Adriana Puiggros has been volunteering with children in one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and she fell in love with Brazil:
Risking my life, investing my time, working to help the children of this favela in Rio de Janeiro was undoubtedly an indescribable experience that changed my way of seeing things and life forever. It saddens me to think that I will not see these children again, at least in a long time, but I am happy for everything that has taken me. Now it’s time to close a stage in Rio, but it’s not the time to leave. Soon I will open a new stage in Brazil full of new experiences, people and places to know. I’ve fallen madly in love with this country. ❤😍
Original – Portuguese:
Arriscar minha vida, investir meu tempo, trabalhar para ajudar as crianças desta favela do Rio de Janeiro, foi sem dúvida alguma uma experiência indescritível que me mudou a minha forma de ver as coisas e a vida para sempre. Entristece-me pensar que já não vou voltar a ver estas crianças, pelo menos em um tempo longo, mas estou feliz por tudo o que me levou. Agora é hora de fechar uma etapa no Rio, mas não é hora de ir embora. Em breve vou abrir uma nova etapa no Brasil cheia de novas experiências, pessoas e lugares por conhecer. Este país me tem loucamente apaixonada. ❤😍
Find here the programs to volunteer in Brazil.
I spent the month of October working with Iko Poran in Rio de Janeiro on projects teaching English, Art, and Dance. I met some wonderful people, some of whom will hopefully remain friends forever. It was good to make a difference, even for a short while, to the lives of people who in some cases have so little. But what they may lack in resources they make up for many times in their enthusiasm for learning. I was able to contribute on a number of programmes and I think the more adaptable you are, the more you will get out of the experience. Rio de Janeiro is an amazing place, not without its problems, and you do have to take care travelling around, however one of the best aspects of the experience for me was being able to live almost like a local, travelling miles on the rattling buses, eating very economically in “local” restaurants, really feeling a part of the community. You just would not get that coming as a tourist. A tourist will get to know places….a volunteer will get to know people!
I would have liked a brief sheet with information for the projects.
Address, contact details, history of the project, website if there was one, just to be as familiar as possible before getting struck in. Also some projects are quite far away and the prospect of getting lost was always there, although it didnt happen.
Just completed a month of volunteering in Rio de Janeiro with Iko Poran. I worked in programmes in teaching English, Art, and Dancing. It felt good to be making even a small difference in the lives of people who in many cases have so little. Iko Poran were excelent hosts and made sure my time was well spent in projects that suited my skills and abilities, as well as leaving me time for my own tourist activities, and pursuing my own drawing and painting hobby.
– Bob Black
Volunteering in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful cities of the world – dubbed as “Cidade Maravilhosa” by the Cariocas, residents of Rio. Cidade Maravilhosa means the Wonderful City, as it stretches out with curving hills overlooking magnificent beaches, and protected by “Christ the Redeemer” on top of Corcovado.
The residents of Rio are open-minded people and will welcome you with open hearts. Even if there is a language barrier, local people will communicate naturally with you. Pretty soon you grap some words of Portuguese. If you have any chance of learning some Portuguese before travel, the people will love it. With just a few words like “Bom dia” or “Tudo bem?” you will make local people very happy! With volunteer programs of four weeks or more, Portuguese lessons are being provided anyway.
Find out more about volunteering in Brazil.
Go for a very special trip as a Carnival Volunteer in Rio and participate in the preparations at Samba School. Therefore you will experience Carnival from inside, where the preparations and rehearsals are beginning already several months before Carnival.
Since love and passion for Samba makes everyone equal, at Carnival people leave all economic and social boundaries behind.
The Carnival project allows volunteers to join the preparations and embrace the hard work involved in preparing for one of biggest parties on earth!
Samba schools competing in Carnival have a full year of intense work to prepare the many costumes, floats music and dances for the celebration and volunteers help some of the leading Samba schools in the creation of costumes or decoration of floats.
Volunteers do not need to have any experience in costume or stage design, just a willingness to work hard.
Samba schools are born from the local favelas (urban slums) and most of the schools take their names from the community they represent. Each school unifies and proudly represents people from that community and all Cariocas (Rio-born Brazilians) also have their favorite school.
Whilst volunteers are hard at work, they can also engage in some Portuguese and English language exchange with fellow workers.
Please note, the dates for Carnival change every year (it is held 40 days before Easter). Volunteers do not get to participate in the Carnaval parade for free, this opportunity is available an extra cost and needs to be arranged in Brazil with our local staff.
So far I have had a wonderful experience volunteering in Rio de Janeiro with Iko Poran’s Urban Environmentalism program. I am half way through my two-month stay in Rio and I already know that it will be a very valuable experience for me. The project consists of work in Tijuca National Park and at a large community garden in a favela, where they grow almost every sort of common vegetable in Brazil. The people I work with in the communities are all incredibly kind and welcoming, not to mention they are doing work that makes a big difference for themselves and the environment.
Here in Rio, I have stayed in a beautiful home with the host family. The house is in an area within walking distance of some bars and restaurants and has a nice view, as well as a very comfortable living space. The family has been welcoming and make sure that I have everything I need to enjoy my time here. They also have two adorable kids and two cats, which has been great for me as well.
