Ignored by the government, Rocinha was responsible for it's own development for many decades. Resident Associations eventually formed and took over the job of the government, drug gangs replaced the police force and some NGO's helped out the few schools located within the favela. This history formed a community distinctly different from the rest of Rio's Zona Sul, or as a matter of fact, any other place I've been lucky enough to spend some time in.
The obvious differences are the crazy amount of power cables across the streets, the never ending labyrinth of becos (allies) on both sides of the main roads and the obvious lack of infrastructure. Some differences also reach beyond the surface. People here build their own houses, fix their motorbikes by themselves and clean the part of the road in front of their house. Unlike anywhere else, this community looks after herself instead of waiting for help from the outside.
Still, there are things which residents struggle to provide. Education is a perfect example for this. Most of the residents being immigrants from the Brazilian Northeast, a poor region dominated by agriculture, there is a lack of formally educated people.
How motivated they are to learn new things, if they have the opportunity, is proven to me by my students in every single lesson. Not only are they grateful for every piece of information they receive during the lesson, they frequently ask for additional exercises and homework(!). It is a pleasure teaching students with such a high degree of motivation!
Damian Durrer, Resident Volunteer