I was volunteering in Rio de Janeiro for only two weeks. My plan was to travel afterwards, so that’s why I only stayed in Rio for such a long time.
I had a great time! It started by getting picked up by Felipe at the airport, while we were driving to the hostel he explained me a little bit how the program works and what’s there to do in Lapa and Santa Teresia. I was volunteering with an Irish Couple and I thought it was really nice so I didn’t have to go somewhere by myself.
The volunteering itself was absolutely amazing, we were playing ball games with the children, rope skipping, drawing, we did some painting as well and they loved it! There were around 10 to 20 children each day, I don’t know on what it depended if they were coming or not, but mostly it was school I think. The children were between 2 and 14 years old, they could get a bit wild at times, but they were all very sweet and always really excited to see us.
I would definitely recommend this program, but in my opinion, two weeks is way too short! If you can stay longer, do it! It’s definitely worth it. Also, 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.
Rio is an amazing city, I totally fell in love with it! At first I was a little bit scared because everyone told me it’s such a dangerous city, but in my opinion it’s just like every big city and you should listen to people living there on where you can and where you can not go. I never went out by myself when it was dark and I never felt unsafe, but I think that’s mainly because I listened to what Felipe said, like don’t behave too much like a tourist, don’t take any valuables, etc.
If you’re still not convinced, trust me: just go!
I was very happy with my time on the Sports Development Programme. My expectations of Rio were surpassed and I had an amazing time seeing the city, meeting people and doing my volunteer work. The coordinator, Felipe, was very helpful and it was a pleasure to stay with him and his family. The local people who helped with the programmes were really kind, patient and fun to work with.
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.
The best time to go to Rio to do volunteer work is during carnival. You will have to pay a little bit more, but it is defiantly worth it! The Blocos, parade and weather is amazing! You will have a great time partying and seeing the parade, while helping out with whatever project you choose to do.
My favourite memories are the smiles on people’s faces when I bought football equipment and stationary with money raised by friends and work colleagues. I was able to raise £530 in two weeks and would highly recommend raising some money through a donation website, so you can go the extra mile with supporting the locals.
After retuning to London, I now take regular Portuguese classes and use online website to learn as much as possible for when I return – you will want to return… believe me!!!
Find out more about volunteering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil