The Best Places to Volunteer in Brazil

Sarah Brown

Volunteering can be a great way to experience a culture in depth, see a side of reality that is often overlooked or played down, and ultimately, give back to the community that you are visiting. Likewise, volunteering can provide you invaluable experience that may enrich your CV, open your mind, and shape the course of your future career. Here are some great places to volunteer in Brazil.

International Volunteer HQ – community and social work

Based in Rio de Janeiro, volunteers can choose between five different projects at International Volunteer HQ that best fit their interests, from community development, sports, teaching, childcare, and a project that works exclusively with Carnival. The programmes start from around $495 for two weeks and includes shared accommodation in Gloria, a central neighbourhood that provides easy access to all major points of interest in the city. Portuguese is not essential although it could hold those back who opt for teaching English. However, the programme also includes affordable Portuguese classes so you can volunteer and study Portuguese at the same time.

Teaching children in Rio de Janeiro

Women’s Empowerment Programme – social work

This programme is based in Rio de Janeiro and aims to empower women by giving them free handicraft classes to allow them to develop their own channel of income. Women’s rights have come a long way in Brazil yet women still face discrimination and inequality, a fact that is more pronounced in poorer communities. Volunteers will live and teach in a favela in Rio, helping to bring the women new skills, exposing them to new cultures, and building their self-esteem. The programme tries to foster a sense of community among the women and instill hope.

ELI Volunteer – wildlife and conservation

Located in Curitiba, the ELI Volunteer project is centred in a 183-kilometre preserved area that is a protected sanctuary for indigenous plants and an abundance of wildlife such as bush dogs, pumas, spider monkeys, parrots, and tapirs. Some of the animals were rescued from abuse in the illegal pet trade that continues to threaten the survival of several species in South America. Volunteers help biologists and researchers by planting seeds, cleaning enclosures, assisting in the breeding programmes, feeding animals, and observing animal behaviour.

ELI Abroad volunteering programmes with wildlife

Cultural Homestay International – teaching English

With positions dotted in most of the major cities throughout Brazil, the Cultural Homestay International provides the chance to teach English while living with a Brazilian host family, granting a unique opportunity to learn about the local culture and pick up Portuguese at the same time. For a minimum commitment of 15 hours a week, volunteers can stay for free with their families and are provided free meals.

Project Favela – teaching children

Based in the heart of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, Project Favela aims to mentor and teach underprivileged children by depending on its volunteers to help provide education. The classes are not limited to teaching English; volunteers can also teach science, art, maths, geography, engineering, and other topics. Volunteers don’t need to be teachers but must have plenty of enthusiasm and commitment to teach a few days per week. Accommodation is included in the price.

Children learning and having fun at Project Favela

Brazil Otter Sanctuary and Conservation – wildlife and conservation

Get hands-on at the Brazil Otter Sanctuary on the island of Santa Catarina near to the capital of the state, Florianópolis. The picturesque area attracts major resorts and flocks of tourists that are threatening the resident neotropical otter, a species of otter that remains subject to very little research. Currently, its status is ‘nearly threatened’ due to insufficient data, yet as more and more research is conducted, its conservation status wavers towards ‘threatened’. Volunteers on this project can help take care of the otters in the sanctuary, assist in the day-to-day conservation, and help with data collecting.

Dental and Medical Care programme – healthcare

Located in a small city called Aquiraz in the state of Ceará in the north of Brazil, this programme accepts healthcare volunteering services to attend a private health clinic for children and adults in the area who have little access to adequate medical attention due to limited supplies and few medical professionals. Many of the procedures will be surgical and there are volunteering opportunities for individuals and teams. Those who are interested but don’t have a medical background can still apply to assist the dentist or doctor.

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