rocinha, but with a population of about 300,000, more public spaces are needed. Hopefully we can make something happen here to make this idea a reality.

I have always wanted to do something like this. But this idea was formed with a definite goal back in 2001. I always wanted to create something great that could live on beyond me. I was a dj for many years while living in Canada, the USA and Brazil. I have always had this passion for music and to spread the love of all kinds of music. After much talking to the residents and other Dj's in the community, I thought this would be a great fit.

I also have been an artist too. I enjoy drawing and painting. In the last few years I started designing and making t-shirts for fun and I have sold some. So art is something that I know people would want to get involved in. There are other art projects but there's always interest in more and having a building we could offer art classes. Drawing, painting, graffiti classes would be a great addition to our idea.

When I started making tours in my favela of Rocinha in 2008, I always had this idea of using the money we earned through the tours to make a project here. Nobody told me this, I just feel its the right thing to do. I did not really start to earn money until 2010. It was then my Dj school idea came to be. I spoke with many in the community about my idea and everybody thought it was a great idea. I think in the beginning many in the favela thought I was all talk. But we made it happen.

I always knew that I could make this happen. With a lot of working and saving money, Spin Rocinha was born on August 1, 2011. With old and inferior equipment we started running classes two days a week out of my living room in my small one bedroom apartment. Gradually over time we were able to acquire some top of the line Pioneer equipment and enrolment in the classes slowly grew. I moved out of the bedroom and into the living room/kitchen area. The bedroom because it was bigger, became the dj school. 

Many Dj’s from other countries and Brazil have given workshops for our students. Dj’s Copyflex, Lulu Rouge and Rasmus Schack from Denmark and Brazilians, Dj Tucho, Dj Duda Santtos, Flavia Xexeo Nath Carreiro are just some of the people who have passed through Spin Rocinha.

We currently have about 15 students enrolled in our programs. Right now our focus is on dj’ing and the techniques that go along with dj’ing. Unfortunately because of lack of funds we don’t have computers to teach production of music, but it is something we are definitely interested in as it is part of dj’ing. In the future we definitely want this to be part of our programs.

Our students are between 18-55 years old and people find out about us through word of mouth. We do not advertise because our current space can only accommodate about 10 people maximum. Classes are Monday thru Friday from 7pm until 9:30pm. The dj courses are free to all favela residents. For those interested in becoming a professional dj, playing in clubs etc, we have connections with some night clubs outside of the favela. The majority of our students are playing house or some kind of electronic music. But we currently have a few funk and hip hop enthusiasts.

Our school is gaining more attention and we are having more people stop by to see what Spin Rocinha is all about. We can not enrol any other students at this time because we don’t have the space. So, I have always wanted to create a community center as we have other interests that I think would combine well with this idea. 

Just last week, I met with 2 German representatives of Ableton Live, a computer software program that use used by dj's. When we have the community space, we will be able to have workshops to teach the students how to use this program. Lucas Ramos who lives in Gavea is a Ableton certified trainer who has said that he would like to work with Spin Rocinha.

We have joined forces with a University in England called  Loughborough University to help us raise money for the purchase of a building. There are four students who came here to visit Rocinha in June to do research on the favela and its needs. The students are part of a NGO called Enactus, which is an International non profit that encourages people to be social entrepreneurs. Their quote:

"Human progress depends on our ability to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit that lives within each of us and channel the unique talents, passions and ideas we each possess toward creating good in the world."

Enactus' idea is to find projects that they believe can make a difference in a community and also be sustainable. The students at Loughborough University that are part of Enactus Loughborough, that are working with us, have designed a marketing strategy to raise money for us. They have named the our project "Project Vida".  And here is the facebook page. Feel free to send them a message if you would like more information on how you can contribute to our goal!

The community center would consist of 3 floors with access to a rooftop
These are just ideas as this is open to change.

First floor
-open space
-small office
-bathroom (toilet & sink)
-storage room 

Second floor
-dj classroom
-production room with computers
-recording room
-1 room for art classes
-1 room for other classes
-bathroom (toilet & sink)
-small office

Third floor
-2-3 rooms for guests to stay
-bathroom with shower facilities
-living room area
-small kitchen area

-open area, small service area room for washing, hanging clothes 

Ideas for classes
-Rocinha Jiu Jitsu
-English classes
-Art classes
-Grafitti classes
-Health & Nutrition
-Youth and Adult Sexual Health and STD's
-Entrepreneurship classes
-Silk Screening
-Classes for tourism, creating more favela tour guides
-Photography & Film Making
-Yoga & Meditation
-Theatre Group
-Meeting Space for organizations that need a place
-any other projects

First Floor- Because this would be an open space, we could have Rocinha Jiu Jitsu, theatre groups, capoeira, yoga & meditation and use as a meeting space. The room would have foldable tables and chairs that would be easy to store off to the side if we are to need full use of the space. There will be a small office for operations of the community center and will also be used as a tourism office. The plans is to have a big open space to accomodate many projects but the floor would be matted for dance, jiu jitsu and capoeira classes. These are just ideas right now but with my history in Jiu Jitsu, I would really like to be able to offer Rocinha Jiu Jitsu a permanent home. 

