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Rio favelas

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Jason Dundas found that his first visit to Rio de Janeiro attacked every one of the five senses. Of course its beaches and people are as beautiful as can be and that caught his attention for a while. But he thumped back to earth when he saw a favela, or shanty town. Just three blocks from the excesses of Rio are some of the world's poorest communities.

In the late 19th century the favelas were home to former African slaves with no land and no work options. They were pushed away from downtown areas into the far suburbs. Many people left Brazil's rural areas for the cities and with nowhere to live, most ended up in a favela. More than one million people live in Rio's hillside favelas and they have created communities in their own right. They have schools, shops and banks, all off the grid from the rest of Rio society.

Jason visited the favela Julio Otoni where around 2000 people live. Volunteers from i-to-i give their time to work on everything from drug and safe sex education to teaching English, and even painting buildings. Their work not only involves local children and keeps them off the streets, it helps develop a sense of local pride. They create colourful murals and get great joy out of contributing.

The local language is Portuguese but there are many way to communicate — of course, smiles cover all languages.

i-to-i is an Australian operator specialising in worldwide volunteer travel. They offer wonderfully fulfilling experiences and Jason spent some time with volunteers at their accommodation in the suburb of Gloria. It's cleaned every day, has television, wireless Internet, Skype, a full kitchen and views of Rio.

Work isn't too difficult at all. The volunteers Jason spoke with work about three days a week for four or five hours, so they have plenty of time to enjoy Rio's nightlife. And there's plenty of that!

During the day they spend time at the famous Ipanema Beach. Not only do the volunteers get to enjoy the good break at the north end of the beach, but a surf school is another wonderful way to work with the children. In fact, they learn from one another.

i-to-i is all about helping the most vulnerable and needy and for those who help do that, it's all about feeling good and achievement.


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second-largest city.


i-to-i Australia has a range of programs in Rio including Join the Party with Carnivale Preparation, Favela Renovation and community work. They range from two to 12 weeks and costs start at $1749 for two weeks. It includes share accommodation, airport pick-up, orientation and all on-ground support from the i-to-i team. Most projects operate year round. Carnivale will be between February 13 and 20, 2010.

Prices correct at December 10, 2009.

For further information

i-to-i Australia
Level 4, 380 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne 3000
Ph: 1300 88 15 90

Visas: Australian passport holders need a visa when travelling to Brazil. The type of visa depends on the nature of the visit.

Electricity: In general 127V/60Hz with some cities using 220V/60Hz. North American or European plugs are used.

Time zone: There are four time zones but most areas visited are GMT -3.

Currency: The real.

International dialling code: +55.

It is recommended travellers to Brazil see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit and

User comments
Hi, anyone know any volunteer programs...because I would love to go to different countries to do my part. If anyone knows...hit me up about it! thanx
To be honest, this made me feel sick. The volunteers pay through the roof for the experience and none of that money reaches the ground. i-to-i only pay for accommodation, taking the rest as a profit. Volunteer with a non profit organization, not a company like i-to-i that calls it's volunteers 'customers'. I like how the volunteers go and paint pretty pictures and show off their muscles and then return to the comfort of their accommodation with internet and all modern facilities. If you want to make a real difference look beyond i-to-i.
Well i didnt see the program on tv but i did go to Salvador and Rio in july for 2.5 weeks. I must say its such an eye opener and the greatest experience of my life to date (even though i was sick in bed for 3 days) If youve never traveled overseas before i would probably recommend going with a friend cause it can be dangerous in some spots, even the flights to brazil can be daunting. But money wise i spent about $2500 AU the whole time, mind you we were staying in apartments, hotels, catching taxis, always eating at restaurants and buy clothes and gifts. Just make sure you get a yellow fever shot from a doctor otherwise they wont let u back into AUS. Im definitely going again though, hopefully this time to Carnivale! =]
I agree with Rebecca, Melbourne. A fantastic interesting show on Friday night. Makes me want to get out there and do my bit. What a great way to enjoy the people and have a holiday at the same time and feel that you have contributed something worthwhile on the way. When can I leave? How much extra money (other than the fare and accommodation) would I need during my stay. I know it would differ for each area but just a ballpark figure would be helpful. Thank you. Regards Fay
I don't normally write letters to tv programs, but wanted to say, really great episode last night! Found it interesting and has inspired me to look at volunteering! Would be good to see a few more episodes like this in the mix.

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