In January of this year, we spent a few weeks in Brazil soaking in the sunshine, the culture, the people, the music, the food, and the nightlife. During our time in Rio De Janeiro, we had the extreme honor of working with Community In Action, a nonprofit that works to empower local projects at the grassroots level. They find, vet, and partner with projects that have been created by locals to improve the quality of life in the favelas, and they provide them with the support they need to take their community work to the next level.
The first project we spent time with was a free English school called Favela Phoenix, run by a gentleman by the name of Jody King. Favela Phoenix provides 100% cost-free classes to people of all ages in favela Rocinha, and is funded completely by donations and money earned from favela tours. Jody himself leads these favela tours to benefit both tourists and the school. Tourists benefit because they get an authentic favela experience that dives deep into places they wouldn’t have access to without the help of a local, and the school benefits because it keeps the classes free for all who are interested in attending. The teachers are paid to help ensure longevity in their stay, minimizing turnover and allowing students to form real bonds with their instructors. The locals are well aware of just how advantageous it can be to learn English, as the majority of Brazil’s incoming revenue flows in through tourism, and the majority of those tourists speak English. This means that a Brazilian who can speak English is much more likely to be employed by a company or establishment that is involved in the tourism industry, which is a promising future for any local.
The second project we spent time with was SprayVida, a lively project that lets tourists get fully integrated into the favelas while leaving a tangible, visible mark. For a small fee to cover the cost of supplies, you can spend an entire day (or days) with some of the charismatic and creative members of SprayVida, painting graffiti on a favela wall while engaging in conversation, and wrapping the day up with beer and food. The favela residents wholeheartedly welcome the painting of their walls (they often request it), because they see that it beautifies their neighborhoods, making them more inviting and welcoming tourism. In their eyes, the graffiti and artwork help to abolish the negative picture painted of their hometowns in the media, in order to make way for a more positive light to be shined.
The last project we spent time with was a Community Center in Alemao, another favela in Rio. Run by a kind-hearted woman by the name of Tia, the Community Center is the stomping grounds for several communal activities and education, from computer classes to art, music, and reading classes. Meeting Tia is much like being reunited with your Grandmother or Aunt whom you haven’t seen in a while but missed terribly. She’s welcoming, she’s incredibly warm, and you would almost be surprised if she didn’t invite you into her home for a homecooked meal. There’s a reason this woman is considered a saint in her large community.
We hope the video captures even a small part of the grand, magical essence of Brazil, and we hope you love it as much as we do! Enjoy!