Sunday, December 28, 2014

Questions Answered regarding our tours

One of our Football & BBQ tour groups! Tour guides in front from L to R: Dembore, Erik and Obi

I decided to write this because I think its a good idea to cover common questions people have about our work. In order to book a tour we will need some important information from you. Many times I end up sending many emails back and forth to people because in their initial contact with us, they don't give us enough information to book the tour. So, to make everything easy, I have answered the many questions I receive from guests having interest to visit Rocinha. In 7 years of doing this we have managed to correct many problems and now all of our guides are on board!

we will need....

1.) You first and last name and correct email
This makes a difference especially if you are staying at a hostel or hotel. We can access you by having the front desk call or you the hostel receptionist find you to let us know that we have arrived. If you are filling out the form, please double check your email address.

2.) How many in your group
Its is important because many times we combine groups. If you decide that you want a private tour then we charge a little more for this as we lose money if we don't allow others to join. So when you write us let us know how many are in your group including yourself. We can only do a tour if there is a minimum of 2 people. If you book with us and later decide to cancel, please let us know so we can open up space for other people.

3.) Where you are staying
This is one of the most important things. If we have no idea where you are, how can we meet you? A complete address with street number and name of hostel or hotel if applicable. If you are staying in an apartment then we need the and street address apartment number so we can have the doorman call up to you to let you know that we have arrived. In most apartment buildings they will not allow outsiders inside the building. So, we can meet you outside the front door of your apartment.

4.) Day and time
We need to know which day you would like to visit. Try to have two choices of days that you are available so we can accommodate your request. In the summer months, it gets very hot here so we recommend to start early in the morning between 8:30-9:30 am. This way the tour will end before the sun is highest in the sky and the hottest throughout the day. Also afternoons are great for the beach. so, you can do the tour then after have plenty of beach time.

Here is an example of how a email request should look:

NAME: John Smith
LOCATION: Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlantica, 1702, Copacabana
DATE & TIME: March 12th, 2015, prefer 9:30am or March 13th anytime
Special request: On March 12th we need to be back to the hotel at 3pm.

**** You can fill out the form on the website or just send us a regular email.
Our site: Favela Adventures  email:

In preparation for your visit to the favela

1.) Please wear good walking shoes or trainers. The streets here are not like in the "developed" city. The favela is an organic self built community. We also will walk through the tight alleyways and the ground is not always flat and there are stairs. Our tours start at the top of the favela and we walk down to the bottom of the community so there will not be much walking up stairs. If you have problems with stairs, please let us know so we can cater the tour better to your needs. We can walk different routes that don't have stairs.

2.) Wear comfortable clothing. This is a walking tour at a slow pace as we want you to see everything and take in the vibe of the community. Dresses that don't hinder your walking, T-shirts and shorts or loose pants are the best.

3.) Things you may want to bring. A camera is no problem here. When you wake up in the morning, check the weather and dress accordingly especially if it will rain or be colder. Keep in mind if its raining the use of rain coat or umbrella. We still make the tours as long as its not a heavy rain or down pour. If its sunny, wear sun protection and bring water. Water and sunscreen can be bought inside the favela if you forget.

4.) Safety. Often people ask is it safe. To be honest, nowhere on this planet is 100% safe. You can be robbed in Rome Italy or pick pocketed in Barcelona. The one thing we can guarantee you is that you won't be robbed or pick pocketed here inside Rocinha. All our guides live here and the community knows about our work here. Your camera will not be stolen here. In the 7 years that I have been doing tours, I have never had anyone have a problem here. If there is a safety issue in regards to conflicts between drug traffickers and police, we will let you know. Only twice since I started doing these tours have we had to cancel visits due to police conflicts. They do happen but its not an everyday occurance. Your safety is always priority number one!