Second Floor- This floor would have the spaces for Spin Rocinha Dj School but there would be other rooms for other projects. One room would be used for anything art related, painting, drawing, grafitti and silk screening. The second room would be open for any kind of classes like English, entrepreneurship or any kind of health services & sexual health classes for the residents.

Third Floor-  This floor is where future volunteers of the various project can stay while helping out. There would be 2-3 rooms with space for 2 people to stay in each room. A common area with chairs and sofas for relaxation with cable tv and computer with internet that the volunteers can use. A small kitchen area where the volunteers can cook. A large bathroom to accomodate as well.

The Rooftop- This will be an open area with a small service area room off to the side. This room will have a washing machine where residents can wash and hang clothes. The open area will be used for small parties and bbq's. 

Sustaining this building would come through the various visitors from outside of Brazil who would stay in the favela. They would pay a small amount to live in a shared room with one other person. Also, parties would help to generate income for the community center. Tourism will also contribute to the function of the center.

Community Center Projects

There are many projects that exist in Rocinha but don't have a permanent home. I have already spoken to 2 people who have existing projects that will need space to operate them. One is Favela Pheonix English School. They currently have a space located at a church in Fundacao area of Rocinha but they are looking to expand their programs, so they will need more space. Our building will be closer to the middle of the favela. Depending on Favela Pheonix expansion, we want to make a space open to them as there is a big need for language classes, specifically English. 

The other project is a art project run by Rogerio Roque called "Espaco das Artes" or Art Space. We also have former volunteers that would like to return to Rocinha and create art classes. As we get closer to acquisition of this building there will be other projects that will be part of the plan. Each project will operate under their own direction. The community center will just manage the space and help promote their project.

Operational costs and Sustainability
With a project of this size, there will be costs. We expect to run the building, the following costs we need to consider. Electricity, Internet, Cable Tv, Cleaning supplies, toilet paper and possibly a person to clean the building once a week. Of course those with projects will be expected to keep their areas clean, but sweeping, mopping and cleaning the bathrooms will be needed. Once the building is bought, there wont be any extra costs as far as taxes. After we have the building, there will be some reforms to do to build out the rooms on the second and third floors especially.

We have found a building that we are interested in buying. The building which was a Jehova's Witness place is selling their place because they built a new church just down the street. Here are some fotos below.

The building from the outside. 

First floor 

Second floor 

Second floor 

Second floor roof. This roof is removable and we can build up one more floor. 

 From 2nd floor looking at the entrance to the building and the street.

 From the 2nd floor looking at the entrance of the building. To the right are two bathrooms.

From inside the building first floor looking at the door to the street.

This building was for sale about 6 months ago but this is just an idea of a possible space. I don't know if the building is already sold. But we are constantly keeping our eyes open for available spaces.

For more information you can contact Project Vida here
or Zezinho at:

Hip Hop Community Event

Recently in the last year or so, there have been a lot more community events showcasing the talent of Rocinha and visitors. The Praca de Roupa Suja which is normally used for Futsal or basketball has seen an increase of community events. Today was no different with the ROCINHA HIP HOP - "Reducao de Danos" (Reduction of Damage).

The sign which reads "Reducao de danos" is significant of GBCR's influence on youth to not use drugs, smoke or drink". So its very much a group that encourages positive things. Behind where the men are standing in the foto above are pictures of  a "pill", a "alcohol bottle" and a "cigarette" all with a red cross through it.

The event started around 12 noon with visits from Dj's, MC's and Break Dancers from as far away as Sao Paulo. Some of Rocinha's MC's were also present,
Mc Bolt, Weelf Real and Mc Oz. And Luck GBCR who is the director of the hip hop group called GBCR was also there helping to promote the event. Dj Marcelinho MG was on the turntables!

Here is a video from one of the dance offs between Mari and Uni
Mari vs Uni Rocinha Hip Hip

I was able to get some fotos of the hip hop event. See below!

Every event has to have its Dj's!  Dj Marcelinho MG on the right.

