Rio Societies: A Sense of Community Abroad

Rio societies cater to expatriates and the local community through cultural and charity events this holiday season.

By William Jones and Shannon Sullivan, Contributing Reporters

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The holidays tend to be a particularly difficult time of year for expatriates living abroad, when pangs for homegrown holiday traditions and loved ones far away become most agonizing. Fortunately, foreign nationals in Rio can assauge their feelings of homesickness by attending events hosted through many of the city’s international societies.

AmSoc America's Day, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Hotdogs, hamburgers and other American treats served at AmSoc Rio’s America’s Day celebration, photo courtesy of AmSoc Rio.

Groups such as The American Society of Rio de Janeiro (AmSoc Rio), the International Club Rio (InC), and the British and Commonwealth Society of Rio de Janeiro (BCS) continue hosting community events throughout the year to support and integrate non-natives in the city, as well as backing some worthwhile charity projects.

The American Society of Rio (AmSoc Rio)

The American Society of Rio de Janeiro (AmSoc Rio) has offered community activities and charity events since the organization’s founding in 1917. While the organization primarily functions as an American cultural liaison in Brazil, hosting events such as “America’s Day” in Rio, AmSoc Rio prides itself on its contributions to community.

Anna Whyte from AmSoc Rio told The Rio Times that “in the spirit of Christmas, each year the American Society does a toy drive for charity. The charity [this year] is located in Rocinha and was founded by an extraordinary Italian woman, Barbara Olivi, about fifteen years ago.”

The 2013 Holiday Charity Happy Hour and the fundraiser will be held at Mab’s in Copacabana, where attendees can donate gifts for the children. “Il Sorriso prepares pre-school aged children (2-6 years old) for school,” Anna continued. “What makes it special is the dedication and dreams of founder, Barbara Olivi, and the deep positive impact that Il Sorriso has had on hundreds of young lives in Rocinha. It has a track record of success and that is impressive.”

The International Club Rio (InC)

Founded in 1965, The International Club Rio (InC) “kicked off the Rio holiday season with a Lagoa Christmas Tree Lighting Party on November 30th and a relaxing Cafezinho (coffee outing) in Barra da Tijuca on December 10th,” Bonnie Kobert Harrison, president of International Club Rio, told The Rio Times.

Bonnie Harrison (far left) from InC at a charity fundraiser photo by The International Club Rio

Bonnie Harrison (far left) from InC at a charity fundraiser, photo by The International Club Rio.

With 2014 nearly upon us, the InC president gave a preview of what to expect in the coming year. “We start with a Rio Carnival Experience event, followed by a cooking extravaganza around Easter, later on a jam session with renowned Brazilian musicians and a spectacular gala event to end the year. This is only the tip of the iceberg as our new events team is bubbling with inspiration,” said Harrison.

According to Harrison, the InC is “the most active and upbeat of all the expatriate clubs, offering up to six free events plus a fundraising event each month. These events can be cozy cafezinhos, happy hours, gourmet dinners, wine and cheese tastings, or the occasional weekend excursion, where people can make friends and experts give vital information on subjects such as legal and medical issues.”

The British and Commonwealth Society of Rio de Janeiro (BCS)

The British and Commonwealth Society of Rio de Janeiro (BCS) was originally established to assist Britain with efforts during World War II. Robert Hartley of the BCS maintains that organization will “continue to bring together and support members and institutions of the British and Commonwealth community in Rio de Janeiro within a flourishing and well-organized philanthropic society that reaches out to the wider community.”

As well as staying committed to a successful and prosperous 2014, BCS hosted its annual Christmas party on December 14th at 99 Rua Real Grandeza in Botafogo. Hartley adds that, “2014 is fast approaching and it promises to be both enjoyable and challenging with the World Cup being held in Brazil and Rio de Janeiro having a lead role. We hope to offer our members continued care.”

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