Working as a volunteer in favela

Article published on Sept. 5, 2010
community published
Article published on Sept. 5, 2010
Author: Katarina Karcolova

One of the best things of travelling and living abroad is the fact that you can meet very interesting people you can learn from and get inspired. I had a chance to meet such an inspiring person and that is Tamara. We met on the Balkans, where we were working as EVS volunteers (European voluntary service). During the trips we made and time we spent together we talked a lot about our lives, loves, experiences and ideas. Tamara spent one year in Brazil working as a volunteer in a favela and here is the interview I made with her.

Mladiinfo: Could you introduce the project you were working on and describe your role in it?

Tamara: I was working in a local organization of Porto Alegre (Brazil). Mainly, the activities we carried out were related to education. The main goal was to improve educational opportunities and support for youth. We offered different activities as soccer, capoeira, elementary reading, writing skills, art classes or job skills training. The program also tried to change the living conditions of the favela. We were working on improving food sanitation, hygiene conditions and sexual education. Social work as well as education and health regulations are extremely important for favela’s inhabitants. We also tried to make their lives more colorful. For instance, we arranged an open air cinema on the weekends or small theater performances with children.

Mladiinfo: What was your motivation to take part in this project?

Tamara: Over 30 million Brazilians in the age of 18 years and under live below terrible educational conditions because of the social marginalization of favelas. I remember reading an article with this headline and that was the motivation for me to get involved. I felt, I could not live in Brazil for a year and ignore such a reality. I also wanted to get to know and understand better the complexity of the country’s situation.

Mladiinfo: What was the most surprising and the most difficult thing you had to adjust to?

Tamara: I would say everything inside the favela was surprising and strange for me. The most difficult thing was to adapt myself to such a stressful condition. Most of these situations were related to drug trafficking. Drug traffickers in favelas control economy of these places and they are permanently in war with other favelas or police. For example, you can suddenly hear fire-works announcing to drug traffickers that the drug is entering in the favela. I also remember when we arrived one day and a kid told me that his father was killed last night. People from my organization told me that this kind of things happened very often. Working in this violent and dangerous environment was a challenge for me.

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