Weelf entertaining the crowd!

Mc Weelf and Mc Bolt both from Rocinha put on a show.

Judges of the hip hop battle final dance off!

B-Boy showing his stuff! Nice windmills!

Another dancer showing his stuff!

A hip hop dancer from Sao Paulo who won a battle with another dancer.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Favela Pheonix English School opening September 28th in Rocinha

Rocinha, with its population of almost 300,000 people is always in need of new projects. With the coming Olympic Games and Rio being a city that heavily relies of tourism, learning a English is an advantage. Currently we have about 5 English projects or schools in Rocinha. But the favela could always use more educational opportunities for the residents.

I often get asked if I can teach people English. The problem is, I can speak the language but have no idea where to start if I was to teach somebody. I know of many volunteers who come here to help many of the different NGO's that include English classes in their programs, so I pass on the information about these various projects to the locals.

This new school opening up in Laboriaux is needed because Laboriaux is at the farthest top of the favela you can go and there are few if any social projects or NGO's there. So this is a great need to approximately 3,000 residents that live in Laboriaux.

Favela Pheonix is a project started by Jody King, a English guy living in Rocinha. He had told me that his idea came to be about 9 months ago when he was living in England. A few of his friends gave him the idea to start a charity in Rocinha. So, thats what Jody has done. He has a few sponsors that are helping fund the operations of his school. He was able to get access to a building thanks to a resident Gunther, who supports his idea. Another resident Marcos was able to help with the donation of 19 students desks. A white board now also hangs on the wall of the classroom.

Favela Adventures has received many donations from visitors to Rocinha. I wanted to help Jody because I believe in his project and I want to see it grow.
I went through donations we had from the past few months and passed on many school supplies so Jody can start his classes.  Dictionaries, flash cards, work books, notebooks, pens, pencils, sharpeners and paper, enough to last a while. Favela Adventures will continue to support his project.

Jody with the school supplies.

This past week Jody, Gustavo and Fabricio were able to pickup the student desks for Jody's house and bring them to the main street. Once there Rogerio, a friend of Jody's who is a professional mover, was able to bring his truck around to transport the desks to the schools location at the top of the hill.  Here are some fotos of the moving.

Gustavo and Fabricio waiting for the moving truck to arrive.

Fabricio and Gustavo on the back of the truck, ready to transport the desks to the new school.

Gustavo, Jody and Fabricio in the back of the moving truck

Fabricio carrying a desk with Gustavo behind him.

Favela Pheonix English School will be opening Monday September to start the first class. Below are fotos of the classroom.

Standing by the white board: Gunther (owner of the building) to the left and Dorian Carmichael (one of the teachers)

Jody has already enrolled about 26 students for the classes. There will be two teachers who will teach morning and evening classes. Students will be aged 14 years to adult for now. As the project grows, children's classes will be added.
Favela Pheonix is off to a good start! 

Dorian and Anne Marie Moran will be the teachers starting off the program. Both teachers have experience and look forwards to new students to share their expertise. Anne Marie has said "I am proud to be joining as one of the teachers on his team! Jody's school is a great example of how a positive impact can be made on a community in the right way."

Classes have begun and are off to a great start!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Street signs in Rocinha

At the top of Rocinha there is a city administration building that serves to function in Rocinha. The new project that was started a few days is to give more organization in the favela.

After a few days of walking through the community, Sidnei Ferreira and his team are putting up signs, putting up speed bumps and signals to help bring better safety for pedestrians and traffic. They will be painting cross walks in the areas where they have the signs. Below are some fotos of the work they are doing. We are still waiting for a solution to our garbage and sanitation problems. 

 Putting up another "Attention, reduce your speed" sign

The sign closest in the foto with the big "E" says parking for motorcycles. The two signs with "E" designate where parking for the motorcycles begins and ends.

Yellow sign to the left of the foto: Attention reduce your speed. The sign to the right with the "E" with a red line through it means "No parking" along the yellow line.

Cross walk ahead 50 meters

Bus stop

Attention: Reduce your speed

Pedestrian cross on the strip (crosswalk)

Pedestrian cross on the strip (crosswalk)

Pedestrian cross on the strip (crosswalk)

On September 17th they also started the process of asphalting Portao Vermelho. This area has always existed with a dirt road for about 40 years. It was very problematic especially when we had heavy rains. The dirt street would become a thick mud which would cause problems for residents to come and go. Here are some fotos taken by the workers in the community.

One resident said that they never thought that this area would ever get asphalted.
Finally access will be so much easier for the residents who live in Portao Vermelho.