New classes at community centre

This week, the Julio Otoni community centre welcomed new volunteers from Mexico, England, Argentina and the USA. The volunteers are dividing their time between morning and afternoon groups, teaching Emotional Intelligence and Music, as well as organizing recreational activities for the children.

Marla González Ayala, Mexico, is leading the Emotional Intelligence class, which aims to help the children identify and understand their own and others’ emotions. “Emotional Intelligence is very important because we never actually learn to perceive our emotions and see what is really happening inside of us. We are affected by emotions during every moment of every day, yet sometimes we fail to notice how these can hold us back”, said Marla. Teaching the children to manage their emotions will develop their ability to respond to and solve problems they may face in daily life.

???????????????????????????????Music classes will be led by Facundo Mora, from Argentina, who hopes to build on the percussion skills already taught by the children’s current music teachers. “I’d like to introduce the children to Argentinean and Uruguayan rhythms, such as Candombe, Cumbia and Chacarera, which is from the north of Argentina. During classes, we aim to use not only percussion, but also our bodies and voices as instruments,” said Facundo.

The new classes will encourage the children’s awareness of their minds and bodies and focus on channelling their energy into creative outlets.

If you are interested in making a donation to the Julio Otoni Project, check out our site on Global Giving.

If you are interested in volunteering at Julio Otoni, click here for more information.


Meet the volunteers of Julio Otoni: Rachel Hayter

Rachel Hayter, 24, is from London and has been working at the Julio Otoni Project for the last three months. We caught up with Rachel at the end of her volunteer placement to find out about her experience with the project and how she has spent her time in Rio de Janeiro.

What were you doing before you joined the Julio Otoni Project?

I taught music in London and worked with Grand Union Orchestra and Haringey Shed Theatre company, both of which work with disadvantaged communities in the area. I also worked as a freelance flautist playing Brazilian and World music. Brazilian music was what brought me here in the first place!


What made you decide to join the Julio Otoni Project?

I had heard of the Julio Otoni Project when I came to Brazil a few years ago and wanted to try out the possibility of teaching English through theatre and music. I am also passionate about Brazilian music (particularly Choro) and wanted to return to Rio.

What is your specific role within the Julio Otoni Project?

I directed the Cinderella play, a pilot project which aimed to teach English through theatre.  I would eventually like to set up a company in England to teach foreign language through creative methods such as theatre, music and movement, so this project has been a great learning experience.

What have been the highlights of your volunteer experience?

Seeing the kids running around in fancy dress! Looking back on videos and photos of the classes is also great as you don’t appreciate it at the time, but being able to look back at all the footage makes you realise how far it’s come.

What have been your greatest challenges to overcome so far?

Discipline in the classroom has been the biggest issue, particularly when you’re dealing with kids with behavioural problems.  Teaching in Portuguese as a second language is also challenging as is dealing with the practicalities of staging a play with a range of differing ages, abilities and interests.

How has your overall experience been with the Julio Otoni Project?

It’s been good because everyone on the team is involved with the project and has an understanding of what we’re trying to achieve. Everyone works together and supports each other to bring ideas to life. Without everyone’s support it never would have come together!

What advice would you give to anyone interested in participating with the Julio Otoni Project?

Learn Portuguese! It’s essential to working with the kids. Also, think of strict plan of action for classroom discipline from the start. The main part of working at the community centre is to keep the children entertained, so everyone has something to offer and some way of helping out with the project.

If you are interested in making a donation to the Julio Otoni Project, check out our site on Global Giving.

If you are interested in volunteering at Julio Otoni, click here for more information.

Julio Otoni Takes To The Stage

Last week, the Julio Otoni children returned to a newly decorated community centre, which had been cleaned and painted by volunteers during the summer holidays. The volunteers have organised a new programme of activities to coincide with the start of the school term, including English, Music, Breakdancing and Sport, as well as extracurricular activities that help the children with reading and writing in Portuguese.

In their English classes, the children have started working on a theatre production that will be presented in April. The show is a bilingual (English-Portuguese) adaptation of Cinderella, related to life in the Julio Otoni community. Most of the children were already familiar with the fairy tale and were keen to share their ideas on how to retell the story using characters and places from Brazil. Though many have never acted before, the ideas and enthusiasm the children demonstrated during the first week of classes promise a great performance and some budding actors within the community.


This will be the first time English is taught through Drama at the Julio Otoni centre, and the volunteers are incorporating what the children are learning in their Music and Breakdancing classes into the final piece. The production is helping the children develop their English in a stimulating environment and will give them the opportunity to show their parents what they are learning at the centre.

If you are interested in making a donation to the Julio Otoni Project, check out our site on Global Giving.

If you are interested in volunteering at Julio Otoni, click here for more information.

Summer Camp 2013!

Every summer Julio Otoni Community Center staff and volunteers put on a Colonia de Ferias, or Summer Camp for the children.