5.) Money. We work with Brazilian reais which is our monetary unit. It becomes complicated if people offer to pay us in another currency. Inside the favela we don't have a "cambio" or a money exchange. We have to leave the community and go to Copacabana or Ipanema to change the money and it can be time consuming. Also, several times guests have shown up saying they can not get access to ATM's or cash. We have some ATM's here inside the community but your card may not work here so please make sure that you are able to put aside cash for your tour in advance.

6.) Location and Meeting points. People who arrange tours with us in advance get priority when it comes to meeting points. In advance for us means trying to book at least one week in advance. There are high season periods from December to March where we get very busy. Booking two weeks in advance is best during busy season. This does not mean that we can't accommodate last minute requests. But you will probably be referred to one of our meeting points close to your location by foot or easy for you to get to by metro or bus. When there is a meeting point involved, I will send you a photo of the guide so you know who to look for.

We ONLY meet guests in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.

Some common meeting points are:

Cardeal Arcoverde Metro Station in Copacabana
JW Marriot Hotel, Av. Atlantica, 2600, Copacabana
Copacabana Palace, Av. Atlantica, 1702, Copacabana
Atlantis Copacabana Hotel, Rua Bulhoes de Carvalho, 61, Ipanema
General Osorio Metro Station, Ipanema
Post 8, 9 or 10 (life guard posts on the beach) Ipanema
Post 11 or 12  (life guard posts on the beach) Leblon
Fashion Mall Shopping, Sao Conrado, inside by the McDonalds

7.) Meeting Times. We set meeting times according to those who book in first and have confirmed. Our responsibility is to respect your time and show up at the designated time agreed upon. Arriving 5-10 minutes late, we know that this can happen. But it is your responsibility to make sure to arrive on time. Our guides are given strict instruction to leave meeting points maximum 15 minutes after the meeting time. So, if you are expected to arrive at 10 am and you haven't shown up, the guide will need to leave to start the tour at 10:15 am, for the others who have arrived. If you don't plan on showing up, or you get sick etc, please email us at least one hour before the expected meeting time. Also, many times on weekends we experience cancellations last minute because people get too drunk the night before then suffer from hangover in the morning. Please don't book with us a morning tour if this is going to happen. If we book a tour to meet at for example, the General Osorio Metro Station we will send you details and a few photos. You can find many of these meeting points if you use google maps.

8.) Children. We welcome well behaved inquisitive children. If your child is figgety or cries often, maybe our tour isn't for you. We have had mostly great experiences with children and some not so great. We suggest that a child be at least 7 years old to really get any benefit from this type of experience. Our content is explaining what life is like in a favela and there's a lot of exchange in conversation and questions which may bore a young child. At times there is opportunity for children to meet and interact with local children. There is also the environment which may stimulate a child's interest. If you have an inquisitive, curious child, have some questions set aside for them to ask so they feel like a participant in the group. The the experience is great for everybody. Sometimes we can find kids that will want to play football (soccer) with children visiting. So, during the tour we can allow the children to play for 10-15 minutes and the adults can talk more about the favela.

9.) We do accept donations of school or art supplies. These are things children and youth here need. Please don't bring candy as its bad for a child's teeth and doesn't really help. Many children in favelas unfortunately do not have access to quality dental care. Donations of school or art supplies are given to four different projects here, two day cares, one English school and one art school. On our Blog "Life in Rocinha", we write about projects that receive your donations. Check it out!

10.) In our activities we do not solicit or expect tips. Tips are given usually to show appreciation for a service worker who delivers a great job for the guest.  If you tip your guide, its always appreciated but not expected.  Thank you!

11.)  Photos. It is expected with the different environment that you will want to take photos. We suggest that you can take pictures of almost everything. Please do NOT take photos of the police as most of them don't like it. Also, please do not take photos of people up close. Most people don't want a camera stuck in their face.  Taking photos of street scenes with people in the background is not a problem. Some people in the favela don't mind their picture being taken and may come up and want to be in a picture with you. If you have concerns, ask your guide.

