Let’s be honest… social volunteering sucks! After all, who wants to spend their spare or traveling time living where nobody wants to live, right? For example, let’s take a look at what happens at Favela Experience in the favela Vidigal.
1. Well, to start with, it happens that someday you wake up early and looking through your bedroom’s window you just find this sunrise.
2. Or you may wake up a bit earlier and go with the local guide Russo to the top of Dois Irmãos Mountain, the favela’s hill and see the sunrise from there.
3. I know… who wants to wake up that early anyways? Let’s move on then. Going down you may get to know Graça or Paulinho, who will tell you how they turned a dumpsite into the Sitiê ecological park, right at the heart of Vidigal. It’s not that inspiring, right?
4. Back home, after some tropical fruits, Brazilian coffee, and coconut yogurt, about 10 am you go to work at the hostel. You are living at the favela, remember? Well, the hostel is about 10 minutes up the hill from your place and it's already 30ºC, but guess what? Once you get there you can take a fresh shower at this ordinary terrace.
5. You get to work for a while (that’s why you are here after all) and you join in a tour to the biggest favela in Brazil, Rocinha. Erik, the local guide, tells you about the history of the favelas, the myths and realities about Rocinha, and his experience living there since he has born. Who cares right? Oh, you also get to know Cesar and his family, local residents who offer you a fresh juice and many funny stories. One more thing before you leave… why don’t you have lunch at a local restaurant with Erik and his friends?
6. Yes, by now you should be thinking, why didn't I report I was sick this morning? But wait, there is more. From there you may head towards the favela Santa Marta, to meet the local guide Marcos and walk the trail up the hill to the viewpoint Dona Marta. It’s not that impressive, right? Moreover, after such a walk, you only get to have a beer at a local bar in the heart of the favela Santa Marta.
7. Wait, did I mention what happens on your days off? Worst case scenario, you spend the whole day hanging out with friends and colleagues at the community beach, just in front of the favela (or in the carnival street parties, as shown in the pictures below). Only if you are feeling brave, you may get to go around the so-called "marvelous city" you are living at. Really, I can’t imagine why people may want to come and spend their time volunteering in a favela in Rio de Janeiro...
Enough of sarcasm, right? Join us at Favela Experience to turn prejudices into enriching experiences for tourists while helping locals to build their sustainable way of living. What do you get in exchange? You simply get to know the most incredible and inspiring people while you live some of the best experiences in your life. Don't worry, you are still a few minutes away from Copacabana, Ipanema and Lapa in case you want to have some ordinary day once in a while.
- Tiago Santos has a MSc in Computer Science from the University of Córdoba in Argentina and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Rennes in France and the University of Potsdam in Germany. Besides working mostly in research and software development for bioinformatics, he also used to work as a rafting guide for several years at the Juramento river in Salta, Argentina. Currently, he is a Worldpacker, exchanging his photography (instagram @tiagosantosph) and video making (~ and blogging, right? ~) skills for accommodation at Favela Experience.