There are very few words I have to describe what I experienced during my time in Rio. From the crazy, but amazing brazilian population, to the hands-down best food in the world, to the amazingly juxtaposed scenery. Rio was something else. Crazy Night life, intriguing museums, stunning street art, mouth-watering restaurants, breathe-taking beaches. YES PLEASE.
The program itself is an amazing way to show you a glimpse of the beautiful, but tragic story of Brazil's Favelas. On one side we have the breathe taking beaches of Ipanema and Copocabana, and literally in their backyards we see hundreds of favelas. The borders are non-existent.
During my time, I was able to go to these Favelas, and not only help people out and do all that good stuff. But I was able to connect. Really connect. Familiarize myself with their situation. Each favela is a Micro-society in itself. Each with its own stores, own restaurants, own kids, own problems. If you spend enough time there, you get to truly see how these people live. How they cope. How they suffer. How they enjoy life, regardless of their circumstances. Its beautiful.
The kids are a joy to work with. Life is much easier if you can communicate with them, so i highly recommend learning some Portuguese. Everyone appreciates it. Plus the kids find it fun seeing gringos try and talk to them ;) You'll have tons of fun playing football everyday, and you'll very quickly pick up how eager everyone is to play, regardless of age, gender or skill level. Football is Brazil's National Religion. Get used it.
All's fun and games, however, being in that environment you can't help but notice the social poverty that exists. Many kids do have problems at home, or school, or even with themselves. But that's why the football program is such a wonderful tool. It helps these kids not only relieve themselves of Society's issues, but also teaches them how to deal with it.
Carlao, the project manager, is a hard-working, fun and honest man. Well respected in his community, Carlao spends his days working with the kids, and his nights playing in his Pagode group. I couldn't have asked for a better person to help me during my time there. Tamo Junto mano.
Felipe, the head of Iko Poran, was always there for myself and the other volunteers. Very easy to talk to, Felipe always did his best to help us get around both efficiently and safely. I knew we were always in good hands. I never felt shy or worried to ask him any questions. He would also go out of his way to make sure we enjoyed our stay there. Often he would invite us to different activities taking place, or show us the best restaurants around. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity Felipe!
Overall, I wouldn't trade the experience I had in Rio for anything. Not a moment goes by where i don't think about my time there. I long to go back to see those kids and play football for hours on end. Great friendships were made, many of which i still have right now. If you're reading this and still contemplating if you should go or not, DO IT. You're Welcome
PS: If you don't speak Portuguese and someone starts talking to you, just smile, nod your head, and say " Valeu" (pronounced VAH-LE-OH). Just youtube it, You'll be alright ;)