This weeks installation of Dear Gringo comes to us from a reader whos looking for ways to get involved in volunteering here in Brazil, only that reader doesnt know where to start. Read on as Dr. G tries to orientate this weeks reader.
A couple of weeks ago you mentioned volunteering as an alternative to handouts for helping out those less fortunate than ourselves. I'd like to volunteer, but I don't really know where to begin.
Ready, willing, and able to speak Portuguese
If your Portuguese is good, use the following link to find contact information for a volunteer center close to you. It looks like they list organizations all over Brazil. Even if you are not conversant in the local language, they've all got email (i.e. they could find someone to translate if you can't). I am sure any one of them would welcome a foreign presence.
Another site that looks promising is www.voluntarios.com.br. Scroll down to the section called "Seja um Voluntário" (Be a Volunteer) and enter both your geographic area (down to your neighborhood if you live in Rio of SP) and field of expertise ("all of the above" is an option). I found two pages of volunteer possibilities in just the Santo Amaro area of São Paulo. A related site to this one is www.filantropia.org. It seems to be more for financial help than time and elbow grease.
Finally, if you are really stuck and know anything about plumbing, you could volunteer to fix my toilet. I'm too cheap to pay a professional, but not bright enough to figure out on my own why it isn't cooperating.
In response to MD...
I am writing about your response to MD about giving panhandlers and street-performers handouts. What you say about there not being Salvation Army or government type help is true; and its also true that the money could be used to buy drugs or be given to an adult who is using children unscrupulously. I think that a good compromise between giving money and feeling the guilt of ignoring them is to give panhandlers food or other non-monetary assistance. For instance, if I see an indigent person who is always in the same place begging I might make a point of buying a box of milk or some bread to give to them the next time I walk past. I have a friend who keeps a box of toys in her car; when a child comes to her window asking for money she lets them choose a toy. Trust me when I say their eyes light up much more when you give them a choice of toys than when you give them a real. My point is you dont have to feel guilty, you just need to be creative.
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To read previous letters to Dear Gringo click below:
Looking for Love
No Falo Portuguese
Pining in Pinheiros
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