Community building is a core value within the Hostelling International network. Our hostels shall promote and include local initiatives and serve as platforms for mutual learning and understanding between visitors and residents. As part of the HI network, Mango Tree Hostel Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro is taking its responsibility seriously. Its managers are looking for ways to integrate the guest experience with some of the most popular local activities. The hostel arranges volleyball at the beach and football in the park with the locals on a weekly basis, and what about the chance of cheering with the local Flamengo fans at the famous Maracana stadium.
Mango Tree Hostel recently made a partnership with an NGO called Accelerating Community Empowerment (ACE) which is based in Rocinha, the largest favela (shantytown or slum) in Latin America. The organization holds a building that works like a free space for the children from the favela, in order to keep them away from the street and prevents potential criminal behavior. At ACE, the doors are open for everyone from Monday to Friday, and they offer tutoring, classes in dance, art, photography and project development. The community aims to accelerate existing social leaders, motivate and inspire both future generations and their predecessors. They want to break social barriers and inspire students and social leaders to be the change their communities need.
One year ago, the community was co-funded by two foreigners, George Crawley (UK) and Dylan Brown (US), the latter has lived in Rio the last year supervising the projects. We were fortunate enough to get insight in their everyday activities last week when Adams Souza, one of the contributors, took us on a tour. We got to meet some of the happy children of Rocinha getting help with mathematics, making drawings and improving their breakdance skills, all with the help from local leaders. This alternative community serves as an important contribution to the children’s educational future when public schooling in the favela is limited and vulnerable to closedowns because incidents of shootings happens regularly.
As part of the photography course, the community developed a photo project. The kids were asked:
Who is your biggest inspiration? The majority of the children answered their mums. In cooperation with Mango Tree hostel an art exhibition was made at one of the hostel walls, displaying the everyday heroes of the Rocinha. As of May and June 2019 the exhibition will be there to show guest and local residents the daily life of the mums who lives in harsh realities in the favelas. The hostel invited some of the initiators to come and explain about the project and what work they are doing in the favela. The hostel also hosted a breakdance event in its common area, where the children of the favela showed their skills in front of impressed visitors.
The partnership between the Mango Tree and ACE continues, and both partners are looking for new ways and new projects to strengthen their relationship and finding space for intercultural experiences and ground for mutual understanding.
Written by Thomas Røkås