Rio de Janeiro – our attempt at volunteering

Looking for volunteering opportunities

In the first couple of weeks in Rio we got to see one of the 500 favelas in town and felt so touched by the people there that we wanted to get to know them better and contribute a bit to their community as well. We specifically wanted to use our skills of massage, teaching and training, so we spent the next 2 weeks looking for volunteering opportunities that didn’t require us to pay a ridiculous amount of money to help. We were both shocked and disappointed to realise most organisations charged their volunteers, and it wasn’t even a small amount (some would even go up to USD1000 for 2 weeks!!). We could understand this was another way they could bring in more money for helping their beneficiaries, but we were not part of the group that afforded to do that at the time (after all, we were backpacking!). We just had some skills we wanted to share with others at no cost for them, and at also no cost for us. Was that too much to ask??

Apparently it was, as the only few NGOs I did find which didn’t ask for money actually never responded to my repeated writing. I later found out others had tried the same and failed, so it soon became clear it wasn’t going to be so easy to fulfill this desire of ours. Just around this time we met Ricardo, a Couch Surfer from Nicaragua, who has a very ambition house building project that he wants to implement in slums, first in Brazil then around the world. His project was still in the research stage, so there was not much we could help out with at that time, but he introduced us to the Hub ( ) and this ended up being the place where at least one of us (Silviu) would get to make a very deep contribution with his therapy and massage sessions. As he would say, he has found family there and he will surely be back to learn, teach and share with those special people. Our contact person in the Hub was Vanessa, a beautiful lady who is set on making this world a better place – and she does it, one minute at a time. We felt a very deep connection with her and hope we’ll get to reconnect sooner than expected :).


Increase income, cut costs

Well, volunteering or no volunteering, what we knew for a fact was that we could not afford to stay in Rio for a month considering the (ridiculously) high prices there. Our daily budget didn’t even cover our accommodation, transport and food, let alone other activities we would have wished to engage in. So we had two options: either increase our income or reduce our costs.

We tried the first by advertising our skills on CS, and we got a couple of people interested. Not nearly enough to cover all the expenses for the 3 of us for a month though, so we had to look into the second option as well. The biggest cost was accommodation, and fortunately also the easiest to cut. We came up with a few strategies: the first one was Couch Surfing, of course. We then had the idea to work in a hostel and stay there for free. Or trade our skills for free lodging. We then also contemplated staying in a favela, on the beach, in the park or in the forest. Upon further analyzing though, none of the later seemed appropriate. :p

In the end it turned out they would also be unnecessary, as we one day met the CSer Felippe. It was on a Thursday night during the weekly CS meeting in Copacabana, and at the time we were still in a hostel. After talking to us for no more than 5 minutes, he ended up inviting us to spend the weekend at his place. He had joined CS just a few days before and we would be his very first guests – we were indeed very honored about that.


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