Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Those with the least, help the most!

It's amazing the people you can meet in a community of about 300,000 people. I have made it my life's mission to help in any way possible to connect with others who need help. Or meet others that have the same idea. About two weeks ago I met Luciana who has a creche (daycare) "Creche Refugio Fortaleza" in her home. I met her son months ago but thought it best after hearing about the work she does.

The front of Luciana's home that also acts as a daycare

Luciana is 48 years old and lives in a very humble home at the top of Rua 2. She was born and raised in Rocinha and is raising her kids here as well. Because of health issues, she decided to open up her home to other children as she was raising her own. She at the same time was raising her young daughter so this stay at home work was best for her. She opened her creche in August of 2013. Her creche is a home run "business" but she makes equal to about 800 reais a month. As many of you know this is not a lot of money to live but she manages. She is married and her husband works as a construction laborer. They barely make it with their combined income but they don't complain.

I decided to stop by and distribute some donations of art supplies that she can use for the kids.

 Luciana with some of her "children".

After visiting her "Creche" or home. I knew this would be a great fit for us. For me, the idea is to create bridges where the most needy can access the help they need. Luciana has the creche but she also organizes donation drives in Rocinha. She collects unwanted clothing and shoes and the distributes them to some of the poorer familes in the favela. She has connections to an area called "Palmerinha" in "City of God" favela which she says is one of the poorest and the people there are forgotten. For someone who has so little, she gives so much.

These are the type of people who I want to work with. In August we have some teachers from outside of Brazil coming by to visit the creche and make a tour of Rocinha. We are going to organize that part of the money from the tour will go towards the creche and their needs.

I want to make this part of our tour route where people can donate items directly to the creche. At this time she takes care of about 25 children between the ages of 1 year and 10 years of age. I asked her what she needs the most to sustain the creche. I told her to make a list, so here it is:

Powdered Milk
Diapers Sizes Small-XL
Hygienic Products
Used Toys
Rubber Mats (for children to sit on)
Sippy Cups
Plastic Spoons
Plastic Plates
Colored Pencils
Crayons Scissors (for Children)
Drawing paper

If any of you who come on our tours wish to visit the creche and contribute with a few of these supplies we can organize this for you.
Contact: visitrocinha@gmail.com

Below are some photos of the kids from the creche.


University of Minnesota teachers and students came by and were able to donate 250 reais worth of items for the creche. Thank you to Frances Durkin for facilitating this meeting and hope you return soon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

After School Homework Club in Rocinha

One of the challenges for young students is access to quiet space to study. Houses in Rocinha are small so with the average family of 4 people, theres not much space. Once kids reach about 12, they want private or quiet places to study without interruption of their siblings.

Rosa for the past 10 years has been tutoring children in Rocinha, helping them with their studies. The children she helps are between 8-14 years old. Sometimes she gets older students high school age or adults returning to finish their secondary education. Her classes are open to anyone that needs help. She charges a small fee of 70 reais a month each student. Rosa's tutoring classes run everyday from 9-11am and 2-4pm Monday thru Friday.

What Rosa does is something much needed for students. The Public school system is awful and the kids only go to school for about 4.5 hours a day. What can a student learn in 4.5 hours? The problem in Rio for the public school is that there are not enough teachers or schools, so this is why such short school hours. Rocinha, like any place has kids that want a future. Many want professional jobs when they get older but are put at a disadvantage.

The public school does not prepare youth for university, so this is where Rosa comes in. With her helping the students, as they get older they will have better study skills and a support system when they prepare for exams.

I had some extra school supplies in the house so I went by and gave them to Rosa to give to the students. We always try to find projects that are in need of supplies. Below are some of the photos from Rosa's classes.

I want to thank all of those visitors who have donated school supplies. Rosa's students thank you! We will continue to search for projects in need! For more information on donating supplies or wanting to volunteer contact Zezinho at: visitrocinha@gmail.com 

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Path to Success: Marco Paulo

Alguns lutam pela fama.
Alguns lutam pelo dinheiro.
Eu nasci lutando, e luto porque eu amo! - Marcos Paulo


Some fight for fame
Some fight for money
I was born to fight, and I fight because I love it! - Marcos Paulo

For many who live here in Rocinha, life is a daily challenge of survival. To live in a favela there is the social stigma of not being "equal" in Brazilian society. Much of that has to do with lack of proper or equal educational opportunities. Other preconceived ideas have to do with stereotypes that favelados are always trying to disprove. Very few people here are involved in criminal activity, most are hard working individuals who just earn less money. 

I have always been attracted to stories of athletes, specifically fighters as I was once in the same position as a youth. Life was always complicated for me. Sports was my outlet and way of free expression. With sports I felt I had value and could accomplish anything. Sports gave me the confidence to succeed at life. 

In January and February of 2016 we were able to raise 2,250 reais through our Favela Tours to help send 3 athletes to Thailand to compete in the World Championships. I feel great that we could contribute to these young people having an experience of a lifetime. Many here in favelas will never get this chance. And Marcos winning the belt was the icing on the cake. We are hoping that are tours continue to be popular so we can help send more athletes on exchanges or to International Competitions.

