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
Level 4, 380 Lonsdale Street
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 www.welltogo.com.au and www.smarttraveller.gov.au.