Experience Brazilian Culture by Volunteering in Rio de Janeiro

A country of extraordinary size, granting it an expressive cultural diversity and a huge variety of landscapes and people, Brazil creates deep impressions on its visitors. Volunteer in Brazil and join this programme to make a positive impact on Brazilian society. You can take part in Environmental & Ecology Programmes, Medical & Health Awareness Programmes, and Carnival Preparation in the Samba Schools. 

You can join for 2 weeks up to 24 weeks. We have places all throughout the year available.

Individuals, groups and students all welcome.

Cost includes lodging in shared hostel, airport pickup, orientation, internet access; from £620.

Carnival volunteersCommunity garden projectSunset view over Santa Teresa neighbourhoodTeaching kids about sowing seedsEnvironmental conservation in Rio de JaneiroMedical Awareness volunteerIpanema BeachVolunteers at carnival Environmental conservation volunteersView overlooking Rio de JaneiroLapa Neighbourhood in Rio de JanieroVolunteers enjoying the CarnivalVolunteers in community garden Downtown Rio de JaneiroDining room at hostel Volunteers preparing for carnival

About the Project

Rio de JaneiroThe goal of all of our volunteering in Brazil programmes is to make a positive impact on Brazilian society and on the projects in which they take place, and promote intercultural exchange. It is the ideal travel experience for those who want to go beyond the ordinary.

You can choose from the following different areas of work: 
  • Environmental and Ecological Volunteering - Community Garden projects
  • Medical/Health Awareness Volunteering 
  • Special Seasonal Programme - Carnival Preparation volunteering in the Samba Schools (November to February each year)

Within each area, there are a number of local Non-Governmental Organizations - NGOs, with whom we have developed volunteer programmes for, which cater to the specific challenges that they face, whilst benefitting the communities they serve in.  You will have the opportunity to actively participate in developing communities for a fairer world whilst at the same time having the rich personal opportunity for cultural exchange.   

All programmes take place in the city of Rio de Janeiro.   

Environmental Volunteering & Community Garden Projects

A volunteer helping in the gardens of Rio

Experience the natural marvel of Rio de Janeiro and be an environmental steward as a conservation volunteer.

If you enjoy the outdoors and want to help preserve Brazil's natural wonders, consider becoming an environmental volunteer; from conservation projects to urban renewal, you can join a variety of programmes designed to protect Rio’s stunning landscape.

Volunteers can work with the Tijuca National park on a conservation or reforestation project. The Tijuca Forest is the world’s largest urban rainforest.

Additionally, you will work on a community garden project in the favelas near Tijuca helping to create alternative solutions to the ever-increasing environmental problems in Rio created by plastic residues, waste, and pollution.

Rio de Janeiro boasts one of the most magnificent contrasting landscapes in the world: cascading forests on massive mountains adjacent to a world class city. However, this contrast isn’t always mutually beneficial, as many of Rio’s treasured green spaces are damaged by urban sprawl.

As a volunteer on an environmental programme, you can help to support and develop some of Rio's most precious natural spaces, while providing alternatives to low-income communities on how to dispose waste and recycle. No previous experience or skills are required to join this programme.

Medical / Health Promotion Volunteering

Healthcare volunteers in Brazil

Health promotion and education is an integral part of furthering the goals of development in Brazil. However, there are extensive health problems that continue to threaten the well-being of the people. As a health awareness volunteer, you will be on the front lines of educating and raising awareness for healthcare issues impacting local communities. Whether you are involved in health promotion and canvassing, healthcare advising, contraceptive literacy, or leading disease awareness workshops - your work will make an immediate, positive impact on your project.

The health awareness project takes place in different places. Some days volunteers attend procedures in a family clinic, shadow health agents from the clinic during home visits within poorer communities mapping the health of the inhabitants, and in other days they help to implement health promotion activities to spread the word about STDs, Dengue fever, Zika virus, Tuberculosis, measure blood pressure, glucose, and other activities. Volunteers might also visit sick people together with  doctors and nurses to check how they are and follow them to get proper treatment. Volunteers might join seminars and other meetings related to health promotion. It is not a hands-on medical project, but volunteers will experience the health system in Brazil from a local point of view.

It is no secret that Brazil's healthcare system is still in its early stages of development, and has limited impact on the poorest communities in the country. As a result, many communities rely on local organisations and NGOs for healthcare advice and education, meaning it is up to the people to provide effective health awareness. Thus, it is imperative that these organisations are staffed with dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers to execute essential health activities across Rio de Janeiro.

