Had an amazing experience with Iko poran in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Although I signed up to volunteer for the art and design program, I was essentially more so of a student myself because the students at the program were my age and mostly independent with their studies.
Despite this, I was accepted and treated with extreme kindness even though there was a language barrier. I made some amazing friends with the students who taught me so much about Brazilian culture, Portuguese, and art (as I am an art student myself). The other volunteers who I was staying at the accommodation with were doing other programs where they were actually volunteering. Although I still had a lot of fun at my program and feel as though I made special and hopefully lifelong connections with the students, so to me it was fulfilling.
I was staying at Felipe’s home (the Director of Iko Poran), and he and his family were very nice and would check in to see if me or the other volunteers were satisfied with our program placement. We stayed in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa which had a gorgeous view of neighboring favelas and the christ of redeemer. Because the accommodation is so close to favelas, it is not the safest place but if you have common sense and listen to the directors advice you shouldn’t have any problems. I didn’t have any issues and had to commute back and fourth to my program on my own, getting back at night. Remember that if you come it isn’t for a nice luxurious vacation, but rather to make a difference helping abroad. So being able to adapt and work with what you get is essential. My only complain is that I wish I had more time getting Portuguese lessons since I stayed for 4 weeks and only received a week of it. Otherwise everything was good for me and I still got to practice Portuguese at my program. Overall its an extremely rewarding experience that helped me get out of my comfort zone and I would highly recommend it.
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