After recently visiting the Rochina favela in Rio de Janeiro, I felt instantly connected to the vibrancy of the place and the people. I even had the chance to meet some young children who live in the favela, who honestly seemed to be the happiest people I have ever met!
I knew very quickly that I wanted to return and volunteer teaching english or in childcare. After reading some rather negative reviews from Project Favela, I was wondering if you could recommend any other reputable and well reviewed organisations operating in Rio.
Thank you for your question! Before answering it, please allow me some general remarks. I guess you have been visiting Rocinha with some kind of guided tour. Please keep in mind, that these tours are created for tourists and what they want to see, not for local people who often are not happy about suddenly being part of an exhibition. So Favela Tours are very controversial, especially in Rio. And about your experience with the happy children – it’s true. But there is a famous Brazilian saying “Sorrir pra nao chorar” – Brazilian people laugh so they don’t cry. At least for me it helped a lot in better understanding many things there.So about your question: First of all, please be very careful when entering a “favela”. Because of the security situation, which is really tense right now, I would not recommend you to go there and find a local project on your own. If local community centers, kindergartens or similar want to receive visits from strangers, they usually need the blessing of the local commando to guarantee your safety. Also, it is not always visible if you are entering a “favela”, so you might get in a difficult situation even before noticing.
As far as I am informed, there are not many opportunities in teaching English in Rio, since the children usually go to school and receive regular English lessons. Also, speaking English is by far not as important or interesting to Brazilians ass to other people.
If thinking about volunteering with children, please note that this is a very controversial topic as well. You can find some information on that on our page, e.g. http://www.responsible-volunteering.com/tag/orphanage/ Most of the points mentioned are not only valid for orphans but for children in general.
From my personal experience, I can recommend you to contact a local NGO called “AVICRES”, (http://www.ongavicres.com.br/) situated in Nova Iguacu, one of the cities nearby. They usually do not receive short-time volunteers, but if you ask nicely it might be possible. Having an own guesthouse, they can provide accommodation as well. Few people speak English, but this will help to improve your Portuguese a lot. 🙂
All the best & good luck,