By Ruth Faulkner, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio de Janeiro is a prime destination for volunteering while traveling, and long-term residents of Rio also look to give back to the city they love. However, knowing how to go about finding volunteering opportunities in Rio can be daunting, as a simple google search gives over 100,000 options to chose from.

Internations volunteers at Rocinha in the Youth Project base, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Internations volunteers at Rocinha in the Youth Project base, photo by Arabelle Loyan.

To find the right opportunity for you, it is best to look at the types of volunteering available. The volunteering offering in Rio can be split into three key categories; fee-based volunteer schemes, unpaid NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) internships and casual or irregular volunteering.

The first category of fee-based volunteer schemes is the easiest to find, and most common for backpackers, gap-year travelers and typically a younger audience who want to add volunteering to their travel experience. You can sign up for a volunteering scheme before commencing traveling, and receive support from the NGO who will provide services, in most cases accommodation, food and training, for a fee.

Community in Action is one such example, based in Complexo do Alemão favela, they offer a volunteer experience for fees ranging from US$200 to US$600 for periods from two weeks to three months. Their fees cover pre-departure support, logistics support upon arrival, Portuguese translation, training and tours, but do not cover accommodation, air travel or visas. Community in Action volunteers have the opportunity to join a variety of projects, from teaching music to crèche support work or manual labor projects, based on the individuals’ interest.

Secondly, volunteers can sign up directly with an NGO as an unpaid intern, agreeing a set period for the internship in advance. As the nature of the work is often more intensive they suit volunteers who have experience or skills in line with the NGO’s needs. Eco Caminhos, an NGO working in partnership with Portuguese for Foreigners school Caminhos Language Centre, currently offer internship style volunteering opportunities in bioconstruction, for example.

Students taking part in an art class with the Youth Project, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Students taking part in an art class with the Youth Project, photo courtesy of Il Sorriso dei Miei Bimbi.

Finally, the most popular volunteering option for residents living in Rio, who have to juggle jobs and other responsibilities alongside their volunteering, is the option of casual or irregular volunteering. One way to do it, is to sign up with a third-party volunteering organization that has partnerships with multiple NGOs. The third-party organization then supports the volunteer with their questions, issues and any necessary training, and gives the volunteer to the NGO ready to work.

InterNations, a global online expat community in 390 cities worldwide including Rio, offer a Volunteer Program that provides this service. The Rio Volunteer Program builds relationships with local NGOs and then introduces volunteers to the NGOs.

Arabelle Loyan, from France, is a Volunteer Consul for InterNations in Rio, she explains why she decided to get involved in such a project: “I wanted to try and make a difference for people who are more in need than me, and to be closer to the ‘real life’ of so many in Rio… what better way to understand and experience it than by helping.”

One of InterNations’ current opportunities is with Italian NGO Il Sorriso dei Miei Bimbi based in Rocinha favela. InterNations volunteers work with Il Sorriso on their Projeto Jovem (Youth Project) for teenagers to take part in activities and classes, with subjects ranging from yoga to jewelry-making. In addition to the Youth Project, Il Sorriso also has volunteering opportunities in their Organic Garden Kitchen and Crèche for more long-term volunteers.

“I think it is great for expats to volunteer as they can get stuck in a ‘golden bubble’ here. It is good to try to pass some of your life experiences onto others,” Loyan said.

On top of these ongoing volunteering opportunities, there is currently the one-off volunteering opportunity provided by the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For selection volunteers and opening and closing ceremonies, the applications to volunteer are still open, while recruitment for the main volunteers is already underway.

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