Please note that this project is suitable only for experienced volunteers with a medical background e.g. medical students/staff wishing to gain experience in this field, and you would need to speak intermediate Portuguese in order to communicate with the locals. 

Special Seasonal Programme: Carnival Preparation in the Samba Schools

Volunteer on the Rio carnivalFrom November-February, the Carnaval Programme allows volunteers to get involved in the preparation and hard work that goes into one of the biggest parties on the face of the earth! Samba schools competing in Carnaval have a full year of intense work to prepare the many floats, costumes, music and dances.

Volunteer in Brazil | Volunteer Rio de Janeiro | Working AbroadSamba schools are born from the local favelas 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 favourite school. Volunteers help some of the leading samba schools in the preparation of costumes or decoration of the floats – you don't need any special skills, just a willingness to work hard. Whilst you are hard at work you can also engage in some Portuguese and English language exchange with your fellow workers. There are many large warehouses available where each school of the Special Group (the best schools) has the space to build and store their floats and work on their costumes.

Volunteers are also welcome to go to the rehearsals at the Samba school to see the amazing samba dancers, hear the bateria (drum group) and hopefully learn some new moves. NB The dates for Carnival change every year (it is held 40 days before Easter).

Dates & Costs

Volunteer planting seeds in Rio de Janeiro

20th January to 17th February 2019
3rd February to 3rd March 2019
17th February to 17th March 2019
3rd March to 31st March 2019 (Carnival week)
17th March to 14th April 2019
31st March to 28th April 2019
7th April to 5th May 2019
21st April to 19th May 2019
5th May to 2nd June 2019
19th May to 16th June 2019
2nd June to 30th June 2019
16th June to 14th July 2019
30th June to 28th July 2019
7th July to 4th August 2019
21st July to 16th August 2019
4th August to 1st September 2019


You can join from 2 weeks up to 24 weeks as a maximum all year round (24 weeks is if you are from a country that can extend your tourist visa in country, if not the maximum stay is 12 weeks, please ask us if you have any questions about visas). The dates above are flexible, as long as you arrive and leave on a Sunday. In general, volunteers work between 10 to 20 hours per week. 

The programmes take place all year round, but we have arrival days that are set to help us organise airport pick-ups, accommodation and placements. Orientation takes place on the Monday and the Intensive Portuguese language course starts then too, 2 hours every day, 5 days a week for 2 weeks. The course fees are only included for volunteers joining for 4 weeks or more. You can add the language courses for an extra fee, if you are joining for 2-3 weeks. 
A sunset in Rio de Janeiro

The cost for a 2-week programme is £620, 3 weeks is £730, 4 weeks is £955, and every extra week past 4 weeks costs £90. The maximum you can stay on the project is 24 weeks (providing you are eligible to extend your tourist visa for a total of 180 days, please ask us if you have any questions about this). Please email charlotte@workingabroad.com if you have any questions about the costs.

Please note if you join during the week of New Year's Eve, or during Rio Carnival week in Feb/March each year, there is an extra premium (£90 for New Year's and £180 for carnival week) added to your programme cost due to higher lodging prices during those weeks. In 2019, Rio Carnival is from 1st March to 9th March. Volunteer programmes do not run during these weeks, instead volunteers will have time off to relax & enjoy the festivities.

What is included in the cost:
  • Accommodation in shared dorm at volunteer hostel
  • Intensive Portuguese language course for 20 hours (only for those volunteering 4+ weeks) 
  • Airport pickup by a programme representative
  • Orientation and information about getting around the city, guides, listings, tips, maps, health issues and safety
  • Placement and support from partner organisation in Brazil and WorkingAbroad Projects
  • Assistance in the case of emergencies
  • Free Internet access 24x7
What is not included are your flights and travel to Brazil, in-country transportation (except for airport pickup), meals (except for breakfast which is provided at the hostel), visa costs (if necessary) and your own health and travel insurance. Please note that it is mandatory for all volunteers joining this programme to take out a medical/accident insurance to cover the duration of the programme. All volunteers will also need to do a Background Criminal check and bring a copy of it with you at the start of the project. 

Food, Lodging, Travel


Dining room for breakfast at hostel

As a volunteer in Brazil you will be staying in a charming Hostel located on the lower part of Santa Teresa neighborhood. The hostel has many leisure areas, free Wi-Fi and laundry service. Breakfast is provided and there is a fully equipped kitchen that volunteers can use to prepare other meals. All rooms have lockers (just bring your own lock).