Overall, I recommend Iko Poran as a volunteering outlet. They offer a wide range of work that contributes to the local communities, while also assuring a fun and comfortable stay.
Ute Heinzel from Germany has been teaching English in Rio de Janeiro as a volunteer, in 2015.
Brasil was the country of my childhood, as my Dad took me to Rio when I was eight years old. It took me 26 years to return to Brasil. In 2014 I went to Belo Horizonte, but my views on life changed with this visit. I’ve lived in Berlin and live in London now, so I’m used to homelessness and poverty, or so I thought. Seeing drug addicts and homeless people in Brasil made rough sleepers in London almost look cushty. That was when I felt that I had been extremely lucky in my life and that it was time to give something back, and so I decided to volunteer.
Once I had made the decision to volunteer, I did some research and was overwhelmed with the possibilities and organisations. I actually wanted to build houses in a favela, but the particular organisation that offered the program allowed volunteers only to stay for a maximum time of four weeks. As it was clear to me that I’d apply for a sabbatical at work and that I’d like to stay for at least three months, I decided against it. Instead I thought of how people at work always told me that I train them so well, so I thought “Why not teach English?”.
Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, one of the best places in the world. Despite the fact that more than six million people live there, you can actually manage to meet the same people over and over: at the bus stop, at the many Botecos, at the beach. I loved the diversity in the city and how widespread it was. I was never really scared and felt pretty safe most of the time. That said, I think it does make a difference if you make sure to dress as simple as possible to not attract unnecessary attention. I will always be spotted as a
gringa, my skin will just not get dark enough and my Portuguese is still slow, but if you make the impression to have everything under control, I experienced that people are cool with you.
The program itself is surely not unique, teaching English to underprivileged people in favelas is something that every organisation offers. What made it unique for me was that Felipe, the manager of Iko Poran, was always hands-on with everything; from picking the volunteers up from the airport to driving them to the placements to going out for drinks and organising spontaneous BBQs, he was always up to get together and interact with us. His life experience makes a huge difference in how he handles things and I felt in really good hands during my three months stay in Rio.
Iko Poran was value for money and I received ongoing support from Felipe, the project co-ordinator. I took part in 3 programmes, 2 with children and 1 helping prepare for carnaval; it was great for me as I expressed my interests and skills and the programmes were then matched to my specification.
The cultural change and language difference, can at first be daunting, but if you are willing to take advantage of the language lessons you receive as part of the programme and you embrace the culture, I believe you will get so much more out of the projects.
The children and workers I worked alongside were amazing and I was humbled by the warmth and positivity they showed, despite having very little material possessions.
As you are not working every day, you have the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro and learn about the cultures of others. For me, Brazil is an amazing country and I hope to return, to see more.
The accommodation provided is basic, but the staff were friendly and so helpful that after 5-months, they became like family.
If you go with an open mind, respect the cultural differences and put in what you get out, I can assure you, you will have the time of your life. I didn’t want to leave, but I have amazing memories and friends for life.
Go for it, I say!
Should I learn Portuguese before arriving in Rio de Janeiro? The question comes around, when planning to volunteer in Rio. While not obligatory, some words of Portuguese will open doors, and make people happy. However, if you are going to a four weeks or longer trip, Portuguese lessons are included in the program. Let’s listen to some alumni, what they think:
I would advise future participants to try and learn as much Portuguese as possible before coming to Rio to give you a head start on being able to communicate with the locals. Don’t assume that they may speak some English, because many of the locals don’t and it will go a long way to show you have made the effort to learn their language. However, you will have lessons from a great teacher who is really patient and friendly. She will help you a lot with whatever level of Portuguese you are currently at and help you improve quickly. I learned a lot from her and really grateful for her time. – Afonso, 31 years, from London
Try to get some basics in Portuguese, I could already understand and speak a little bit, but sometimes it was very hard because not everyone speaks English and they really do appreciate it if you try. – Katrijn
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. – Jissaura
I didn’t struggle to communicate with the locals as I already had quite an extensive knowledge and practice of Portuguese. Sometimes there would be a problem with the accents of the different people, especially those from the various states of Brazil, but it wasn’t a big hindrance. – Savannah Peiser
Volunteering in Rio with Iko Poran was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I came to Rio to study Sociology abroad but wanted to stay longer in order to further immerse myself in the culture and make a social impact, so I decided to volunteer with Iko Poran for two weeks after my studies were over. I was able to experience the city of Rio more in two weeks with Iko Poran than I was able to in three weeks studying!
Volunteering with the environmental program gave me the opportunity to see first hand the ecological challenges that Rio faces and make a difference myself while also having the chance to witness the incredible beauty of the city and parks as I was doing it! I also loved the independence that Iko Poran gave me! I was able to navigate the city by the time I left, communicate with locals, and had made life long friends in my fellow volunteers! I had plenty of time to explore after volunteering and on the weekends so I was able to see many sights and museums while also indulging in the social scene. The Rio Hostel was also wonderful! The employees became friends and the hostel became home! All in all, I loved my experience with Iko Poran and am so thrilled that I chose to experience Rio with them!