Community volunteering

Rio de Janeiro

Volunteer amongst the high-spirited residents of one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas, helping with community education, inspiring hope and broadening horizons. Teach English, lead sports programs, lend a hand with urban gardening, help empower the local women or work in a daycare center for little kids. These communities are in desperate need of all kinds of support, so you’re bound to find something that matches your own skill sets and passions.

The three million residents of Rio’s 600 favelas face huge challenges every day, battling against poverty, hunger, lack of education gang crime and drug warfare. By volunteering in these areas, you’ll be making a real difference and the local people will welcome you with broad smiles and warm hearts. It’s hard-hitting, that’s for sure, but it’s somewhere that every minute of your time and effort will be truly appreciated. As a volunteer, you’ll represent a chance for change and hope to a struggling but optimistic community. Get ready for a tough, perspective-altering and enriching challenge. You’ll never be the same again.

Why join this project

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Help the local community in one of Rio’s largest favelas, providing support where it’s needed the most.

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Live in the thumping heart of Rio close to the most beautiful beaches, bursting with life and beautiful scenery.

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Learn Portuguese, meet the locals and get a totally new perspective on life.

Want to help a struggling community and provide hope in the favelas of Rio?

Help empower the impoverished people of Rio’s favelas and lend a crucial hand to building a brighter future. Volunteering with this project, you’ll become a small but important part of social change in Rio, through education, skills training and cultural activities. Over 3 million people live in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and all of them face daunting, life-threatening challenges. Everyday, they struggle against massive unemployment rates, unsanitary living conditions, disease, lack of health care, malnutrition, poor drinking water, educational shortfalls, drugs, gangs, violence, domestic abuse, and homelessness. The shocking list goes on and on.

Despite all this adversity, the people of Rio’s favelas are friendly, warm, sincere, grateful, and always excited to meet volunteers. Just by being here, you’ll represent hope, understanding and a chance for meaningful change. As a result, you’ll be welcomed with wide smiles and open arms. Working with this project is undeniably tough. You’ll face eye-opening and heartbreaking scenarios on a daily basis. However, you’ll be making a difference where it really is needed, and you’ll become part of a unique, inspiring community with an unbreakable spirit. There are all kinds of ways to help with this project and you’ll be matched to a placement depending on your own passions and skills. Teach English to kids and adults alike, assist with social work and drug prevention, play with the cheeky kids in the local orphanage or land a hand building an urban eco-garden. Whatever you do, you’ll bring hope to all those around you.

You’ll need some basic Portuguese to give you a good start in the country but you can improve your Portuguese while you volunteer and take lessons in the favela, giving you a truly immersive experience.

Project duration:

Min 2 weeks – Max 12 weeks

Location of project:

We support non-profit, public, and private institutions in the favelas of Complexo do Alemao, this is one of the bigger favela’s.

Arrival airport:

Rio de Janeiro International Airport (GIG)

Activities:

  • Teach English classes: Teach English to children and adults in Rio de Janeiro. Short-term intensive English classes enable favela residents to prepare for the job market, school exams, and to master areas of specific interest.
  • Teach computer lessons: Many residents of the Complexo do Alemão do not yet know how to turn on a computer, open a program, or conduct online research.
  • Support manual labour projects: Work alongside favela residents to help them realize their dreams.  Help paint homes, complete landscaping projects, or support “basic” construction tasks.  Your manual labor assistance will allow local residents to pursue projects that they’ve been waiting to accomplish for years.  Maintaining and enhancing one’s shelter is a basic need that many in this region are unable to attain.
  • Support youth athletic programs: Soccer, volleyball, basketball and other sports are offered at our partner schools. Most of our partners welcome new ideas for their youth athletic programs.
  • Work in an urban garden: Plan, plant, prune, water, weed, harvest, educate, and eat.  In less than one year, previous volunteers at our center turned a former trash-burning site into a flourishing urban community garden.
  • Provide tutoring services: we work with numerous local schools, community centers, and NGOs.  Depending on your level of Portuguese, you can provide support in all subject areas: math, reading, writing, or other social studies.
  • Teach art classes and paint murals: Art classes serve as an outlet for creative expression.  Experienced artists, and other artists alike, are encouraged to share their techniques with local youth in the region.

