By Amanda Darlington – Emzingo Fellow (NexGen Brazil)
Salty and sweet. Affluence and poverty. Rainforest and sea. Adversity and alegria. Rio de Janeiro – a land of Carnival, caipirinhas and extreme contrasts – unlike any others and found nowhere else on earth but here in the Cidade Maravilhosa. There is an energy to this city that is hard to describe unless you are here to experience it yourself. It’s a rhythm that is set partially to the beat of samba drums but influenced even greater by the warmth and openness of the cariocas (native residents of Rio), the incredible beauty of the beaches against the backdrop of the Atlantic Rainforest, and the overarching belief that tudo vai dar certo – everything will work out in the end.
There have been a number of great opportunities for the Emzingo Fellows to not only enjoy the beaches and nightlife of Rio but also to explore some of the communities that make up the heart of the city – the Favelas. The slums of Rio are brimming with activity, so much going on that it’s an assault on the senses. The streets are always occupied, street vendors selling food and wares, futbol fans pouring out of open air bars, children walking to and from school, shoppers, mototaxis and combes (vans) whizzing by transporting residents up and down the steep hills… The list goes on. As we venture deeper into these communities guided by some of its residents, a clearer picture of the complexities and intricacies of these neighborhoods comes into view.
The greatest challenges communities such as Roçinha face majorly includes lack of basic infrastructure such as reliable waste management services and sanitation public works. The houses are built in a lego-like fashion, one on top of the other and the edges of homes coming up very close to each other creating small crevices of alleyways. The haphazard design of these communities has been brought about issues ranging from public health concerns such as tuberculosis, lack of open public spaces for residents, risk of flooding and housing collapses (due to the heavy tropical rainy season), and a great number of others. Although the issues can be daunting, we must also keep the faith that tudo vai dar certo. These problems continue to persist because they require innovative solutions that haven’t been tried before and is the reason why we are here. As we continue our journeys here and seek to be successful in assisting our partners to achieve their social impact missions, we must remember not to falter from the core belief that makes this the Marvelous City.