Latin America and Caribbean Featured Program: Brazil
“It was Monday morning, and we were walking down a dirt road to our assigned building site. I was wondering, “What am I doing here? I don’t know how to lay bricks. It’s already hot and humid. What’s it going to be like at noon? At 2:00? What difference will I make here?
So began our week of building houses for Habitat for Humanity in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil. My questions—and doubts—were answered over the course of the week. I could lay bricks. I could build houses. And I could make a difference in people’s lives.”
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the only one that derives its language and culture from Portugal.
Covering nearly half of South America, it is a country of staggering beauty, and its rainforests, tropical beaches and lively cities make it a top tourist destination. Brazil’s many natural wonders include more than 400 beaches in 17 different states; the Amazon Rainforest, the largest native forest of the world; forests of Atlantic bush; swamps; waterfalls; rivers; caves; deserts; dunes; mountains and more.
The figures concerning the housing situation in Brazil are staggering. In a recent note, Edesio Fernandez, a Brazilian academic and former senior staff member of the Ministry of Cities of Brazil, stated that about 83 percent of Brazilians are reported to live in urban areas.
According to data from several sources, 26 million people living in urban areas do not have access to water, 14 million are not served by a trash collection service and 83 million are not connected to sewage systems.
The national housing deficit has been estimated at 7.2 million units. Even more alarming, the number of existing vacant properties has been estimated at 5.5 million units.
The greatest needs are in the northeast and southeast areas. In the cities, there is urban overcrowding and housing deterioration. It is estimated that more than 50 million people live in inadequate conditions. Most of these families have an income below the minimum wage, which equals about US$150/month.
Habitat’s work in Brazil began after an extended period of severe rain in Belo Horizonte and displaced many families in December 1987. With the support of Methodist Communitarian Center of São Gabriel quarter, work officially started in 1992 with the approval of a construction project of 100 homes. Habitat for Humanity Brazil has now built over 3,400 houses in six different states.
Learn more at http://www.habitat.org/intl/lac/27.aspx.
Types of construction for volunteers
Volunteers may work on housing improvements, finishing partially constructed homes, home repairs and additions and expansions on existing homes.
The work site is overseen by construction experts and a supervisor, who will give an introductory speech about local construction systems and written construction goals for each work day. Habitat Brazil will provide construction tools, hard hats and safety glasses to every volunteer. To ensure the safety of all participants, personal emergency contact cards as well as emergency and evacuation plans will be given. There will be designated resting zones with drinkable water and latrines with water and soap on work sites.
The style of the house is defined together with the beneficiary families. Its finishing is standard, respecting the concept of simple, dignified, safe, durable and low-cost housing. The main building technology used is the conventional use of cinder blocks, reinforced with rebar and cement. In some cases and regions, accelerated construction technology or different materials are used.
Specifics will be discussed with the team leader. Most teams stay in a guesthouse, hotel or a community hall or school. There are typically two to four people per room. Each room will contain single beds or double beds for married couples. If a team member needs a private room, there will be an additional charge per day. Rooms typically have a private bathroom with hot water. Bedding and towels are usually provided.
Food and water
Brazil offers a unique and diverse menu. Food options will vary by affiliate.
Breakfast: Normally served in the hotel. Each region offers a specific menu. Some items are common in all of Brazil, such as French-style bread, coffee, milk, butter, cheese, jellies, biscuits, juices, fruits and cakes.
Lunch: As it is quite warm in Brazil and breakfast and dinner are often hearty, lunch will be lighter. Teams can expect sandwiches, fruit, juice, etc. Generally, lunch will be provided at a nearby restaurant, or local community members may be contracted to prepare food for the team. A common dish in the Brazilian menu is rice and beans, followed by meat and a variety of salads and vegetables.
Dinner: Typically served in the hotel or a local restaurant. The menu will vary nightly.
Drinking water: Brazil has one of the richest drinking water reserves in the world. Although you can drink water from the tap, bottled or purified water is recommended. Water will be provided at the work site.
Typically a private bus or a van. Transportation from the airport will be arranged; however, please check with your engagement specialist to determine the most appropriate arrival city for each project location.
Hosting structure and services
The national office has a bilingual host coordinator who can answer any questions related to the GV program in Brazil. The team leader will be given a cell phone to maintain contact with the national office once they arrive in country. A Habitat staff member will accompany the team for at least 75 percent of the trip,
The itinerary includes a welcome activity with members of the local community, the partner families and Habitat staff. During their stay at the affiliate, the volunteers will receive educational tools and materials about the housing issues in Brazil and the specific conditions in which the partner families live. On the day before departure, teams will also participate in a goodbye activity with the affiliate, community and families. All volunteers will receive a certificate and a local souvenir for participating in the GV trip.
10-day itinerary (A 15-day itinerary is also an option for U.S. teams.)
Day 1 (Typically Saturday): Depart for Brazil.
Day 2 (Arrival day, typically Sunday): Greeted at the airport by Habitat Brazil staff member; Transfer to lodging; Welcome families with Habitat staff; Walking tour to the community and city; Dinner and rest.
Day 3-5 (Monday–Wednesday): Breakfast at the hotel; Transport to build site; Introductions and orientation on Monday; Work on site from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Free time after work to clean up; Dinner; Time for team activities.
Day 6 (Thursday): Breakfast at the hotel; Transport to build site; Work on site 8:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Visit to local projects (school, church, institution or nongovernmental organization); Free time; Dinner; Time for team activities.
Day 7 (Friday): Breakfast at the hotel; Transport to build site; work on site from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Free time after work to clean up; Dinner; Time for team activities.
Day 8 (Saturday): Breakfast at the hotel; Transport to build site; Work on site from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Cultural tour with host (dance, crafts, open markets or concert); Dinner; Time for team activities.
Day 9 (Sunday): Breakfast at the hotel; Travel back to city where airport is located; Free time; Final team dinner.
Day 10 (Monday): Depart for home.
US$1,900-$2,100 (9 days).
View costs included in the standard budget.
10 or more members
Volunteer Engagement specialist
If you have read the FAQs and have further questions before you submit a Global Village trip proposal, please contact Latin America and the Caribbean volunteer engagement Specialist Heather Ewing at firstname.lastname@example.org or 229-410-7700.
Please note: Proposals for LAC trips should be submitted no less than six and no more than nine months prior to departure. This timeline ensures our team can best support you in the Global Village trip planning process.