Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How Tourism Benefits Rocinha

A group of Americans from L.A., Chicago and New York were in Rio for a bachelor party and wanted to visit Rocinha with the special interest in playing football (soccer) with the locals, so we set it up. The Americans decided they would wear Flamengo Shirts (red & black) honoring one of Rio's most popular teams. They played well and gave the favela boys a run but lost 9-7. 

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 2007 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 it?

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 talking 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 by donating school supplies to an English school.

We also support a Local Daycare called Refugio e Fortaleza run by Luciana Santos 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.

Here is a photo of tourists bringing donations to Luciana's Creche. We were in the middle of the visit and decided to stop by the daycare as a few of the students in the group were interested in how child care works in Rocinha when both parents are working.

Here is Jody with donations that we were able to contribute to his English school. Lately we have been sending him volunteers that want to contribute to his school. 

In January 2017 we also started supporting "Projeto Flor e Xavier", run by 
Ruth Silva. I have always loved animals so this was a project that we were interested in helping. Her project helps to spay and neuters stray dogs and cats in the favela. We have donated monthly 10-15 kilo bags of cat food for her 55 cats and 7 dogs. Or we help pay for medicine if the animals get sick or need to be castrated. We always talk with the organization about other ways we can help.

This is Ruth's house where she cares for the animals.

Ruth is in the process with her husband of building a Shelter for these animals. The place will house all her animals. In the future they want to build a second floor and create a dog & cat type hostel where locals can place their animals if the go away and need a place where their pet can stay well cared for. The money earned through this will help her fund her project. We have helped to buy bricks so they can begin construction. They started last week putting in the cement foundation and building the walls.

When the tours are busy we can contribute more and Ruth understands this. We buy the cat food or medicine, then I call her and she comes to pick it up at the pet shop. I have 3 cats so I am well known at the Rocinha Pet Shop. Sometimes if we buy a lot, they will give us discount which helps Ruth's project. 

Our Organization

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.
Our tours invest in the community specifically by providing jobs for guides who live here.

This area is called Rua 4 and there's a huge graffitti wall. These guests were interested in local art work.

The visitors always enjoy spontaneous activities like a Capoeira presentation by the local boys.

Guests from China had the opportunity to meet local celebrity Caio, who is a moto taxi driver and directs traffic in Rocinha. He loves meeting people from all over the world.

"Rambo da Rocinha", another celebrity, helping a visitor with her cel phone.

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 5 days a week, from 7-9:30pm 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.

 A mix of locals and foreigners working on an outdoor painting project.

Dana from Argentina spent two weeks volunteering here at a creche and she love it so much that she will be returning in December.

4.) Donations- This is a fairly new project that we have started. About 4 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 Rogerio Roque runs a place called Art Space. We would give the poorest projects school or art supplies. 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.

Rogerio Roque who came to our Dj school to pick up some art supplies for his project called "Art Space". 

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 3 story house with plenty of room for 6 guests. 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 helped 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