Trustee Q&A with Flavia Franco
How did you get involved in The Favela Foundation?
Having grown up in Sao Paulo I've always been aware of the societal pressures present in Favela communities - so the issue is all too real and personal for me, but at the same time a distant reality. I moved to the UK almost two decades ago and I've been looking at ways of staying connected and still making a difference from across the Atlantic. When I met Rebecca Wilson and she shared her passion for The Favela Foundation (TFF) and its ethos I jumped at the opportunity to get involved however I could. And as my mentor she helped me identify where my skills were best placed which is critical when working for a cause.
So, you work in the charity sector. Is it a difficult sector to get into?
Arguably yes! You need to be passionate about a cause to truly drive it forward. It has taken me a fair amount of trial and error before cracking it, but it's certainly not impossible. More and more companies are revaluing their purpose and social responsibility - which brings with it more career opportunities, it's great to both see this change and also be part of it.
What’s your current role at The Favela Foundation?
Most of my career has been in politics or the charity sector, and I’m currently at WWF managing our business relationships to effect change. I’ve carried these fundraising and partnership ambitions to TFF to increase our corporate outreach and support how this facilitates and scales up projects on the ground. Though as any small NGO can attest to, the answer is often ‘I cover the role that’s needed that day!’
That’s sounds great. How do you balance your day job and your role of Fundraiser at The Favela Foundation?
I’m passionate about wildlife thanks partly to my upbringing in Brazil and its natural riches, and I’m also fascinated by our cultural heritage having trained capoeira for 16 years - the opportunity to work across both is ideal for me. Fortunately there isn't a conflict because the subjects are so different - but they can and should be mutually beneficial too.
At the Favela Foundation we really do work as a team and help to support one another’s strengths and constraints which massively helps. Like they didn’t judge when I started running the distance to Rio with them and sent gasping videos after 1km!
How has COVID-19 impacted your fundraising this year?
We knew we had to act fast to help, we’re close to the people we support and couldn’t sit by knowing they’d be hit so much worse. We decided to start funding the distribution of cestas basicas (food/hygiene packages) to those most affected in the community so they needn’t leave their homes and could stay safe. Seeing direct support taking effect is what we’re fundraising for, before and after Covid-19.
What has been a valuable learning?
Discussing favelas with people from different cultures, and their representation abroad following exposure through films, social media, music videos, the Olympics etc. And questioning the dangers of depicting issues like violence, poverty and sexuality without delving deeper is critical. In my first meeting I called a favela a shanty town. Opening a conversation with non-Brazilians on why they prefer to call them favelas was eye opening. The structure is arguably similar, so why do favelas evoke more colour and music, and does that decrease the stigma somehow, or just superficially? Questions I’m still answering myself, despite having a Sociology degree and masters in IR I couldn’t tell you as they’re living breathing entities in constant flux. What matters to me though is the potential within them, which is why TFF is a great fit for me. They see what can be achieved when the same level of support and opportunities others receive is afforded to the communities, and if I can provide even a little of that equality to some people then I’m eternally grateful to be a part of it.
An interesting fact?
The name Favela came from soldiers who camped on a hill where the thorny favela plant grows in the northeast region and made temporary housing. When some of the soldiers returned to Rio, they settled on forested hillsides that surrounded the city, waiting to be granted land that they were promised by the government. Their makeshift living conditions again were a reminder of the "favela" hills. The term eventually stuck.