Working hours:

In general the work is part time and takes up 10 to 20 hours per week, from Monday to Fridays. Volunteer work can be combined with Portuguese classes, which are scheduled around the project. The partner organization and the volunteer define the schedule together on arrival, considering the interests of the volunteer as well as the needs of the organization. It’s important that volunteers keep a flexible attitude throughout the entire volunteer stay. It is possible to volunteer at more than one project depending upon your skills and level of Portuguese, this can be arranged locally and depends on availability and necessity.

Getting to the project:

From the hostel you take first a metro and then a bus into the favela. the traveling time is around 45 min up to 1 hour. the metro station is close to the hostel.

Requirements:

  • Minimum age 20 years
  • Screening meeting via Skype with the volunteer organization
  • Travel/Medical insurance
  • Police clearance certificate/Criminal background check. Volunteers will also need to sign a child protection policy document upon arrival.
  • Basic Portuguese is required. If you do not speak Portuguese, we recommend language classes prior to your volunteer project, to make communication easier during your volunteer stay.
  • This project is for volunteers who are flexible and independent. Favelas can sometimes be chaotic places so you should be prepared to go with the flow and already have some travel experience to be best suited for this project.

What’s included

  • Accommodation:  Dormitory style shared mixed sex rooms of up to 10 sharing in hostel
  • Airport transfer upon arrival in Rio in shuttle service
  • Food:  Breakfast is included – fruit juice, breads, cheeses and coffee
  • Support: Pre-departure helpdesk, local in-country team and 24 hour emergency support

What’s not included

  • Your transport to and from the project. It takes about an hour to reach the favela and you travel by metro and bus (aproximate cost per day 4 to 5 USD roundtrip)
  • Flights, insurance, visas, additional activities, transfers to and from the projects in Rio
  • Portuguese Classes

In general, the work is part time, so you’ll volunteer 10 to 20 hours per week, from Monday to Fridays. You volunteer work can be mixed with Portuguese classes, which will be scheduled around the project and take place inside the favela.

Your exact schedule depends on your placement, so it will be arranged upon arrival, taking into account your own interests and the needs of the organization. You’ll need to keep an open, flexible attitude throughout your entire volunteer stay, as things can change quickly on the ground. You might even volunteer at more than one project, depending upon your skills and level of Portuguese. This will all be arranged locally in Rio, according to availability and necessity.

All the projects are in the same region, so you’ll meet plenty of other volunteers during your placement. The Head Office is near all of the projects, so you’ll be able to get involved with other NGO activities and enjoy a “home-base” during your volunteering stint.

Here is an example of what your first week might look like in Rio…

Day 1 (Sunday): Arrive into Rio de Janeiro airport (airport code GIG)

Welcome to Rio! Today you will be greeted at the airport and transferred directly to your home for the next few weeks. You’ll have the rest of the day free to rest and recover from your journey but if you are feeling adventurous, you can always head out and start to explore! If you can’t find a flight that gets you into Rio on the specified arrival dates, try flying in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pick-up for you including one night of accommodation, so just give us a call us for more information.

Day 2 (Monday): Orientation and introduction to your project

On your first day, you’ll meet one of the co-ordinators at the metro station and catch a bus to the favela together. The morning will kick off with your orientation meeting, where you’ll get together with the project team and cover all of the important information. You’ll be briefed about your project, given a lowdown on the do’s and don’ts, offered some ideas for your free time in Rio and told about how to stay safe on your trip. It’s the perfect chance to ask any burning questions and meet your fellow volunteers!

Afterwards, you will be shown the way to your project and introduced to the staff. They will be your day-to-day contacts throughout your volunteering stint. There will also be a member of the team living in the favela itself, who will show you around in detail. You’ll spend the rest of your day learning the ropes and getting stuck into some volunteering.

Day 3 (Tuesday) to Day 6 (Friday): Get to work

Your volunteer project begins!  You’ll have a varied timetable between Tuesday and Friday during the first week (between Monday and Friday all other weeks).  Your exact schedule will depend on the volunteer project you select, but all projects are offered to volunteers four days a week.  There are many project options within the local network, including english, art, computing, sports, handicrafts, urban gardening and more.  Although you may arrive with a specific project in mind, on your first day you will have the opportunity to review various opportunities, depending on your own personal goals.  Each project is hugely rewarding and you’re contribution is 100% certain to make a lasting impact on the community members!

