Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Recycling Project in Rocinha

Most favelas have this challenge of how to deal with waste and garbage. The government tried to institute a idea of building a cable car here but the majority of residents didnt want this. The residents complained and rallied to have other more vital issues facing the community. The most important challenge for most favelas today, including Rocinha, is waste management and education. These go hand in hand. If we can educate the residents about proper garbage removal and recycling, Rocinha would be such a better place to live.

Finally two months ago I started to see these guys in green uniforms around the community and one of my neighbors works with the crew and was telling me about a new city government funded project being initiated in Rocinha. I thought, wow, this is what we need. Not only is it good for the environment but the workers can earn money from the companies that buy the recycling.

Today, I made a tour with a group who live in the US and work with waste management. One of my neighbors, 9 year old Alexandra, creates art that she sells which is made out of recycled materials, so this fit with the theme of this tour. The group bought 3 pieces of art work from Alexandra. This money earned helps to support Alexandra, her mother and her disabled older brother.

The visitors work on recycling mostly in hospitals in the Bay Area (San Francisco), but they wanted to see our new project. After eating a hearty lunch, we went by the recycling project so they could see how "De Olho no Lixo" operates.

Here, the workers wanted a photo with Laura and her friends from the US here in Rocinha checking out the recycling initiatives going on inside the community. Laura is in the middle of the photo giving a thumbs up for this project.

Some background on the project:

The goal of this recycling project is to develop a correct way to deal with waste management in the favelas of Rocinha, Roquete Pinto and Praia de Ramos. Today, the focus is on Rocinha.

As a result of the technical cooperation between the secretary of state for the Environment and Viva Rio Socio Ambiental, with support of the Association of Supermarkets in Rio, the "De Olho de Lixo" project develops the proper management of solid waste in Rocinha in order to minimize the negative impacts caused by garbage. We have problems in certain areas of Rocinha where people through garbage into the open sewers and when it rains heavily the sewers over flow. People can get sick and these conditions also can attract rats and other vermin.

"De Olho no Lixo" is trying to correct the ways of the past by educating people to recycle and not just throw garbage anywhere. We need everybody to get in line with these new ideas to help our community and improve health of many of the people, especially those who live close to the open sewers. They are the most vulnerable.

This project considers that in order to achieve effective results in the face of the current problems, the community needs to consider the Structural aspects (physical, operational and logistic infrastructure) promoting education and communication for the environment with the promotion of Art and Culture. In other words getting the residents involved and learning how recycling can also generate income.

Check out this youtube video for a better understanding of the whole project here

This project contracted and trained 30 socio-environmental agents, all residents of Rocinha to collect waste in the community. The materials collected will be used for educational workshops promoted by "De Olho no Lixo". This project aims to raise awareness and get residents in understanding that garbage can be transformed into art and this art can be sold. There are 2 projects within 
"De Olho no Lixo". Two free courses are developed and on going in Rocinha: Funk Verde and EcoModa.

In the first 12 months of operation, more than 450 tons of garbage was collected in several areas of Rocinha and Sao Conrado. The intention is to leave a legacy and continue this mind set of turning garbage into profit. The city governments plan is to also include classes in the schools teaching students about the value of recycling. 


Inaugurated in July 2017, Rocinha found a perfect space to create this project. Its located next to an area called "Roupa Suja" (Dirty Clothes), and houses a recycling structure where all recycled materials start out, a building for the EcoModa and Funk Verde projects as well. The space before was degraded and filled with lots of trash. The project cleaned up the area and now has these projects running daily. Funk Verde makes music out of recycled cans, boxes or whatever else they can find. Ecomoda turns garbage into fashion. 

Getting the Community on Board

The cooperatives function is to perform the service of collecting of recyclable waste generated in the favela. The cooperative will work on a self management theme under the guidance of trained locals. They will help to educate the locals on separating waste in their homes and the workers in the coop will go door to door to collect only what is recyclable. The material will be taken to the headquarters at the bottom of Roupa Suja and will under go sorting. It will them be compressed wrapped up, weighed and stored on site for sale. All work will be accompanied by technical advisors. The materials arriving at the recycling center will be reused during the art and education workshops - EcoModa and Funk Verde. Musical Instruments, clothing and accessories are created from this material delivered by locals and merchants.

Unemployed because of the construction crisis in Rio, Jose Antonio Trajano, 33, leads the initiative and expects it will general lots of opportunity for the workers in Rocinha. "The ambition is to grow, to give to and improve the community. This project has given many opportunity to enter the job market." Trajano started the program last year when the NGO Viva Rio Socio-Ambiental paired with the Environmental Secretariat, and the State Environmental Institute to offer training and start the project in Rocinha.  

The worshops of EcoModa and Funk Verde promote culture next to the exit of the Zuzu Angel Tunnel. Over 36 meters of Aluminum tiles, a graffiti panel painted by Carlos Esquivel (aka "Acme"), portrays the work of the De olho no Lixo and other projects developed at the site.

Almir Franca, designer and coordinator of EcoModa says that recycling has opened alternative doors to the current model of production in the (fashion) industry. "We teach fashion for reuse, to encourage the production process. People see in the project the potential of entering the labor market by a means that in addition to being accessible, generates a return to the favela.