12.) The locals. Don't be surprised if people come up to you during the tour. Just as you have interest in the favela, they have interest in you. Probably 90% of the residents have never been on a plane or ever will. Their only contact with foreigners is YOU!  People are friendly so don't be shocked if a local wants to shake your hand, hug you or give you a kiss on the cheek. Rocinha residents know us and our work. They support us because we do allow this kind of interaction. Its the best way to "get to know" the favela!

13.) Eating in the favela. When I started doing these visits back in 2007, I wanted to include a lunch where guests could sample the food. I found 3 really good places to eat for great prices. I know many people wonder about hygiene in a favela and it is  understandable. All of our choice restaurants are clean and the food is quality. You will not get sick from eating the food here. We take guests to a 'por kilo' restaurant which is like buffet style but you pay by the weight of your plate. For vegetarians there are plenty of choices as well. The restaurants accept all major credit cards, VISA and Mastercard being the most popular.

14.) Souvenirs. There is one place at the top of the hill where we can visit that has arts and crafts made by locals. There is an awesome view from the souvenir shop where you can take pictures. If you need to use the bathroom its a good place to stop and rest. If you have specific requests for a certain type of arts & crafts or souvenirs, let us know.

15.) Drugs etc.... at NO time will we advocate or take part in any kind of illegal activity. If you are looking for marijuana or any kind of illegal substances, we cannot help you with this. We don't judge your activities but police do "keep an eye" on foreigners who may be looking to buy drugs. As you are in a foreign country please be careful what activities you participate in.

If you have questions about something not covered here please contact us at:

Enjoy your visit to Rocinha!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gifts delivered!

There are two parties this holiday season that we have decided to support. One is the small party that took place at 10am on December 11th at Fabrica Verde. The director of the project suggested that we give out school/art supplies so this is what we did.

We were able to distribute the school supplies gift bags to 22 of the children at the project who were selected by the director Ana Paula Telles. There were other organizations and individuals who donated gifts for this party, so it was a shared effort and many children benefitted from this.

From the previous post you can see I wrapped the school/art supplies gift bags and then the following day I delivered them. I thought the project would distribute them to the children, but they wanted me to be present and give the kids their gifts. So, during a tour with 4 guests, we stopped by and I was able to give the presents out. The guests also got to meet the residents and see the project.

There is another party December 17th at 10am where we will present gifts to Creche Castelinho just up the street from where I live.

I want to thank everybody who has donated school or art supplies to our project so that we can deliver them to the children and youth in need! And thank you to Pack For A Purpose for promoting this initiative worldwide to communities in need!

I have decided to put in some photos from the Fabrica Verde party. After the party at Creche Castelinho, I will post some from that event. Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holidays in Rocinha!

I have never been much for holidays. I like them but I don't like the idea of one day or a few days of "giving". Everyday you should be thankful and giving in one way or another. School and art supplies are very much needed here in the favela. So, when people ask me what to bring or donate, I let them know that school and art supplies are valuable to the kids here.

I am putting together these kits of school supplies. One of the projects that I work with asked for more school supplies for some of the children. I went through the rest of the donations I had and determined that I can make 22 kits.
Each kit will include:

2 notebooks
2 pens
2 paintbrushes
1 box with 6 paints
1 pack of 12 pencils
1 glue stick
5 erasers
1 pencil sharpener
16 crayons
1 box of 12 colored pencils
1 ruler

To make these kits, some of the materials I bought to complete the kit. Others were donations from visitors to Rocinha.

So, here I have some of the materials that I will separate and will be put into bags.

Here is everything that will be put into the silver zip bag you can see to the left of the photo.

All the school supplies that I have managed to fit into the bags.

Bags filled with school supplies ready to go for the holiday party!

All the gifts wrapped up and ready for the kids party!