Please note that we work in a region where change is constant, so you’ll need to be ready and willing to adapt. While we anticipate your arrival and prepare the projects, there will be occasions when we’ll need to make adjustments after touchdown in Rio.  We strive to give you the best experience possible, but you’ll need to be open-minded and ready to flow with any program changes that might crop up. 

Day 8 (Saturday) and Day 9 (Sunday): The weekend is here!

After a hardworking week, your time is now completely your own. Chill on the beach, get to grips with the city or set off to do something more active. You can get out and explore all of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that Rio has to offer, gaze down over the city from the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, wander through the stalls of the hippie market or sip on a sunset caipirinha – Brazil’s national cocktail. One thing is for sure – you’ll never be bored in Rio!

Following weeks

The following weeks will follow a similar pattern of working hard at the project and playing hard in the city. Time will fly by so make the most of every minute!

Your last day (Saturday)

After saying your fond farewells to the community members, fellow volunteers, staff at the project, taking your final photos and packing your bag full of souvenirs, you are ready to go home or continue to your next adventure!

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.31.30 PM You’ll stay at a hostel in the Copacabana area of Rio, along with your fellow volunteers. It’s a large colonial house on a street with 24hr security, complete with fully renovated with new clean spacious dorms, bathrooms with hot showers and excellent social areas (indoor and outdoor). The hostel is walking distance from Copacabana beach and Ipanema, making it an unbeatable location in the city.

You’ll sleep in shared dorms and a tasty breakfast is included every day.

Programs with this project take place all year round except for the vacation period between Christmas and New Year. This year the projects are closed from December 20th till January 3rd (and Carnival from the 5th of February till the 14th of February.

Remember that you’ll need to arrive in Rio on a Sunday (or sooner) to start your project work on a Monday.

“What I enjoyed most were the people – the people in the favelas, the CiA coordinators, and everyone else associated with the organization. There’s no doubt I got a good sense of the community and this experience would have been amplified further had I spoken Portuguese. Being able to interact with the children out of school hours is a memory that I will always have. Their happiness and joy for life is something we could all learn from.”

Matthew – joined sports program

“Thank you for a great experience. During my two-week volunteer experience at the Coca Cola Collective Center I learned so much from such an inspiring community leader, the teachers, and the wonderful and bright students. During my volunteer time I had an opportunity to speak with youth about their experiences with the program, learn how to design effective digital media programs, and met with Coca Cola representative to discuss alternative methods to improve education in the favela. Muita obrigada!”  

Tasia – computer lessons.

“I volunteered for almost three months and it’s three months I will never forget! Both the students and the teachers were so welcoming and friendly, and they loved to have someone from such a different country join their activities. It was great spending time with the students and participating in diverse projects. I not only had a chance to see their point of view of Rio/Brazil, but I also had the opportunity to see what they think of other countries. The first reaction people had when I said I was working in the favela was that they thought it was very dangerous. In the beginning I thought the same, but I quickly discovered that it’s not as dangerous as you hear. I felt completely safe there the entire time! It was a wonderful way to learn about Brazilian culture and those who live in the favela. I highly recommend working with Community in Action if you want to truly see another side of Rio! I definitely hope to come back one day! “.

Anne Mette – English tutoring

 

“What I think I liked the most about this experience (I really did enjoy pretty much everything though!) was probably, generally, the diversity of the different ways to get involved in this program. From working with kids in the classroom and in their gym class, to the different construction projects (and the opportunities to develop relevant technical skills there) to the gardening project, each activity was unique. Overall, there were so many opportunities to get involved with this incredibly rich and diverse community that proved to be, at times, really motivating and
empowering in terms of the meaning behind my presence. Without a doubt I would recommend volunteering with Community in Action. The coordinators, the activities, the people, the neighborhood, everything – to me – came together in such a wonderful way that I know I’ll never forget my experiences here.”