Volunteer rooms at hostel

The hostel has 3 floors. On the first floor there is the reception where you can always find a friendly face, a large living/TV room, a veranda with a bar and tables to chill out, a big kitchen with a dinning area next to it, a big dinning table, and even a music room; if you play any instrument you are welcome to bring it along and/or play with the instruments that the hostel already has.

On the second floor there are the shared dorms where our volunteers and other guests stay, and bathrooms. And on the third floor there are private rooms available at an extra fee. The hostel tries to book one room exclusively for the volunteers. However, when this room is full, we accommodate volunteers in other rooms.

The metro station to get to Ipanema, Copacabana and other areas is only 15 minutes walking distance. Volunteers stay right next to the most vibrant and picturesque area of Rio de Janeiro. All services, such as supermarkets, drugstores, banks (ATMs), bars & restaurants, delis, fruit store, bus stops, and others are literally 5 minutes walking distance. 

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

The Santa Teresa neighbourhood is a bohemian area with an intense cultural life. The charming neighborhood stands out for its unusual architecture. Enjoy a trip with the hundred and ten years old tram which still runs through its winding cobbled streets. Santa Teresa prides itself of the atmosphere reminiscent of that of a small town, and also enchants visitors with its panoramic views. Moreover, Santa Teresa offers a variety of options for eating local dishes to international cuisine.

You should budget R$ 50 (about 20 GBP) per week for transportation. Upon arrival you will receive a complete guide with information about public transportation, ATM machines, banks, restaurants, markets, shopping malls, beaches and other useful information.


Volunteer Requirements

Volunteers need to be min. 18 years old and all volunteers need to do a criminal background check. This needs to be done in the home country of the volunteer before departing, and needs to bring a copy of it with you for the start of the project. A volunteer won't be allowed to work on the project, if he/she cannot provide a clean criminal background check. For the Medical & Health Awareness programme, volunteers need to have previous experience in the medical field.

The official language in Brazil is Portuguese and very few of the locals speak any English. If you can grasp a little, it will definitely take you a longer way and you will feel much more rewarded, and at the same time you would be able to offer more to the organisation. For the Medical & Health Awareness programme, it is required that volunteers speak intermediate Portuguese in order to be able to communicate with the locals.


Visa to Brazil

Pre-arranged visas are required for tourists of several nationalities to Brazil, including people from Australia, Canada and United States. Most Europeans do not need a visa to enter Brazil, only a passport valid for at least six months. A tourist visa usually allows volunteers to stay for 90 days per year, which means tourist/volunteers cannot leave the country over night and re-enter for another 90 days. This might differ for UK nationals, who can stay in Brazil for 6 months a year, however, please check with your local embassy for updated requirements.

Health Information

Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccinations are recommended for all volunteers. Cases of Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus have been reported, and Brazil is a country considered a risk for Zika virus transmission. Thus it is important for volunteers to bring long-sleeved clothes and insect spray to prevent mosquito bites. It is best to consult your own GP to find out about current recommended vaccinations based on your itinerary.

Interactive Map & Background

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the lodging:

About Brazil
The Amazon from above

Brazil is a country of extraordinary size, covering almost half of South America , granting it an expressive cultural diversity and a huge variety of landscapes and people, creating deep impressions on its visitors.

Brazilian people come from a complex ethnic mix of Indians, Portuguese, Africans and other cultures. Their cultural identity is based on values of tolerance, solidarity, and happiness of living and also the taste of ancient things. The Brazilians are lovely hosts who love to laugh, sing and dance. It is also a complex country, contradictory, unfair and unequal, reflecting one of the highest concentrations of income in the world. Less than 1% of Brazil's population owns more than 42% of money and property. But, at the same time, it gives people lots of opportunities to improve.

The mountains of Rio de Janeiro

The country also has a lovely tropical climate, with a large variety of fauna and flora, starting from an impervious forest, going through a vast variety of mountains of different sizes, large swamplands and several large rivers nets - sometimes moving along plain lands or forming magnificent waterfalls -until they arrive at the Atlantic coast, with about 8.000 kilometers of continuous beautiful beaches.

Volunteer Testimonials

Robert Black, from the UK, joined the project for 4 weeks in October 2017: 

Art by volunteer of Rio de Janeiro

I did a mixture of three things when I was away; Scottish Dancing, English teaching and Art Classes. The dancing class attracted quite a number of students initially, but as it took place in a dancing school where people already came to learn other dance styles the students coming to my class were actually having to miss classes in their own disciplines. I still had a small core of very enthusiastic dancers, however, and I managed to take them along to a Caledonian Ceilidh run by the St Andrews society of Rio de Janeiro. We had a great time.

