International volunteering NGOs worldwide offer social work opportunities in several countries. In this article, we will explain how to work as a volunteer in Brazil, the requirements to apply and the jobs available for foreigners.
The fact that Brazil has several areas of poverty and misery all over the territory is nothing new. With poverty, comes the lack of education, housing and infrastructure, hunger, violence etc. Because most of the under-privileged communities in Brazil suffer from abandon by the authorities, NGOs have been playing the role of the government in several matters.
According to ABONG, the Brazilian Non-Governmental Organization Association, there are currently 338.000 NGOs in Brazil. As expected, they mostly count with government subsidies, donations, and voluntary workers. However, Brazil, as any other capitalist country, lack people interested and with time to perform volunteer work. That’s why several international agencies are recruiting foreigners to use their skills on social causes in the country.
The cities that most receive foreign volunteer workers are Rio de Janeiro-RJ, São Paulo-SP, Florianópolis-SC, Salvador-BA, Brasília-DF and the regions of Amazon and Pantanal.
What kind of work can I perform as a volunteer?
There are several fields of work for foreign volunteers in Brazil. However, the most common positions for a foreign volunteer to work are:
Teaching English or other languages: the volunteer will prepare classes and teach language to the community.
Art programs: the volunteer will give dancing, painting, drawing or music classes for children and adults.
Building homes: the volunteers participate in some hand-on physical work helping to build houses for the community.
Sports programs: the volunteer will assist youth from favelas playing and teaching all sorts of sports with them.
Health care: the volunteer will work with health care advice, education, and provide medical assistance.
Community Development: the volunteer will help design projects and improve the activities for the development of the NGO
Working with children: the volunteer can be an educator, advocate or simply spend time playing and taking care of children. As a volunteer, you will work with children from favelas, providing special attention, support and guidance.
How to apply?
The recruitment is normally done directly by the NGO or by specialized international agencies that will place the applicant where he better fits. The programs go from two weeks up to two years long.
The institutions have a program designed and a house where they host their volunteer workers. The cost of the programs varies a lot, accordingly to the number of months the person is interested in working, but prices go from around USD 1000, for a four-week program. The programs only include housing; all other expenses are for the participant.
The requirements to apply for a volunteer program are almost none; the applicant just need to be over 18 years old, have at least a high school education, and gather financial conditions to be sustained while staying in the country. The tickets to get and leave Brazil are not included in these programs as well.
There are programs for experienced and inexperienced volunteers. However, some of the fields and programs will require a college degree such as health care and community development programs.
It is not necessary to know Portuguese to apply for a volunteer job in Brazil. However, most of the NGOs that bring foreigners to work here give Portuguese lessons as part of the program.
Below we made a list of agencies that offer volunteer programs for foreigners in Brazil. You can click on their names for further information.
For people coming to Brazil on a temporary basis for work purposes, there are several types of visas that may be applicable according to each situation or circumstance. There is a special visa for volunteer workers called “visto de assistência social”.
The volunteer visa may be granted for a period of two years for foreigners who come to Brazil to provide religious services or social assistance. It’s important to emphasize that, during his time in Brazil, the person cannot receive compensation for voluntary work or perform any other paid activities.
Good news: foreigners coming to Brazil with this type of visa do not need to obtain a work permit from the Brazilian Ministry of Labor. The applicant can apply for this specific visa directly.
Aside from the regular personal documents, this type of visa requires additional materials, such as proof of health insurance valid in Brazil and letters from the hosting organization, describing what type of work the volunteer will undertake, where and for how long, and take full responsibility for the volunteer’s daily expenses and departure from the country.
Have in mind you must issue the volunteer work visa in your country of origin, because there is no way to transition from a tourist visa to a work visa while remaining in Brazil.