I had a great experience in Rio with Iko Poran this year, I managed to reach all my objectives:
- to meet great people (I have some new friends after this experience and some nice people that I will stay in contact from time to time). People from around the world with whom I spent wonderful time in the house of the volunteers, in the Portuguese classes, in the projects, at the beach, parties, football games, hang-gliding, etc. In the house we were +20 volunteers.
- to have a break from what I do and do something else
- to see and discover new things
- while I do the above, to do something good with longer term impact
As I am working in marketing (Leo Burnett Advertising Agency), I was thrilled to see that I can do volunteering work using the experience and skills I got in this field. I worked with Iko Poran directly, reviewing some aspects of their marketing and communication approach. In order to do this I had the opportunity to go with different other volunteers and take part in their projects so I witnessed first hand the approach Iko Poran has. And I can say that when my son will turn 18 I will encourage him to do some work in Rio with the Iko Poran organization. I've seen how people who volunteer benefit directly from the experience (my theory is that many of them benefit more than the people they are helping).
Regarding safety, with all the media stories and movies, when I arrived in rio I was at a high alert level. This changes fast as I understood rio is a great place - the only thing is to act as in any other major city (I would not go out during night in some areas of Bucharest although I am at home here).I had no bad experience and look forward to go back
Iko Poran people are great people, I personally liked the hands on and off approach (they are there when you need them, but they are not going to cross the street with you every time - and I assume you are not looking for this). When somebody needed to see a doctor they helped immediately. Stories from the past mention the same with police or other authorities (nothing like this happened during my stay). Need advice regarding going to football games? They help (even with tickets if needed).
Regarding the house, I was in love with it because it fitted my expectations for a volunteering house. But don't expect the Hilton or even a hotel level. It has everything it needs and is full of life. For me this was key!
If you have the chance to go to rio, don't miss it...and Iko Poran is a great option (Lonely Planet, United Nations Volunteering Programs also recognize them if you need extra reasons to believe)