By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – British expatriate Jody King recently opened Favela Phoenix, an English school in Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela Rocinha. Currently serving sixteen students, the school offers daily English classes to the favela’s residents for free.
“The school was the perfect opportunity to give something back to the people of Rocinha,” King told The Rio Times. “They have been very welcoming to me and very friendly, so to be able to open this school is a great way of me saying thank you to Rocinha and giving something back to the community that has accepted me with open arms.”
A tour guide, DJ and photographer, King arrived in Rio de Janeiro years ago looking for a new direction, following several major changes in his life. “I was depressed for almost two years in England until I realized I had to do something drastic to change my life and be happy again,” said King.
“There were a lot of reasons why I chose Rio, the weather, the beaches, I like landscape photography and the landscape here is phenomenal. I wanted to learn another language, the Olympics and World Cup coming here were two big reasons as I knew it would be an exciting time to live in Rio and there would be more work opportunities too.”
“I ended up in Rocinha as i was offered a job as a tour guide here,” King continued. “I was already living in Vidigal at the time, managing a hostel. I was frequently visiting Rocinha as I volunteered at a DJ school here and made some good friends here. Eventually I was offered a job with Favela Adventures and it was a great opportunity so I went for it. I love living in Rocinha!”
With an estimated population of over 150,000 residents, the Zona Sul (South Zone) favela of Rocinha has been a popular destination for many adventure seeking expatriates for years, with the interest increasing following the arrival of police pacification forces (UPP) to the area.
King’s English school will join several other charities, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and programs operated in the Rocinha area including SpinRocinha, Il Sorriso dei miei Bimbi and the Saci Educational Organic Kitchen.
“I originally wanted a trade school but because of high equipment costs and difficulty in finding people to teach this I opted for an English school instead,” said King. “I have plans to expand the school, right now I only have enough money coming in for one lesson per day. Ideally I would like to have two or three lessons per day, a class for children too.”
King adds, “I would also like to get a projector and have movie nights there too, as it is a great entertainment option and also a great way to learn English at the same time. but I have to take one step at a time and build it up slowly, hopefully this is the start of something very special.”
“For the project to grow I do need more sponsors. people contributing to the school on a monthly basis to keep it running and growing. I am also open to accepting volunteers to help at the school with teaching and assisting the teachers.” For more information about donating, volunteering and/or teaching, contact email@example.com.