  Rebekah – English tutoring and sports program

 

“My favorite part of volunteering with Community in Action was just being able to go to a favela three days a week and helping out any way I could. Never did I think I would ever work in a favela or even make a difference for that matter. The painting project was the most gratifying by far.Being able to see the improvement of the steps week to week and get help from two other volunteers at the end was absolutely amazing and something I’m very proud of. Bete’s steps are just the beginning in hopefully painting the entire alley and neighboring stairwells in an effort that I think will greatly improve the attitude and perception of nearby areas in the Complexo. Both the painting project and the gardening project was an experience I will never forget and I feel privileged to say I played a small role in a very big and important project….The leadership and cooperation from Santina, Lohran, Bete and Maddie was unbelievable. I couldn’t have asked for better people to get me acclimated and really compelled to come volunteer every day and really take pride in what I was doing in each favela.

Yannick – Mural project and English tutoring

Rio is brilliant on a year-round basis. In terms of weather, summer runs from January to March, with the temperature often soaring above 100 degrees and bright tropical sunshine. If you’re eager to hit the beaches, this is the best time to travel. December sees the most rainfall, while winter (May to October) is cooler and far quieter in terms of tourist numbers.

If Thursday is a public holiday, is then Friday also off?

Yes, Friday is always free days to give volunteers the chance to travel.

How many volunteers are usually in a project? Will I work along side other volunteers?

Most of the projects have 2-4 volunteers, they always try to assign a new volunteer to a project that already has a volunteer working.

What if I wish to change from project?

This is not a problem but always in coordination with the project coordinator

Is Rio safe?

Rio is like all other mayor cities in the world. A city where you to use your common sense: don’t wear expensive jewelry, don’t travel at night with public transportation, don’t walk at night (use taxi’s). Leave your valuables in the guesthouse.

Are the favela’s safe?

The favela’s we work in, are really peaceful favellas and very well protected by the communities that live there.

This project is on the lookout for


Volunteers at least 20 years old with a basic level of Portuguese as a starting point. You can sign up for lessons with the project itself and all of the lessons take place in the favela. You’ll need to be an independent soul and comfortable in a big city, as you’ll be taking the metro and bus all over Rio, to and from your placement.

“What I enjoyed most were the people – the people in the favelas, the CiA coordinators, and everyone else associated with the organization. There’s no doubt I got a good sense of the community and this experience would have been amplified further had I spoken Portuguese. Being able to interact with the children out of school hours is a memory that I will always have. Their happiness and joy for life is something we could all learn from.”

Matthey - sports program

About

Rio

Nestled between jungle-covered mountains and golden beaches, Rio de Janeiro is a city heaving with color and life. Bursting with unstoppable energy and packed with an endless party spirit, there’s simply nowhere else like it. The amazing drama of its setting is matched only by the larger-than-life optimism of its people – the Cariocas. Home to over 14 million people from every walk of life, Rio is a real cultural cocktail and this simply adds to the tropical magic of it all. Every day feels like a celebration on the streets of Rio, so it’s no wonder that the city hosts some of the greatest carnivals across the globe. Living in Rio, all you need to do is join the party. Take a deep breath, smile and throw yourself in…

Rio’s favelas are shanty towns that nudge up against the wealthier suburbs. The poorest residents, pushed out to the fringes of Rio, live in over 600 favelas scattered across the edges of the city. Many of the people that live in the favelas moved to Rio from rural areas, hoping to find a more prosperous way of life. Instead, they found social exclusion and poverty. However, step inside the favelas and you’ll find warm smiles, sunny outlooks and an atmosphere of real kindness.

Ideas for

days off

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Head up to the top of Corcovado Mountain, where Christ the Redeemer gazes down upon the golden bays and green hills of Rio. The view is, quite seriously, out of this world.

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Laze in the tropical sunshine on legendary Copacabana beach or the soft sands of sweeping Ipanema. Play volleyball, kick around a football with some kids, watch the locals practice capoeira and take a break from city life.

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For a real breather from the bright lights of non-stop Rio, hop on a ferry across to Ilha de Paquetá, where you’ll find peaceful beaches, bicycles and horse-drawn carts instead of cars and beautiful colonial buildings. The gorgeous boat ride across Rio’s bay makes it worth the journey itself.

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Soak up the spirit of Rio at a football match or learn capoeira, the local martial art. You’ll be in the swing of city life in no time.

Drop us a line!