I want to thank the numerous people who donated many of the school supplies for the children here. And to Pack for a Purpose who continue to support our work here!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Benefits of Tourism

         Some Amazing people Jade, Brian and Ethan King founder of Charity Ball

Through the last almost 8 years of working here in Rocinha, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. People who care and want to help. Tourism has been very good to me but it has its slow seasons and busy seasons. I always need to put away money for the slow season to cover expenses. Many here think I am rich or make so much money, but the reality is very different. There are months I can earn 1,500 or busy months 4,000 a month. Saving becomes a priority. Our Dj school Spin Rocinha is our main project and priority as students need dj equipment, flash drives, headphones, CD's and for field trips we pay their expenses. But other projects need help and when there are opportunities, we try to help. Of course as our tours become more popular, we can then help more people.

When I have those months that I am able to earn more money, I go to the stores in the favela and buy school or art supplies for the projects that we support. 
I have started to buy footballs when I have extra money. A decent football here in the favela can cost 20 reais. So, any donations of footballs are always welcome. Two months ago we were able to distribute about 30 footballs to different areas of Rocinha. The kids loved getting their own footballs to play with. A ball can change a childs' life. 

Wade Berger and his friend Taylor came on one of our tours during the World Cup. He contacted me a couple of weeks ago connecting me with Brian King. Brian's son Ethan started a non profit called Charity Ball which distributes footballs all over the world to needy or poor communities. When Wade sent me a email saying that Brian, Ethan and his other son Jade were coming to Rio to distribute footballs, I was very happy about this. I know many children who would love their own football. 

The start of the non profit is amazing. Brian has worked in some of the poorest areas in the world. In 2009 Brian went to Mozambique to help facilitate clean water to a poor area. Ethan who was 9 at the time went with his dad and brought a football with him. While Brian was working, Ethan developed friendships with the kids in the village and they played a lot of football. These kids never had the opportunity to play with a real ball before. When he left the village he gave the kids his ball. When he returned back to the USA he decided to start Charity Ball to try to get kids footballs in places where they dont have them. The idea is simple: raise money to buy balls to distribute in poverty striken areas. Donations of balls are also accepted. Just recently the company Johnson & Johnson donated over 500 balls to Charity Ball. Ethan has been able to give out about 5,000 balls since starting this charity in 2010 as a 10 year old.

Here is a photo of Ethan at 10 years old with the boys in Mozambique. 
Photo from Charity Ball website

Ethan now15 years old,  and his brother 12 year old Jade are both football players where they live in Holland, Michigan. They both play competitive football. Ethan currently with Lakeshore Premier SC and has been asked to play on Michigan's 15 and under team.

Many people may ask if there aren't other ways people could help poor areas? Sure there are many things people can do. We each have our own way of contributing enjoyment to areas that desperately need it. I decided with the DJ School because its one of the few things I do well and I had many people in the favela wanting to learn to DJ. Ethan, with his love of Football (Soccer in the USA) has decided his way. So, When asked, why a football? I think its universal that a ball brings many benefits to the receiver.  

from the website: 

Good question. Why invest in a soccer ball when there are so many other ways to help children? Consider the following:
  • Children in developing countries are forced to deal difficult things like HIV/AIDS, contaminated water and civil war. One way for them to cope is by playing the game of soccer.
  • Soccer is an excellent way to learn how to work together and succeed. It promotes friendship and fair play.
  • Soccer promotes good health through physical fitness.
  • Soccer reduces crime because kids have something constructive to do.
  • Many children in developing nations will never get the opportunity to touch or kick a real soccer ball.
  • Soccer can help a child develop a strong identity and sense of self worth.
I agree, watching the kids in the favela playing, keeps them busy and out of trouble. So, we set up a day, meeting place and time. Ethan being the face of Charity Ball has been in demand for interviews all over the work he is doing. He is now 15 and looks forwards to growing his non profit to help more people..

I met Brian, Ethan and Jade at the JW Marriot in Copacabana at 10 am today and we took the bus to the top of the favela. I had recruited some help from Obi and Sascha. Obi is part owner of Rocinha Guest House here in Rocinha. Obi born and raised in Rocinha, often works with us as a tour guide. He wanted to come along to help with the distribution of the footballs. Sascha is a student from the USA who is on a fellowship program with an interest in favela life. He is living in Rocinha and loves to work out and play basketball. 