The English class had a wide range of ages and different levels of English, but mostly there were two volunteers teaching and we could divide into groups of similar abilities which was more productive.

The art classes we made wooden tiles painted with beach scenes. The beach, sea and sky were drawn at the same levels then palm trees were stencilled onto them. When finished we could line them up and make one very long beach. We also painted a large beach scene in the doorway of the community centre.

The project director and his family were great hosts and included us in family BBQs and birthday celebrations. In between working on the projects, I was able to pursue my own hobby of drawing and painting. I made quite a number of sketches around Rio

Harm Jaap Hartmans, from the Netherlands, volunteered at the project in Summer 2016:

Volunteer in Rio de Janeiro

"My Working Abroad adventure in Rio started right after the Olympic Games. Volunteer work seemed to offer a good opportunity to experience the real Rio after living three days in an Olympic bubble.

I have gone to many language schools all over the world, but I never did volunteer work abroad. So I did not know what to expect. Fortunately this is an organisation with many years of experience of hosting volunteers. The hostel where most volunteers stay is very nice and I felt at home right away. It is conveniently located between the nightlife scene of Lapa and the touristic area of Santa Teresa.

View from Corcovado in RioRight after my arrival I received some useful safety tips and an orientation tour in the neighbourhood. The next day staff accompanies volunteers to their projects. I did not work on a particular project. Initially I wanted to work on the preparation of Carnaval, but that project did not start before November. So I chose NGO development. Since I work in advertising, I became a communication consultant for the NGO.

NGO Development volunteers in BrazilIt wasn't a nine to five job at the office. I was quite flexible in choosing my working schedule. So I often went out during day time and worked on my laptop in the evening. I had the chance to visit several projects. I also met a lot of very nice people through my stay.

It was a balanced mix of work and pleasure. Volunteers are always free on Fridays, so you have a lot of opportunities during the weekends. So next to enjoying the great music scene in Rio, I went on a weekend trip to Iguaçu Falls. Felipe, the director, also regularly organises great barbecues for all the volunteers.

I will never forget my trip to Rio.  In one word, it was really "maravilhosa"!

Ute relocated to London in 2010 after having lived in Berlin for more than 10 years. She volunteered in Brazil in 2015:

Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city, one of the best places in the world. Despite the fact that more than six million people live there, you can actually manage to meet the same people over and over: at the bus stop, at the many Botecos, at the beach. I loved the diversity in the city and how widespread it was. What made it unique for me was that Felipe, the manager, was always hands-on with everything; from picking the volunteers up from the airport to driving them to the placements to going out for drinks and organising spontaneous BBQs, he was always up to get together and interact with us. His life experience makes a huge difference in how he handles things and I felt in really good hands during my three months stay in Rio.

Enjoying free time and climbing Dois IrmaosAll the volunteers lived in a fantastic hostel: Rio Hostel in Santa Teresa. It is a huge old building which overlooks the city and has lots of dorms, private rooms, and suites. There's a swimming pool and bar area too, as well as a balcony at the front from where you have the most amazing view over Rio. The hostel is clean, the staff, as already mentioned, are amazing, and in the yards there are avocado, acerola, and mango trees. You just need to find a way to get the fruit down!

If you want to volunteer in Rio de Janeiro I'd absolutely recommend this. Felipe is a great guy with lots of positive energy and he will strive to make every volunteer happy and have a good time. 

Katharina Strienz from Germany speaks about her time on the Carnival Preparation in Samba schools programme:

Volunteers at Carnival!There were two houses, where volunteers stayed and I was lucky to stay most of the time in the bigger one with only five others. I was positively surprised that not only the house, but also our dorm was cleaned once a week and we also got fresh blankets. From my point of few the breakfast, which was served every day, had enough options, even for volunteers from other cultures. The kitchen had a good equipment with two fridges, six hotplates and boxes for everybody, where we could store our food. Free WiFi was accessible in the living room, as well as a computer, hot water, coffee and another fridge. Furthermore we could borrow books in different languages, also travel guides, or watch TV.

For four weeks I was working in the Samba school Salgueiro for Carnaval preparation. The other people there were all very friendly and tried to communicate with us, even they spoke nearly no English. They work from 9am to 7pm, but we could come and go whenever we wanted to. Our task was to help in a room where costumes were made. For that reason we had to cut and glue a lot. Once we had to draw and cut several hundred circles. Even the work sometimes could be a little bit boring it was a great experience to do it, to get involved in this big event, to get to know the people there and to feel their enthusiasm for Carnaval and their job!

