I volunteered with Iko Poran's Carnaval Prep Program, which was a really great time. I helped a samba school produce their costumes and other decorations for their floats. It consisted of a lot of cutting and glue-gunning which isn't the most fun, but with that came great social interaction with my fellow co-workers, who were all locals. We taught each other phrases, exchanged music, and shared laughs. If you are planning to do this program, I would suggest you do it only if you are staying for Carnival. That way, you actually see your work come to life. Iko Poran's volunteer house was really nice too. It was big so there were so many people to get to know -- giving you ample opportunity to bond and build lasting connections. The Portuguese classes were helpful, however, if you're on a budget and feel conflicted about taking them, I'd suggest using the money for something else. All in all, the program is awesome and I suggest it to anyone and everyone. The program coordinator is super down-to-earth and provides a great rundown of what to expect from the program/culture/country. The only problem I had was leaving.
Brasil - Santa Teresa - Lapa - Ipanema --> Posto 9,.. This are the places I feel in love with during my time in Rio de Janeiro. If you want to experience Brasil in the way of the local people and you have to feeling you can contribute to a even more beautifull Brasil... You have to join Iko Poran, they give you the oppurtunity to live as a carioca, not only live but also work and OK also party as a carioca da gema :-) Don't hesitate to write them an email with 1001 questions, they will allways answer with a smile.. Feel the unique experience of being in Rio and helping others --> Life changing experience! Seppe
There are no words that can explain my experience with Iko Poran. It changed my life. It gave the opportunity of meeting amazing people, of doing something transcendental in my life. There is no better way to experience Rio than the projects in Iko Poran. They are amazing! I really fell in love with the people in my project in Parque Horacio!
I initially signed up with Iko Poran to teach English for three weeks but enjoyed the experience so much I stayed for a further three weeks. I would highly recommend this organisation I felt immediately welcome in Rio and was quickly able to meet other volunteers who had been there for many weeks already. During the first week we were given intensive training in Portuguese which really helped to support the volunteer work, particularly for someone like me who began with very little Portuguese. The project I was assigned to was suitable for my skills and I have been able to bring back much of what I learnt into my teaching in England. The people at CCI were always friendly despite the difficulties with the language and I really enjoying working with the children. Overall I had a rewarding experience that has helped me gain in confidence and meet some amazing new people.
Overall, my time volunteering with Iko Poran was a very interesting and rewarding experience. I spent little over a month teaching English and Soccer at a project based in the comunidade (favela) of Batam (approximately 40 minutes from Santa Teresa, Rio) with Tatiane Lima. The staff at the project were extremely friendly and open to ideas on how to improve the teaching methods already in place. It was encouraging to have the on going support of the team at Iko Poran during my stay, who also, rather handily, set up an intensive Portuguese course so that communication barriers could be broken down to some extent. I would recommend the experience for anyone who would like to donate their time and skills to an extraordinary country and luminous people, especially in such an important time in regards to the economic thrust towards the upcoming FIFA World Cup and Olympics. It is an exciting time to join in and provide a platform for less fortunate individuals and children to benefit from the oncoming surge in tourism that the country will play host to. A potential volunteer must bear in mind though that they have to be flexible with their projects' requirements as well as working hard with dedication and passion. If they do, then the experience will be with them, and the members of the comunidade, for time.
Iko Poran provided an excellent opportunity to work with local residents of Rio de Janeiro and international travelers who share the same goal of improving the world around them. Instead of spending my entire vacation just sitting on a beach, I was able to contribute knowledge and resources with two organizations doing very important environmental work in underserved communities (favelas) in Rio. It was much more fun and engaging than Copacabana. I would highly recommend that everyone participate in these endeavours.
My volunteer project has been working with Dinamicoop, http://www.dinamicoop.com.br/, which is a technology cooperative located in the favela Morro dos Macacos. This favela is anything but safe, as like many others it is tightly controlled by drug dealers. There is very little violence in the favela, because violence attracts attention, and attention attracts police, which interfers with the drug traffic. So drug dealers maintain strict discipline. For the people in the technology cooperative, the danger is not from the dug dealers, but rather from the police, who periodically harass the residents, raze buildings and occassionally raid the neighborhood. Dinamicoop is located on the second floor of an abandoned school building, which is located at the enterance to the favela. On the ground floor there are always people working on their cars or motorcycles, and because the building has a gate which locks, lots of people store their vehilces there. I assume that some of these guys are making money through drugs, as lots of them look too young to have earned enough money for a motorcycle through any legitmate means, and also because anyone with enough money to own a vehicle should move the fuck out of that area. The technology coperative has maybe ten working computers, which they allow people to use for one real, about sixty cents, per hour. Although there are some adults who use the internet in constructive ways, it is overwhelmingly used by kids to play violent video games, especially Counter Strike. There are a few teenagers who are using the computers to teach themselves some coding, particularly Java, PHP and Microsoft Access. I tried teaching them some Visual Basic, but they were not interested and it was very difficult, as the programs are all in Portuguese. Mostly they teach themselves via online tutorials and videos that people have posted to Youtube. I am impressed with their determination, and I am disapponted that I lack the knowledge to help them more. What I have mostly been doing is teaching English to kids ages eight to fifteen. We have class from two to four in the afternoons during the week. None of them are forced to come to my class in any way, I think some come because it is safer for them to be there and some come out of boredom when they can not get on the computers to play games. Depending on what is going on in the favela there can be as many as ten kids or as few as two. A combination of things makes it very hard to have a regular class, even for the kids who are motivated to show up every day. For example, when it rains almost nobody comes, as it sucks to trudge through the mud in flip flops and lots of people lack running water to clean up afterwards. More importantly, usually at last once a week the police come into the favela for one reason or another, and when this happens the program coordinator cancels everything, as if there ever violence between drug dealers and police, the school would be a bad place to be. The program coordinator usually calls me to let me know not to come in, but several times I have missed this call and shown up anyway, only to find the building locked and nobody around. Usually when this happens I can feel the tension in the air as I walk up the hill to the school, and I am not surprised when it is locked. I have to try to keep them entertained so they keep coming back, which actually isnt that hard because they find me to be the silliest creature imaginable. When I run out of ideas, I teach them popular songs in English and we sing. Because they do not know enough English for me to teach in English, I conduct the class in Portuguese, and I learn a lot that way. I bought them a soccer ball and some days I stay afterwards to play with them, although we play barefoot on cement and gravel and we have to occasionally stop for cars or motorcycles entering the school grounds. Overall they are a great group of kids, and compared to kids I have worked with in the US as a camp conseulor and math tutor, I would say that these kids are lessy whiny and somewhat better behaved. I hope I have made some small positive impact on them, but I do not really know if this is the case. They have definitely had a positive impact on me, and I have learned a lot from them. On my last day, the coordinator discussed some of the larger problems of running the organization. Because he speaks no English, I captured only most of what he said, which was basically that they still need help in lots of different ways that I can contine with from the US. I felt like it was sad to be going because only recently have I come to understand the language, culture and people well enough to really do anything positive. I am going to maybe doing some volunteer work in Salvador, or possibly returning to Rio. Before I left one of the guys gave me a jersey for Flamengo, the most popular local soccer team. It will be a great reminder not to forget them.
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