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Loughborough students take action to improve life in Brazil’s largest favela

Visiting Rocinha (L-R): Oliver Thorp, Thomas Gray, Fiona Robinson, Gabrielle Ross. Pictured top: Oliver and Thomas visit a local sports facility in Rocinha.

Six students at Loughborough University are hoping to empower the youth of Rio by raising enough funds to purchase a building in Brazil to house a hostel, community centre and DJ school.

Project Vida, as it is known, is being led by the following students who make up Enactus Loughborough – an entrepreneurial action group set up to make a positive change in the world:

  • Matt Ong – project founder, currently studying Economics
  • Thomas Gray – project leader and business relationships manager, currently studying International Business
  • Oliver Thorp – project leader and online content manager, currently studying Information Management
  • Imogen Newey – class co-ordinator, currently studying English and History
  • Gabrielle Ross – fundraising manager, currently studying International Business
  • Laura Pearson – campaign and marketing manager, currently studying Marketing and Management.

The team have started a fundraising campaign to raise £20,000 towards the purchase and renovation of a three-storey building in Rocinha – the largest favela in Brazil. Nearly 12 million people live in Brazil’s favelas which have high rates of unemployment and, as a result, many young people have been forced to turn to crime in order to gain an income.

After visiting Rio himself, and seeing the conditions in the favelas first hand, Matt Ong was inspired to set up the Vida Project together with his peers to give the youth an opportunity to learn new skills and raise their chances of securing employment.

With the help of their project partner Zezinho, who is currently based in Rocinha, Loughborough Economics graduate Fiona Robinson, and Cefet / RJ Ministry of Education student Henrique Cecconi, the team are working hard on a business plan which should lead to a steady revenue being made from the proposed hostel; a self-sustaining business to be run for the community by the community.

Thomas said: “There’s a lot of stigma associated with young people who live or have grown up in favelas, which means they often miss out on securing skilled work. That’s something which needs to change and this is why we have set up Project Vida; it is an opportunity to gain new skills and a sense of belonging, with a view to securing work instead of falling into the wrong crowd and a life of crime.”

Oliver added: “We strongly believe this project will prove to be a very worthwhile and profitable investment in the future of Rocinha.”

To help support Project Vida, visit www.justgiving.com/rocinhaproject or contact the team direct by emailing vida@enactuslboro.co.uk.

To find out more about Enactus Loughborough, visit www.enactuslboro.co.uk.