There aren’t many cities in the world, that are such a pleasure to travel to, yet benefit so much from volunteer work, like Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s most iconic city is the sixth largest in the Americas and a dream destination for thrill seekers and adventure travelers. At the same time it suffers from swelling rates of inequality and favela communities are continuously marginalized. Those who volunteer abroad in Rio de Janeiro can enjoy the festive sights and sounds of this flourishing South American metropolis while leaving behind a positive impact for locals to build a future on.
Volunteering in Rio de Janeiro
As poverty is typically viewed as the main challenge facing Rio de Janeiro and something locals are constantly fighting to overcome, many opportunities to volunteer in Rio de Janeiro are in community development, and the many fields that are related to community building. Volunteering at a community center, orphanage, or health care clinic are all examples of the type of placements you might find within this overarching realm. While specific duties will differ greatly between projects, you can expect to work directly with locals who are underprivileged or underserved in their communities during any community development volunteer placement in Rio de Janeiro.
Education is one of the most popular types of volunteer placements in Rio de Janeiro. Within this field, teaching English, or other languages, is the most common subject area, as the Brazilian population faces a unique trilingual challenge. Portuguese is the national language and medium of education, while English and Spanish are also in included in most schools’ curriculums. Teaching after-school classes or volunteering at a language center are both common education placements, which help give local students a leg up in their coursework. You’ll be surprised by how much your Portuguese improves while volunteering in Rio de Janeiro too.
Lastly, environmental sustainability is a field for volunteer work in Rio de Janeiro that is gaining popularity throughout all of Brazil. As the country continues to industrialize, there are many volunteer programs in Rio de Janeiro, and other cities, that are devoted to keeping cities green and preserving nearby natural habitats. Brazil is the most biodiverse country in the world, and environmental volunteers can help to keep it that way.
Life in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro can be a beautiful, shocking, and extremely fun city to volunteer abroad in. Infamously overlooked as home to the “Christ the Redeemer” statue (which is acknowledged as one of the new seven wonders of the world) from atop Corcovado Mountain, Rio’s stunning landscape and sandy coastline along Guanabara Bay are what makes it one of the most picturesque cities in the world. In fact, part of the cultural landscape of the city was recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
At the same time, Rio’s crowded favelas and high rates of poverty are also a wake up call to the realities of economic and social inequality that Rio continues to struggle with. As a volunteer in Rio de Janeiro you will likely be made aware of these struggles through your everyday work, and can take meaningful action by volunteering with local projects and organizations.
While your volunteer work in Rio de Janeiro will no doubt be important, don’t get too stressed about your volunteer placement duties; you are in Rio for limited time, after all. The sprawling sunny beaches, delicious food, distinct Latin American music, and vibrant nightlife will all make for quite the adventure while volunteering abroad in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, Rio’s fascinating history, immense global influence, and rich cultural tradition cannot but help satisfy your intellectual curiosities.
Costs & Affordability
Despite possessing one of the largest economies in the Americas, the costs of living remain relatively affordable in Rio de Janeiro. Since many of the city’s inhabitants live in poverty, the price of necessities, such as food, water, and transportation, are all held necessarily low. At the same time, certain entertainments, imported goods, and items deemed as luxuries will be much more expensive.
While volunteer programs in Rio de Janeiro vary in affordability, you will almost always be paying your way as a volunteer in Brazil. In return, volunteer program providers will often provide some combination of housing and meals. If the costs of volunteering in Rio de Janeiro appear daunting, remember that fundraising with family and friends is a great way to help carry the load.
Accommodation & Visas
Homestays are typically the most popular housing option provided in volunteer programs in Rio de Janeiro, and these are a great way to fully immerse yourself in the language and culture of the city. Many volunteer organizations will also offer alternative accommodation options, such as group living, so keep this in mind when choosing your volunteer program in Rio de Janeiro. While you will be made comfortable as a volunteer in Rio de Janeiro, bear in mind that living standards and amenities will be different than a fully industrialized city.
Whether or not you will be required to obtain a visa in order to volunteer in Rio de Janeiro depends on how long you are planning to stay and what country you are traveling from. Citizens of many countries are allowed to stay in Brazil up to 90 days visa free, while others will have to obtain the proper documentation prior to departure. For more information regarding your personal situation, check out GoAbroad’s Brazilian Embassy Directory.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Lend a Hand. Volunteer programs in Rio work closely with local and international organizations to ensure that projects are directed toward the most productive change possible. Whatever your specific area of interest, you can be sure that the impact you make through your volunteer work will be felt in local communities.
Meaningful Interaction. Going out and interacting with locals in Rio is a great way to make friends and learn about the local culture. While volunteering in Rio de Janeiro, the value of these experiences will be heightened by your goal of effecting change.
Trilingual Development. English, Spanish, and Portuguese are all heard commonly in the streets of Rio. If you are a student of any or all three of these languages, your comprehension will greatly improve by practicing and delineating between the three in everyday conversation.
Read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in Brazil.