This year, camp began before Carnival, with four days of different activities organized by a team of international volunteers.  Each day there were 25-30 kids eagerly waiting to see what that day had in store. There was a day of sports, a day of art projects about their community, a day of singing and music, and culminating with a day of wacky competitions such as spelling bees, trivia, and other brain teasers!

 After Carnival the group came back together the following Thursday for a field trip!

16 kids and 7 volunteers went to Casa do Pontal, a museum of popular Brazilian art and folklore from the 20th century. When the group arrived they were greeted by what one volunteer described as a “pied piper”,  leading the group with guitar and song through the museum.  “The kids were captivated by the theatrical presentation of their guide, as were we! She managed to bring to life folk history and to get the children involved as well. It was brilliant, “ said one volunteer. “My favorite part was the puppet show! I got to be the bull,” said one student about acting out a popular folk tale.

ImageThe museum is located in Recreio, a neighborhood outside of downtown Rio. The children were glued to the window during the 90 minute bus ride, passing through the famous beach neighborhoods of São Conrado, and Barra. While these places are only located a few kilometers away from where they live, many of them had never seen them, let alone the open ocean. On the way home from the museum, the group stopped in São Conrado to watch the para gliders and hang gliders jumping from the mountains above and landing on the beach. Image


 If you are interested in making a donation to the Julio Otoni Project, check out our site on Global Giving! 

If you are interested in volunteering at Julio Otoni, click here for more information!


Digital Depiction, the Final Countdown…

Abertura da Exposição Vagalumes acontece no Casarão de Santa Teresa.

 No último domingo, dia 17 de julho, os Vagalumes invadiram o antigo Casarão do Largo dos Guimarães em Santa Teresa para a inauguração da exposição de fotos e vídeos que fizeram no curso de fotos e videos coordenadas por Frances Ridley e Tamara Torres. O evento de abertura foi muito alegre. A Fundação Xuxa Meneghel contribui com deliciosos quitutes feitos a partir de ingredientes naturais, mostrando que é possível ter alimentos nutritivos gastando pouco.
A exposição foi divulgada no blog de fotografia do O Globo,
As fotos da exposição podem ser vistas no link,  k e os videos no
Aqui no blog postamos também as fotos da exposição para quem não pode estar presente.

A exposição vai até dia 31 de julho de 2011.



Portrait using a (home made) Fish Eye Lens

We can hardly believe that it’s been 3 months since Frances from Banded started the Digital Depiction and Peeps from Within Project at Julio Otoni but it has. The project got off to a rocky start as although the kids and Frances were very much present, their was a noticeable lack of cameras and working computers for the first couple of weeks…kind of essential tools you would think for a photography and video project that would see the output distributed via social media. Well, not to worry, this is Brazil after all. If we, as foreigners living in Brazil, haven’t learnt to “dar um jeito” (that famous Brazilian expression to siginify they’ll find an often unexplainable way of making something happen) then quite frankly we haven’t learnt one of the most valuable lessons Brazil has to teach you…there is ALWAYS a way to make it work.

Landscape using Tilt and Shift Technique

Landscape using Tilt and Shift Technique

So armed with a few old cameras we managed to round up, Digital Depiction got underway. The good news is that a few weeks later we successfully managed to get international donations of 25 cameras which has made a huge different to the output of the project (and the quantity of photos that have been taken!) Each week a different photographic theme was chosen ranging from  technical themes such as “The Rule of Thirds or Tilt and Shift” to more creative themes such as “Women, Men and Water”. Given that the age range in the class was from 5-13, that’s a pretty big accomplishment for the kids to have grasped all this and to have been able to produce the quality of photos that they have in less than 3 months. The best photo has been voted by the public each week on Facebook and as you can imagine this has been the talk of the community as to who has been selected as “Photographer of the Week” by the “Gringoes” (said with a big smile and lots of affection). You can see a quick slideshow of highlights from the great photos the Children have produced at: . The Project also got a great write up in the local english speaking newspaper The Rio Times Online!

Peeps from Within has also produced some great short videos with the kids talking about themes such as Rubbish in their community and being responsible for the Questions, Interviewing and Filming. As usual you can never predict what kids will say and that’s what makes these videos extra special! Watch the videos  in the sidebar on the right or on our Vodpod Channel

In the last few weeks the children have also had some English classes added to the mix from David, our new Swiss Volunteer, in order to help prepare them for the photo exhibition that will be happening in July (more on that shortly) and any international visitors that might pop by.

Watching all this from the sidelines, it has been amazing to see the dedication both from the kids and from Frances to making this project happen and the inspiration it has given the kids. Last week we had a TV crew come down to film at the community/project  and one of the questions they asked the children was if the project had influenced what they would like to do when they are older….”Yes”, said Heverton (age 9), “I want to be a photographer”.  Heverton, aside from taking some really good pictures as part of Digital Depiction, is bright, articulate and seems to almost have a photographic memory – hearing him say that, it was one of those moments when you know that the Julio Otoni project is on the right track and that Heverton, with a little bit of help, really could be a photographer.