If first had contact with Diego Buchecha when I met him at the Rua 2 Community Center and introduced a French tourist to him. The French Tourist was wanting to write a story about Buchecha and his team of Muay Thai fighters. I always admired Buchecha for his commitment to his students and the team Nockdown Brasil he created. Now in Rio, Nockdown Brasil fighters are highly respected with many champions being created at their school. 

One such fighter is Marcos Paulo or "Vuvuzela" as his teammates call him. He was born in São Gonçalo in Rio. He moved to Rocinha 7 years ago for better opportunities. He used to get in trouble as a youth. Around 16 years old, a friend of his once saw him fighting in the street and told him that he should train as a fighter. After one year of training he entered his first amateur competition and he won the belt. Of course this motivated Marcos to continue training and competing. 

There were many difficulties because he had to work to help his mother and continue his studies in school. And now added on to his workload was finding the time to train. From 2011-2012 because of the stress of doing so much, he lost several competitions. This was discouraging him but he made a decision to dedicate himself to training more. He saw better results in his competitions. 

In 2013 he made the decision to turn professional as a fighter. He entered the Muay Thai Titanium Cup and was able to win the belt and became the Featherweight 65kg division Champion. 

Marcos with his coach Diego Buchecha, leader of Nockdown Brasil.

Life is not without its challenges in 2014, he made his title defense and unfortunately lost the belt to a very tough athlete "Arnaldo Fly". But he kept on training and competing and was able to collect two more belts, Itaborai Regional and Regional RFC in the same year, thus holding 3 belts. 

In 2015 he fought again in the Titanium and was able to regain the belt but this time at 60kg or Rooster weight class. 

Marcos had this to say about his victory, "On June 6th, 2015 I received an offer to fight in Sao Paulo by Titanium Copa Muay Thai where I entered as the underdog. My opponent had several National and International competitions won, but I was able to beat him and showed that I was the better athlete."

With the victories opportunities did not stop. 

In March of 2016, I was invited to compete in the World Championships in Bangkok Thailand. There I fought in 3 fights, winning 2 but unanimous decision and in the final I got the knockout to become the World Champion and the belt!

This was always my dream to compete at the highest level. I now have 5 belts.

But my thirst for victory does not end there. I continue to train as I am focused on my first title defence. I am sure it will be a great rematch and a awesome fight! I hope my opponent is ready because I am working hard to defend this belt and will not allow anything in my path to victory! 

I am proud to live in Rocinha on Street 2 with my wife and daughter. Right now I am only 22 years old with plenty of time to develop my fighting skills. My goals are to keep training but I want to try MMA. I currently work at Platform Body and Personal Training, a fitness club in Sao Conrado where I teach Muay Thai classes and train. I dream one day to buy my own house here in Rocinha so I don't have to pay rent. I love Rocinha. Despite some problems, its a wonderful place to live!

After Team Brasil came back from Thailand, I thought they deserved a party for the job well done by Marcos and his Teammates at Trapia restaurant! 

    Marcos with his belt and the Cake for Rocinha's Fighters Nockdown Brasil!

All of these fighters are winners. The awesome pride of our favela Rocinha!

And a photos of Marcos trying a competition in amateur MMA. In 2016 he has fought in 3 MMA matches, and won all 3. Seems like he is off to a good start in MMA as well. But he wants to continue for a while in Muay Thai as well. He has a great future in front of him!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Inova Urbis: New Development for Residents!

Inova Urbis is a group of architects wanting to improve the housing in Rocinha.

Inova Urbis is a company new to Rocinha. I remember receiving a flyer a few months back from an architect intern talking about this company coming to Rocinha. I was not sure exactly what they were all about until yesterday when I went to one of their Open House meetings as an invitee.

Im not sure why they invited me but I am always open to new things going on here in Rocinha. I went to their office located at Estrada da Gavea, 587 on the first floor.

Their office was easy to find and accessible to transport on the main street running through Rocinha. The building on the right of the photo, you can see the red sign "Yes". This is where the entrance is. When you go in go up the staircase of your left and there are signs that direct you to their office.

Their office is 2 parts, one with a huge table and seating area for small meetings.

The other side of the room is floor models showing the kind of the work they do.

One of the architects explaining floor plans with Lourdes, a residents using their services.

So, what exactly do Inova Urbis do?

Their objective is to help the residents of Rocinha to gain access to resources helping them to better their living spaces.

Their services of helping you with trained architects is to better the interior or exterior design of your home. Inova Urbis offers this service FREE to residents of Rocinha.

Their Services are:
1.) Your house to be reformed and designed by Architects
2.) Getting estimates of how much the materials and work will cost.
3.) They will only refer you to their trusted partners
4.) They can help you to get financing to have this work done.

Inova Urbis works with a construction store in Barra called Leroy Merlin. Their store provides everything you need for home improvements. Inova Urbis also works with trusted construction companies who do quality work for affordable prices.

Inova Urbis works with many student architects doing internships who help favela residents through the steps. Below is a photo of a employee of Inova Urbis helping a resident at a construction store in Rocinha.

Here are some of the homes that Inova Urbis has worked on.

I hope to someday use their services when I am able to buy my own home here. They also welcome foreign students who want to do an internship in Rocinha. For those interested you can contact them through their facebook page.