Almir Franca teaching participants how to be creative with recycled clothing.

Advertising in addition to the making of instruments, the Funk Verde has classes of drumming, guitar, flute and keyboard. Regina Cafe, the coordinator believes that regardless of training professional musicians, the initiative has other qualities: It fosters young people's contact with art and contributes to the dissemination of culture by the community.

Regina directing the participants of Funk Verde. Notice the recycled instruments.

According to Regina, theres a constant search to make the instruments sound close enough to the factory or professionally made ones. The variety of materials used is enormous. "Buckets, Barrels, Cans of paint, soda cans, aluminum caps. All sorts of materials that would otherwise be thrown in a dump causing pollution, we can use. To make 10 rattles, I need at least 800 cans. So, it's a big project. We take a lot of materials from nature."

Although the focus tends to be on youth, there are adults who are taking part. Housewife Miriam Silveira, 47, is one of the most dedicated students. Two years ago she resumed her studies, learned to read and write and is now learning guitar through the Funk Verde project. Check out this youtube video of Funk Verde's work here.

Cultural Education allows participants to become better people and keeps them out of trouble. I see a lot of hope with this project only growing once the word gets out!

If you have interest to volunteer with this great environmental and artistic project "De Olho no Lixo" in Rocinha, please contact us at:


Monday, August 28, 2017

The angel who saves animals

These are some of Ruth's "family" at feeding time in her living room/kitchen area

Since I was 7 and received my first orange fluffy kitten, I was sold on pets and animals. As a child that young kitten followed me everywhere and was my best friend. Cats and dogs are domesticated and need us. They only give love and want to please. I have always preferred animals over many people. I have 3 cats and enjoy their tranquility and affection. Life can be crazy with stress, work, family and other things. Having a dog or cat is known to help de-stress after daily challenges. I don't think my life would be complete without helping animals in some way.

In Rocinha, there are many abandoned or homeless dogs and cats. Because of lack of education, people don't understand the importance of neutering and castrating their pets. Also because of macho culture many men think it's not right to "fix" their animals. But my question to these guys is who ends up caring for all the unwanted kittens and puppies? It's a big problem here.

I first met Ruth Silva about 8 months ago when I read a post online regarding a woman who needed help with her many animals. She was asking for help to buy medication for an animal in her care. I was looking for another project in Rocinha to help and this was perfect. I did some research and met Ruth to help her buy some cat food. Helping animals in Rocinha is important as many don't have the resources to help the homeless and abandoned animals.

Ruth lives in Dioneia with her husband and 54 cats and 7 dogs. These photos below show some of the pets in her care.

She runs an informal "shelter", out of her home for her family and the cats and dogs. She also had a childhood pet and fell in love with animals.

She always remembered having a dog or cats. She started caring for animals back in 1989. Ruth was born and raised in Rocinha and currently resides still in the house where she was born. She briefly moved out of Rocinha but always came back. She has no plans on leaving now as she is making big plans.

Where she lives in Dioneia is close to the woods and she has her 2 bedroom house and some open land next to the house. This open land they cleared and have started constructing the foundation for the building of the animals shelter.

Her goal is to within 6-8 months start building the shelter. The idea is to house the current "family" of pets she has now. She wants to build a second floor where it could serve as a pet "hotel", a place where for residents to leave their pets if the go on vacation or away. With the money she would earn with this, she could cover the costs of feeding the existing animals. I think this is a great idea. I want to see her able to create and live her dream of caring for these animals.

Her shelter would be the first of its kind in Rocinha and we really need something like this.

This photo shows the beginning foundation of what will be the animal shelter

Since January of 2017, I have helped paid for medicine, pay for vet services and bags of cat food to help her support the pets. I go to the pet store buy the food for her and then have her meet me so she can pick up the food. She has a motobike so she can transport these big bags easily.

With that many pets, I know she needs help. She is looking to creating a legal charity so should could get more help with her shelter and care. She has created a Facebook page for her project called Projeto Flor e Xavier that shows her work. I have explained to Ruth the importance of being transparent if you have a NGO. This means not only honesty but having donors able to see their contributions being put to use. It's great that when we buy a bag of cat food we know the animals are well fed. We know that her project is worthwhile in helping. Next step is for her to get her project registered by the city government.
Please go to her Facebook page and like it!

This photo is of Ruth with a receipt for the purchase of 117 bricks. I went to the construction store next to my house and I told them I wanted to spend 100 reais on bricks to help Ruth with the construction of the shelter. The construction store knows Ruth as she has bought many materials there before. So as our tours get busier, I want to be able to contribute more for her project but will still help when I can.

Anytime I give her money, she can be trusted that the money goes to her animals.

I recently met a woman who is living here in Rio who also wants to help Rita's project. She loves animals like Ruth does and I am going to set up a meeting. Maybe something can come of it.

Ruth needs help with the purchase of food for the dogs and cats. And access to a vet who can help her with reduced costs for castration and other necessities.

If you have interest to help Ruth, please contact me at
We can also organize visits if you would like to see Ruth's project.