I had a set strategy in how to distribute the footballs. Brian had a rolling suitcase with 27 footballs and two air pumps. All the balls were deflated so he could fit more in the suitcase. We started at the top of the hill and slowly walked down. Because the weather was rainy, there were not many kids out on the street but I knew eventually as we got closer to the bottom, more kids would appear. In the past in giving out donations, I try to organize it to avoid a mob scene. You give out something, one kid sees it and next thing you know you can be mobbed by 100 kids. So, as we would walk, I would see kids and call them over to us asking if they played football. If they said yes, we gave them a ball. Obi, Sascha, Jade or Ethan would fill the ball with air and give it to the kid. The smiles on the faces of these children were priceless! Brian asked if he could take photos as this is part of transparency. Like my non profit, if I receive a donation, I like to document through photos who received it (In my situation, i usually write a blog post about it). People who donate want to see that their contribution is going where its supposed to go! 

I knew of one area where there would be more kids. There is an area where we were able to set up the suitcase and fill some of the balls with air. At first there was one kid, within 10 minutes 3 other arrived so we gave all three balls and photos were taken, hugs and handshakes too. We moved on to the "Pracinha de Roupa Suja", which translates to "the little square of dirty clothes". There is a football pitch where they play "Futsal", which is similar to Indoor Soccer in the USA. We found 4 kids there that we gave balls to and then a game of 3 on 3 was played. I could see that this is the joy of every kid like Ethan, Jade and the kids from Rocinha. I dont know what the end score was but it was close. The kids were so happy. It was like giving kids gold..smiles all around. Pictures were taken and friendships were made. We left to give out the rest of the footballs up on the pasarella. The guys had to be back on the bus by 2:15 to get to Copacabana for another meeting. What a day! They have said they want to come back and I know Rocinha will welcome them back with open arms. 

I want to first off than Brian, Ethan and Jade King from Charity Ball. Obi and Sascha who helped facilitate this wonderful project. Without the sponsorship of Johnson & Johnson, Rocinha never would have received such a wonderful gift. And finally to The Bar 90, Heart  Soccer Academy and Continental Tire for their contributions. ROCINHA THANKS YOU!!!!!!!!!

See some of the photos from our day!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Cats!

So, I received this email the other day from a follower of my blog. She writes: "I enjoy reading about the favela. Can you tell us the story behind your or your love for cats"?
Ok, so I will do the best I can to explain the love for cats. I am not the only one here in the favela that loves cats. I have met many here who love them, both women and men!

I had to think a little about this. Because I am not sure what to say. I think most people who know me, know and understand my love for cats.

I started when I was about 7. My brother had found a small orange kitten. When he brought him home, I could see my mother was not very happy. She didn't want more complications in our busy lives. But eventually she gave in and we kept the cat. Although my brother found "Orange", he was more "my" cat. Orange would follow me everywhere when I was home. He slept at my feet and would paw my face in the morning to wake me up for school. Orange was a comforter. When I was sad or sick, he would be by my side. From the point on I became fascinated with cats. I studied about them on my own. And I grew a love for them. 

My life growing up was very difficult and there was much sadness. Orange helped me to focus on other things. I did ok in school but excelled at Sport. As an adult, my life changed a lot for the better because some positive people outside my family. I have lived in many situations, from renting a room in a house to having my own place. Most of the time when I lived with other people, there were cats in the house. The cats always liked me, so of course I liked them. I decided to adopt a cat when I was 27 years old. I was living with other people but they were open to having a cat. I adopted a 4 year old male cat. He was an awesome cool cat. He died 7 years later of cancer. But I think I gave him a good life. My life went on not really wanting to think about a cat.