The last part of Digital Depiction / Peeps from Within is to produce a photo exhibition both in the community and outside of the community which brings to a close two important conclusions to ‘Digital Depiction’:

  • One: The children would have learnt beneficial skills that will help in their future as well as to have pride in their community and how to effectively show this to the world through different mediums. The would have leant invaluable skills in organising and putting on the exhibition, communication, business and will own a portfolio of photos, of had an exhibition, learnt new skills, have basic English skills, all creating a professional and positive conclusion to the project.
  • Two: the audience (both from within Rio and internationally from the internet) will have gained a deeper understanding of life in the poorer communities in Rio de Janeiro. The will be able to see the similarities and differences to their own lives, the negative and the positive elements of the slum, the community, social injustices they face there and the culture and creativity of the people. So that instead of judging and writing off different communities, or only having one media gained perspective, they will understand this part of society from the communities point of view.

In terms of making this a reality, the first step of this was to produce a video, as told by the kids, as to why we should help raise money for the exhibition:

We are still a long way of the goal – we need to reach approx R$2,5000 (approx £1,000 or US$1,600) by the end of this month (the date on the Wefund website is wrong for some reason) to make this happen and so far we have just £160. If you can donate even a few pennies that would be great and if you can’t that’s also great but please spread the link around to people who might like to…and don’t forget, in the creative spirit of Digital Depiction you will get mentions, dedications or even prints in return for your donations!

The second step is to find a location for the exhibition which we would like to take place in the first part of July (just around the corner we know). The first location inside the Julio Otoni Community is not a problem, but we are still searching for a location outside the community in Santa Teresa, Centro etc. so if anyone has any ideas, please let us know.

Some people might say there is not enough time nor money to do this. We say “Come on, let’s try…we will dar um jeito!”

Lessons in Light…part 1

Photo taken by Jennifer, Age 8

This was the first lesson about light as part of the Digital Depiction Workshops where the children were learning about light…. To keep it simple to start we were just experimenting with using or not using the flash. Next lesson, shutter speeds.

See more photos from this workshop @

Doing all things Digital….

It’s been a few weeks since the new term kicked off at the project and it has been a very busy few weeks indeed. This term, the focus is on all things Digital…thanks to some very creative volunteers (Frances and Tamara), the kids have started photography classes, producing their own videos on current and social issues and even writing, producing and acting in their own short “novela” (Brazilian Soap Opera) style videos. As you can imagine, the kids are absolutely LOVING it! There have been some logisitical and technical issues to overcome (only having a few working cameras and no working computers being the main ones) but everyone has pulled together and thanks to some amazing camera donations things are now well underway.

So, aside from being great fun, is there a  reason why workshops like these are important to the kids? Frances fron Banded tells us what Digital Depiction and Peeps from Within is all about and why it’s important…

“‘Digital Depiction’ is a series of workshops that aim to teach children from poor communities in Rio de Janeiro techniques in

By Kaio Age 9. Taken in Lesson 3 - making interesting photos by placing objects in the background

digital photography, film making and ways in which they can show, through imagery, a true, realistic representation of their community to an outside audience, who often have many negative preconceived ideas. Throughout a twelve week programme the children will be introduced to different techniques essentials in photography and be familiarised to other photographers and artists and well as creative and political thinkers for inspiration. They will be encouraged to use techniques learnt and experiment with their photography to produce interesting, exciting images that capture their lives and communities. Each week will be based on a different photographic technique and will encompass different themes such as environment, women, family etc.

Part of the Digital Depiction will be shown through the moving image. Each week a ‘Peeps from Within’ will be produced. ‘Peeps’ is a serious of 3 minute video shorts from the slum where the children answer questions on different subjects, such as rubbish, violence, future possibilities for Rio and themselves or current events happening in the city at the time (for example we have previously made a video on the war in Complexo Alemão). ‘Peeps’ is designed to work jointly with the photography (as a moving image representation) or stand on its own. These films give the children a voice and use the Internet (they are uploaded weekly along with the photography) and social networks to capture a wide audience and show a true view of the slum straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. In the first Peeps from Within, the children give their opinions on foreigners and locals…

By the end of the project the children would have produced weekly ‘Peeps from Within’ news feed, a portfolio of photos and would have learnt many techniques in image based mediums and life skills. Throughout the project the photos and videos will be exhibited online on the project’s website as well as various other sites and social networks. This is a continuous source of motivation for the children and attracts an audience that follow the project from beginning to end.

Goddamn Milk by Luis Felipe age 10. Taken in Lesson 2 where the theme was close-ups

 The main conclusion of the project will be an exhibition. This is so that the children can take pride in their work and actually see an end result as they have it displayed within their community and in local shops and cafes. The children will also be involved in this process.. I believe that it is essential that they are involved in all the processes of ‘Digital Depiction’ from beginning to end to really give a true sense of them and their community to the outcomes.”

We totally agree and based on the kids excitement every class we think they do too.

Follow the great output from Digital Depiction here on our blog (under photos and videos) or the Banded Facebook Page.

Coming soon….Julio Otoni TV, Novela style….watch this space!