Volunteer in Brazil
At a glance…
- Available year-round
- 6 meaningful project options
- Projects based in and around Rio de Janeiro
- Accommodation in a volunteer house
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation and 24/7 in-country support
- Program fees from $365 for 1 week
- Affordable Portugese language lessons available
- Between 20 and 40 volunteers start in Brazil each month
- Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organization in Brazil to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
- Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Brazil will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
- Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
- Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
- Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organizations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
- New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travelers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
- Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Brazil with your new-found friends.
The IVHQ Brazil volunteer program has volunteer placements located in Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city of Brazil, located on the coast in the South East of the country.
Volunteer programs begin on the first and third Monday of each month with the exception of the One Week Experience, which commences on the second Monday of each month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks. Please note, Childcare, Sports and Carnaval projects have a minimum duration for 2 weeks. Teaching English and Community Development projects have a minimum duration of 3 weeks.
Carnaval is an event that breaks all economic and social boundaries – a love and passion for Samba makes everyone equal. The Carnaval project allows volunteers to join the preparations and embrace the hard work involved in preparing for one of biggest parties on earth! Samba schools competing in Carnaval have a full year of intense work to prepare the many costumes, floats, music and dances for the celebration and volunteers help some of the leading Samba schools in the creation of costumes or decoration of floats. Volunteers do not need to have any experience in costume or stage design, just a willingness to work hard at sewing, cutting, pasting and other craft-oriented tasks. Samba schools are born from the local favelas (urban slums) and most of the schools take their names from the community they represent. Each school unifies and proudly represents people from that community and all Cariocas (Rio-born Brazilians) also have their favorite school. While volunteers are hard at work, they can also engage in some Portuguese and English language exchange with fellow workers. Please note, the dates for Carnaval change every year (it is held 46 days before Easter). Participation in the actual parade is not included in the project, however volunteers may come across this opportunity at an additional cost by arranging this independently once in-country. Please note, this project has a minimum duration requirement of 2 weeks and is available between October and February each year.
Volunteers on the Community Development project have the opportunity to work with local organizations in Rio de Janeiro, providing assistance with day to day tasks that allow the staff to focus on big picture initiatives and development within their communities. Volunteer placements include organizations working in health education and awareness, technology, arts, environmental development, media and design. Volunteer work includes painting and other restoration of local community centers, helping to establish new community development programs and assisting with community garden projects and arts programs. Volunteers with at least intermediate-level Portuguese skills can work in outreach campaigns. Creative and industrious volunteers are well suited to this project and can offer great value in developing the sustainability and impact of the organizations’ initiatives. Please note, this project has a minimum duration of 3 weeks.
Sports are a vital part of life in Rio de Janeiro, particularly in the favelas where low income children and adolescents have few options for entertainment. The national sport, futebol, is a passion that unites Cariocas, regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status. Volunteers on this project have the opportunity to work with children in popular Brazilian sports, such as futebol, futsal, capoeira and rugby, in efforts to provide marginalized groups with opportunities for healthy, constructive recreational activities in a safe environment. Volunteers do not need to be sports stars to participate on this project, but a passion and enthusiasm for sports goes a long way! We recommend letting us know your preferences and skills to help our local team place you, but flexibility and willingness to participate in a range of sports is necessary. Please note, many of the placements are based outdoors and are dependent on good weather. In the event of bad weather, our local staff will do their best to place volunteers at other projects, such as Childcare or Community Development. Please note, there is a minimum duration of 2 weeks for this project.
The Teaching English project exposes students from low-income communities in Brazil to the world’s most commonly spoken language, one that fuels the global economy. Volunteers on this project work with local students, ranging in age from primary school age to elderly, sharing perspective and encouraging cultural understanding with the students. The inclusion of an English speaker leading the discussion makes a tremendous impact on language acquisition. The Teaching English project supplements what students learn in school and provides those who have never had any English instruction with an opportunity to learn the language. Placements on this project are flexible and volunteers can either be involved with tutoring a few students or teaching a full class. Volunteers are expected to create their own lesson plans and often work together on these. Teaching English volunteers must be fluent in English. As volunteers work with the support of IVHQ’s local team and placement staff, they do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers to participate. However, we encourage volunteers to come prepared by completing some relevant training, like a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course. Please note, there is a minimum duration of 3 weeks for this project.