Finding "Fuzzy"

January 2010 as I walk through this narrow alleyway in Rocinha, I hear a high pitched meow coming from above. I stopped, turned, looked around but I couldn't find the origin of the sound. I started to walk again and heard it again. I turned around and underneath the opening in this low rooftop, I could see a little tuxedo furball staring at me. I went to the kitten who looked about 2 months old and put out my hand to let him smell me. He approached and proceeded to rub his cheeks all over me. Anytime I would pass that alleyway, I would see him. So, I spoke with a lady in the area and she told me that he was homeless but that she and few neighbors would feed him and he lived in an opening in the roof so he was protected from the weather. I asked the lady if I could have him because he seemed to really like me. She told me if I wanted him to just take him. I told her I would see if my situation was ok to have a cat and then I would let her know. I came back a week later to catch him and bring him to my house. The first 5 days he would not meow or leave my side. Even sleeping on the side of the pillow tucked into my neck. He was a big cuddler and loved anyone who came to visit. I named him "Fuzzy"

Here's what Fuzzy looked like as a kitten about 4 months old, he loves being held and cuddled!

Here is Fuzzy now at almost 4 years old. 

Fuzzy spends most of his time, sleeping, eating, or relaxing. His favorite time is to hang out in the Dj School while the students are spinning and you can catch him on top of the dj equipment like the foto below! He really is a sweet cat. Every now and then he will play.


Joy is the second cat that acquired by accident. It was not expected! I had just finshed working and I was at the bottom of the favela. I saw this boy about 8 years old holding this cat and his mother telling him that he could not have it. She told the boy that he was not old enough to care for the kitten. I am guessing that the kitten was about 4 months old. She was a calico, multi colored fur ball. The mother called out to me if I wanted the cat and I told her I would take it and find her a home. I had done this with previous cats before so I was not expecting to keep her.  I took her home and Fuzzy found a new friend. 

Joy is very quiet, rarely meows, where as Fuzzy is very talkative. Joy likes to sleep by my hip or at my feet. Every now and then she will sleep by my head. This is also determined by where the other cats are on the bed. She is reserved and likes petting but doesn't like to be picked up. She likes to play and chase mosquitos and flies and she likes to take care and clean Fuzzy and cuddle with him. She was named by a tourist who came to visit our Dj school.

Joy as a 5 month old kitten.

Joy has a BIG fascination with the Dj Equipment. She likes to think she is "Scratching". 

Joy and Fuzzy love to be together. Its like Fuzzy is her protector.


Joao came to me about 8 months ago. I think he was one month when I found him wandering in the street and I was afraid a car would run him over. The pet store across the street was closed so I had no choice to bring him home. He fit in so well and the other cats liked him, so he's now part of the family. He is the most silly and entertaining cat. He started out snow white but as he has grown he is now what looks like a siamese mix. Joao loves to play and he was named by Dembore, our Dj school teacher. He told me he looked like a "Joao", so the name stuck. He loves the Dj school and the students. He loves catnip and wrestling with Joy. He loves to chase bubbles that we make out of soap. He is a very active cat but when he is tired he likes to lie across my shoulders or my stomach if Fuzzy isn't there. He thinks he is a big hunter and likes to chase and kill bugs that enter the apartment.

Joao at 5 weeks old. Such a tiny skinny boy.

This is Joao at 3 months showing his Dj skills. You can see his siamese markings developing.

Joao at 7 months old.. loves to pose!

I love my little cat family and my friends and family often come over now to see what's going on with them. I have a cousin who visits once a week just to come and play with the cats. And Dembore loves to post photos of them on his instgram account. I think Dembore has copied me because when I first met him, he did not have any cats and then he told me about a cat he saved but it died and he was sad about this. Soon after he found a tiny orange and white cat and took him in. His name is Caramelo. About 6 months ago he added to his cat family and now has a kitten of about 7 months old, his name is Chico. 
Here are his two "children" below. Dembore's Cats.

     Chico's favorite resting spot, the bathroom sink.                                  

                   Caramelo posing for a photo.