Saturday, October 23, 2010

Supporting the children in Rocinha – a donation request

In a community like Rocinha, a favela in Rio with more than 300,000 poor residents, it is impossible for a couple of folks like Luiz and I to be tremendously helpful. We are just two. The most common advice given to us is: “Get over yourself.” But we are determined to support the kids in Rocinha who are choosing art and education over hopelessness.

I learned long ago that it is not about the individual. We have to team up. In our desire to help out the kids in Rocinha, Luiz and I are teaming with our friend Zezinho and his long time friend and artist/activist Tio Lino. And we are asking you, the reader, to team up with us as well. Several new friends in Brazil have expressed interest in getting involved –I would also like to make a particular appeal to my dear friends and others in the United States. Won’t you join us?

First some background. Favelas are ridiculously dense, poor communities in Brazil, usually found along the perimeter of larger towns and cities. The infrastructure is make-shift, houses are often constructed by the residents themselves, clean water and electricity hook-ups are typically improvised, if present. In most cases these communities exist without municipal support (no sewers, no bus service, little to no police patrols, etc.).

Rocinha is the oldest and largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. With more than 300,000 residents, 6,000 businesses as well as many nonprofit organizations, this community has grown beyond its early days of haphazard housing into an organized, self-governing community thriving on the hillsides between Zona Sul and Barra de Tijuca.

Everyday life is electric in Rocinha, but running on scarce resources. For those of us looking to help support people/families who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised in Rio/Brazil, Rocinha is in many ways ground zero.

After some concerted, advance legwork, Luiz and I have partnered with Zezinho, a resident of Rocinha, and will be focusing our efforts on supporting the drop-in education and art space run by Tio Lino. I’ve posted about some of this in the past, so please follow the links for more background information.

Let me introduce you to Tio Lino (Uncle Lino). Tio is a life-long resident and activist in Rocinha who draws you in within the first few seconds of meeting him. His easy smile and gentle, steady gaze undermine any startling impressions otherwise communicated by his large, imposing frame. He is gentleness personified – and the children who always surround him reflect this fact. While not a father himself, Tio Lino has mastered the language of children – and they can’t get enough of him. It is magical to watch.

Tio is an accomplished contemporary artist. He works in various media: paint, ceramics, cardboard, bottle caps, discarded CDs, whatever is available, most of which has been recycled. At age 64 he has been sharing his love of art and his commitment to children’s lives for more than 30 years. For most of that time he has opened his home in Rocinha, hosting an after school homework club followed by art classes into the night. Painted on the front of his studio is the invitation: “Trade your weapon for a paint brush.”

Tio’s efforts have attracted other adults who volunteer to help supervise and educate the children. (Tio Lino now lives in a nearby apartment bought for him by a foreign tourist whose life was saved by Tio after a surfing accident.) Tio does not earn a salary for his efforts. He survives on his pension.

In any given week hundreds of neighborhood children will visit Tio Lino’s studio, practice their math and reading and work on a painting of their family, their neighborhood, or of surfing at the beach. Tio tries to provide beverages for the kids, and occasionally a snack. Activities mirror the festivals throughout the year.

Tio Lino’s art studio is a licensed Non-Governmental Organization (nonprofit).
Very recently the relentless weather got the better of Tio’s house and part of the roof collapsed, closing one of the art rooms he used for the children’s activities. The building has since been condemned and is now slated to be rebuilt. Today he is renting a tiny, one room storefront a few blocks up the narrow pathway from his earlier location. The children have followed him to his new location as sure as day follows night.

Here’s where we come in. Tio and his colleagues will do the work each night in his studio. They will continue to provide an alternative to drug trafficking, violence and hopelessness for the local children. Tio will continue to inspire and encourage his young charges.

What we can do is make sure they have paper, paint, brushes, pencils, rulers, magic markers, tape, glue, glitter, string, color pipe cleaners, wire, water colors, etc. Better yet, let’s support the children with school supplies like simple backpacks, spiral notebooks, pens and pencils, erasers, pencil cases, pencil sharpeners, etc.

