When the Brown family were getting ready for their trip with Roadtrips to the Rio World Cup, they thought long and hard about how they could help some of Rio’s neediest, the children who live in the Santa Marta Favela overlooking the city. “We wanted to interact with the local kids in a meaningful way, and because football is like a religion to them and every single kid plays soccer but cleats are difficult to come by there, we decided to collect cleats to take to them,” says mom Tamsen Brown. All three of the Brown kids (aged 8, 10, and 12 at the time of the trip) play soccer, so they reached out to their team-mates and friends, and their daughter put out messages on social media asking for cleats to take to Brazil, and the response that they got was unbelievable. “We had people dropping off bags of cleats on our doorstep, and we ended up with two enormous suitcases full, containing some 80 pairs,” says Tamsen, “The response that we got was phenomenal.”
The original plan was to distribute them on the beach somehow, but on arriving in Rio the family met up with their Roadtrips guide for the week, Pedro Oliveira, who suggested instead that the family meet with a soccer team from the Santa Marta Favela, an impoverished makeshift community where children face many hardships.
“When we brought down the suitcases, the kid’s eyes were so big and they couldn’t believe how many cleats there were to choose from,” says Tamsen. It wasn’t just a free for all though, as the favela coach told the kids that only after he got their report cards would he let them choose a pair. “I loved that,” says Tamsen, “Even with that, he was teaching the kids a good lesson.” The Browns also brought a shoe measuring device with them, and the kids thought that was hilarious as they’d never seen one before. Giving the cleats to the children in the favela soccer team was hugely rewarding, “The kids were just so grateful and happy, they gave us all big hugs,” says Tamsen.
It wasn’t just the children from the favela that benefitted from this initiative. “This was such a great experience for our kids,” says Tamsen, “For one, it gave them a deeper appreciation of the fact we were on this fantastic trip, and how much they have in their lives, and also the immediate connection that they formed with these kids playing soccer on their little torn up turf field up in the favela. It didn’t matter that they didn’t speak the language, they just connected.”
Pedro guided the Brown’s through several more memorable experiences on their trip, all of which were organized by Roadtrips as part of the family’s customized itinerary, from private soccer lessons on Copacabana Beach, beginners surf lessons, and tours to the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city. The family bonded with their guide. “His English was great, and he was this young fun guy that was so easy to relate to and my kids just loved him,” says Tamsen. “We even got to meet Pedro’s dad one day, when he came out to the surf beach to meet us. Pedro was just so open and friendly, but I think that’s partly the culture there too.”
Having a local guide who fully embraced what the Brown’s wanted to do helped make their trip to Brazil memorable in so many ways, and Tamsen says the entire experience was most definitely life-changing for her family. “Our kids just loved it, and when we left they were begging for us to come back for the Summer Games,” says Tamsen, “And we wish we could!”
If you want to explore the very best of Rio while enjoying the Summer Games, Roadtrips can help you have an incredible trip. Contact us to start planning your dream trip to Brazil, and find out how we can customize your visit to make it as special as possible for you and your family.