Working in child development is undoubtedly the most beneficial way to increase the quality of life for children living in Brazil, a country with one of the most pronounced gaps between the rich and the poor. Children in Rio de Janeiro attend school either in the morning or afternoon, leaving them unsupervised for long periods of time if their parents are at work. The Working with Children project ensures children have a safe, educational and supervised environment in which to spend this time constructively and allow their parents to work. Volunteers on this project provide children with the care and attention needed to develop their social skills, and encourage them to develop an enthusiasm for higher education, teaching them vital skills to be competitive in a rapidly developing economy. Volunteers can be placed in community centers working with babies, or in centers for children or teens. These centers generally have few resources, so volunteers need to bring their initiative and creativity to make the most of the facilities available. Volunteers also teach English to the children through educational activities, such as copying, drawing games and role-play. Please note, there is a minimum duration of 2 weeks for this project.
One Week Experience
The Brazil One Week Experience offers volunteers a chance to participate in the volunteer work available in multiple projects as well as some of the cultural and tourist highlights of Rio de Janeiro. One week programs begin the second Monday of each month and are structured as follows:
DAY 1 Orientation, walking tour of Santa Teresa and central Rio de Janeiro, lunch at a traditional “kilo” restaurant.
DAY 2 Working in a community garden in a local favela, followed by a game of soccer with local children on Ipanema Beach.
DAY 3 Volunteers help to make garments and souvenirs out of scrap and recycled materials.
DAY 4 Helping a local sports project (usually soccer for the blind), then engaging in a weekly social night with the other volunteers.
DAY 5 Tourist excursions; depend on weather, either time at the beach or local arts exhibition, followed by a tour of either the Sugar Loaf or Corcovado mountains. Volunteers are responsible for their own entry fees, which total BRL$62.00.
Orientation is hosted by our Brazil team at their office in Rio de Janeiro. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Brazil – Introduction to Brazil, Culture and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, Introduction to Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.
See our Brazil Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Brazil!
First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Weekdays: A typical volunteer day is as follows:
7.30 AM Breakfast at the volunteer house or homestay.
8.00 AM Volunteers travel to their placements.
8.30AM – 2.00PM Volunteers join the placement staff. Work and hours at the placement are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at. There is usually a morning tea break and lunch break.
2.00 – 5.00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to their accommodation, go sightseeing to the beach, or do some shopping. If volunteers are taking Portuguese Lessons, these will generally take place in the evenings.
Please note, this schedule can vary depending on the project that the volunteer is participating on.
Volunteers are accommodated in a volunteer house in Santa Teresa and can expect to share a bedroom with two to eight other volunteers. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds and bunk beds with bedding provided. Living is comfortable and the volunteer house has electricity, WiFi and running water, however you can expect low-pressure showers that are not always heated.
Volunteers in Brazil are provided with breakfast at the volunteer house, but they need to arrange their own lunch and dinner. Breakfast generally consists of coffee, tea, natural fruit juice, fruit, brown bread, butter, jam, cheese, ham, eggs and porridge. The volunteer house has cooking facilities to prepare meals and there are nearby shops to purchase food. If you have any special dietary requirements for breakfast, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you.
“Volunteering on the Carnaval Program was the best thing I have ever done, I was thrilled to be able to help with the costumes and gain some friends from the favelas in Rio. You get a true understanding of how life is and their culture. I would definitely do it again.” - Laura Shafer (Carnaval Program Volunteer in Brazil)
During the weekends, volunteers have free time to relax or take the opportunity to explore Rio de Janeiro and other areas of Brazil. Popular tourist activities include, relaxing on the beaches of Copacabana, climbing Corcovado Mountain, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer, catching the cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain, horse trekking and wildlife spotting in the Pantanal wetlands, exploring Iguaçu Falls and trekking through the Amazon.
See our Brazil Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Brazil!
Weather and climate: The climate of Brazil comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a large area and varied topography, but most of the country is tropical. According to the Köppen system, Brazil hosts five major climatic subtypes: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, temperate, and subtropical. The different climatic conditions produce environments ranging from equatorial rainforests in the north and semiarid deserts in the northeast, to temperate coniferous forests in the south and tropical savannas in central Brazil. Many regions have starkly different microclimates.
Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ’s local team on arrival in Brazil.
Fluency in Portuguese is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Brazil volunteer program, however on certain projects, such as Teaching English, volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Brazil. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Portuguese lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Brazil.
Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.
Portuguese language lessons are available to all volunteers regardless of their ability. IVHQ recommends these lessons for all volunteers in Brazil unless they are fluent in Portuguese. Volunteers with a basic level of Portuguese should strongly consider these lessons to allow them to work and communicate more effectively during their program. These language lessons can be organized upon arrival in Brazil, during the program orientation. These language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Portuguese and must be paid for in Brazil to our local program staff.