We can do that. It’s not the flashiest act of support, but it is what Tio Lino says he needs most. He specifically requests we not send him money. He would like to receive materials that keep his education and art space functioning. We can do that.

Here’s how you can join our Rocinha Art and School Supplies Project. I’ve opened a Pay Pal account. There is a donation link to that account in the right column of this blog. Donating is simple, fast and takes just a few minutes. Please think about how you would like to help. Go to the link and donate $20, $50, $100 or more.

Luiz and I will gather the funds raised and shop at a discount art and office supplies store (Caçula, for you locals) for the things Tio Lino has requested. Then we will deliver them to him personally. Depending on the volume of responses to this appeal we will also stuff string backpacks with school supplies which Tio will then distribute as Christmas gifts to the children.

You have my word that every cent donated will go to support Tio Lino’s efforts. I will make blog posts that document what we have received and how it has been spent, including pictures.

I’m happy to report that already one fellow blogger has donated R$50. (Thanks Peggy.) Won’t you please consider joining our effort? Here is a chance to stretch a modest contribution halfway around the world. A little will go a long way!

A note to my good friends in the United States: You didn’t really think my previous 20 years of fundraising activity was going to come to a close just because I moved to Brazil? I’m still hitting you up for a contribution in support of the activities I’m involved in. Forgive me, but then, this is a really good cause. I can’t get you a tax deduction on this one, but with the exchange rate (1 US$ = 1.7 R$) you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck!

Please – give it some thought. If you are inclined, please post a link to this request on your Face Book page or otherwise forward an email to your friends. This is an exciting opportunity to help some particularly needy children – and to keep them out of trouble.

Now go click on the donate button in the right column.

For Tio Lino, Zezinho, Luiz and I – and all of the children who rely on Tio every week – THANK YOU VERY MUCH.


Danielle said...

Hey Jim!

I put a link to this entry on my sidebar, but have you thought about making one of those little picture icon link thingies? Ya know, something like that "GO overseas travel blog" button? Then all of us could add links to either this entry or the paypal site to our blogs. :)

If you make one, I'll put it up!

Jim said...

Danielle - great idea, but I'll need help creating it - I have no idea how..

Thank you Carlos for your donation! Hugs from Luiz and I.

Anonymous said...

I put it out on Facebook and Twitter, and will blog about it tomorrow. Thanks for doing this! I second the Linky Button thing from Danielle. If someone can make it for you, I'll put it on my sidebar.

Fiona said...

Hey, I posted this onto my facebook page!

Sara and Nate said...

I am posting to Facebook and I will also do a blog about it. I will also try and talk to the Women's Club in Macae about a possible donation....

Thank you for doing this.


Jim said...

Thanks all - I have a friend coming tomorrow to work out the photo link thing. Thanks for your support. Let's rock it!

Thanks for the Facebook links. Be sure to specifically voice your support so your friends know you stand behind the effort.

I'll keep you posted!

Jim said...

Blue and Jeffrey THANK YOU. You are the best!

Jim said...

Thank you Heidi!

Jim said...

Thank you Janice - I now you know the drill. Your support is very supportive.

The Reader said...

Just seeing this now, Jim. I'll post the button in my sidebar and write up a post soon.

Is this going to be an on-going effort, or a "once we reach x amount we'll make the first purchase" or a "once we hit xyz date we'll make the first purchase" or ???

The Chemist is traveling but when he's back we'll figure out a donation.

Jim said...

Reader - thanks for forwarding our message.

Originally I thought we should set a campaing time line, but since the environment is so unknown, I figured we should stay more open.

I'm thinking we will set a date in late November for when we stop soliciting contributions and begin to buy stuff and make an appearance at Tio Lino's.

In the mean time we are trying to coast on the wave of giving that is the Christmas season in the States. Now is the time to ask for support. Sincerely so.

We are the real thing. Generous friends should see an opportunity to give in our campaign.

Jim said...

Thank you Tim!

Jim said...




Wendy P.

Olivia A.


Jim said...


Rick R.


Jasmik S.