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most marvellous cities of the world and I was really happy to volunteer there. Everyday of the week there is something different to do, you can visit so many sights and beautiful places. During the six weeks I have been there I've never been bored. The only thing every future volunteer has to be sure of, is that it's a very very big city and you have to schedule a lot of time to get around.

Because I already did another voluntary work in Argentina with another organisation I can compare the two programmes and I want to compliment the Carnaval preparation in Rio. It was a great experience: I got to know many nice people, a wonderful city, country and culture! I will recommend it! 

Rosie Peck joined the Health Awareness programme: 

I did have a really amazing time in Rio! I was on the health awareness and promotion program, and I learnt how to take blood pressures and the advice to give (in Portuguese) to people with high or low blood pressure. I also gave some English lessons as the building/clinic I was in was not very busy.

In terms of feedback I would say that really a volunteer should stay at least four weeks in order to have time to settle in and see progress in their work, especially since volunteering is only four days a week. Also, on the health program, I found that there wasn't work to do unless you made work, for example the volunteer I was working with had set up a blood pressure awareness program so some days we went around the favela measuring people's blood pressure and giving advice (quite full-on) while other days could be very quiet if we sat in the clinic waiting for people to come to us to get measured. Volunteers should also be aware that things don't always happen that fast and it can be hard to see progress in only four weeks, so try to come for longer if you can.

Also, people in the favelas can be very friendly! A local woman that another volunteer and I worked with for a few weeks invited us to her family's barbecue. She and her husband cooked and a lot of her family came - it was really lovely.

Emma Cutler joined for 1 month from February to March 2013:

Casa Aurea was a colourful and quirky guesthouse in Santa Teresa. 6 female volunteers shared one room, a bathroom and a fridge in the basement. The atmosphere at the guesthouse was lively and the opportunities to engage with other guests and residents were plentiful. The best feature of the guesthouse was the open air seating area, surrounded by tropical plants - the hammocks were a real treat! Having seen the other accommodation options I realise just how lucky I was to be placed there.

Santa Teresa was a great location, amazing views over the city, lots of nice bars and restaurants and regular buses that has replaced the local tram service. The location suited me perfectly but it is probably worth mentioning that it is a long way from the beaches, which a lot of people commented on, and the up hill walks were a killer! The area was once home to grand villas and despite being faded retains a lot of character. It is now home to the artists of Rio and it has a lively, welcoming atmosphere.

I found the Portuguese lessons really useful. They were well structured and taught in a friendly and relaxed environment. English is not widely spoken in Rio so if you want to communicate learning Portuguese is essential.

Having never volunteered internationally before I really didn’t know what to expect. The opportunity to experience living in Rio was incredible. I think I underestimated how hard it would be though. Getting up at 6.30am, a forty minute walk, an hours bumpy bus ride, another hours bus ride and forty minute walk, two hours of language lessons and all of this in extreme heat! I gained a huge amount of insight from this trip. The whole experience helped me reevaluate my priorities and learn to go with the flow in a way I would never have thought possible before.

Marco Heestermans from Holland:

I really enjoyed my time in Rio. The guest house in Rio was in Santa Teresa, which is a really nice and safe area in the center of the city. The only bad part was that you had to walk up the mountain all the time!  The project itself was great in our case - you have to make the most out of your project and you shouldn't expect everything to be perfectly organised (like everything in Brazil..), and I think it is helpful to mention that without any knowledge of the Portuguese language it can be really hard. I had the basics of Portuguese before I came (which made me not follow the Portuguese language course), so I could communicate with the people at the project.

On the whole I learned a lot in the last 3 months, not only the obvious things like the improvement of my Portuguese and meeting a lot of interesting new people, but also just the kids and adults in the favalas which makes you aware of the differences between Brazil and Holland. I found it the best combination of vacation and a working experience and I’m definitely happy I chose to do the volunteering experience!

Clare from Ireland writes about her time on the project:

Being in Santa Teresa, it was close to amenities and metro/bus links. I also felt very comfortable in this area of Rio de Janeiro. I found the costs to be very reasonable. I was able to get around, eat and visit tourist attractions on a small budget. The only other advice I would give to future volunteers is just to make the most of the days you are not at project as Rio de Janeiro is so vast and beautiful and also learn as much Portuguese as you can before you arrive. 

How to Join the Project

Volunteers at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

If you are interested in volunteering in Brazil, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including your application payment of £195. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid two months before arrival. Once we have confirmed your place, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on your project, Rio de Janeiro, suggested items to bring etc.


Apply Now

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