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Trustee Q&A with Rebecca Wilson

How did you get involved in The Favela Foundation?

I spent a year travelling in South America. I knew I wanted to start in Rio as they were hosting the Olympics and I saw an opportunity to volunteer with an NGO in Rochina, Brazil’s largest favela. I went to support them to write a fundraising strategy, and diversifying their income, but quickly started helping in the classroom, with afterschool clubs and joining the language exchange with the adult learners. It really gave me an insight into life in the favelas.

I worked closely with Matt who was managing the project, and we both said we wanted continue our support long term. We kept in touch and linked up with Kanav and Patrick who had volunteered at the same NGO a few years before. When I returned to London, and we met up to discuss our plans – and right there The Favela Foundation was born.

What’s your current role at The Favela Foundation?

Anyone who has worked at a small charity will know that you end up doing a bit of everything, and as a trustee it’s no different. There was a teething period while we found our feet, with each of us helping out with things like social media etc. until we settled into and defined our roles. Of the original trustees, I was the only one who had experience in the charity sector, and so it felt natural that I would lead on the fundraising, although I should say that it has always been a team effort.

So, you work in the charity sector. Is it a difficult sector to get into?

That’s right. I’ve been in the charity sector for about seven years. It does have a reputation for being difficult to get into, and I know that I was fortunate to get my first fundraising role when I did.

I had been working in the NHS; in fact, I had been working in healthcare throughout university. I’d gone to study psychology, and wanted to work in mental health. Working full-time and studying for five years meant that I was always busy, so when I graduated, I had some time on my hands and started organising music events and festivals for different charities in my spare time. I did a couple of events for CRUK, ran a

n Oxjam Festival, and found that I was pretty good at it. Since moving to the charity sector full time, I have worked mainly for heath charities. I felt it would allow me to have a wider impact on the greatest number of people. I love it. But I do miss the 1-2-1, service delivery side of things.

That’s sounds great. Is there sometimes a conflict of interests between your day job and your role of Fundraiser at The Favela Foundation? How do you balance that?

As I said, I have worked almost exclusively for health charities and there isn’t really too much crossover between the people or companies who want to support favelas in Brazil. In my day-to-day I work in corporate fundraising and with The Favela Foundation I get to work across all fundraising disciplines. Because of our size and still being a relatively young charity, it’s been community and events focused, and we are now just starting to build our individual giving and corporate portfolio. So I haven’t had to balance competing priorities. Not yet, anyway, but as we get bigger who knows.

How has COVID-19 impacted your fundraising this year?

We had big plans for 2020. And lots of fundraising events in the calendar that had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. That said, we are having our most successful fundraising year to date. I think sadly, the global pandemic has helped to shine a light on other parts of the world, and raise awareness of the issues in Brazil, and the favela communities. We quickly realised that we had to move our plans online, and between us completed a 9,272km Road2Rio, running, walking and cycling the distance between London and Rio as a virtual event with 100s of people donation money and miles to help us raise over £14k. We’ve also had successes with corporate support and applying to trusts to help support our COVID-19 response. Hopefully next year things will return to something closer to normal and we can reschedule our events.

What has been your highlight?

I can’t pick just one so can I have three? 😊 The first has got to be the class trip we helped fund to Museu do Amanhã/The Museum of tomorrow – Rio’s science museum. For some of those children it will have been the first time that they will have left the favela. We were sent a photograph of one of the kids taking a picture of the huge globe that they have hanging in their atrium. I remember thinking that there was a whole world of possibilities open to him, and can’t wait to see where he ends up.

The second is a fundraising one. In 2019 we took a team of 20 volunteers to Glastonbury Festival to join the recycling crew. The team volunteered and donated their ticket fee. It was such good fun, and probably one of my favourite Glastonbury’s ever.

The third is about us as an organisation and welcoming our fifth trustee, Flavia, to the team. It felt like an important step, as it took the charity beyond the initial experience of four-friends living and working in Rochina. Plus, Flavia also works in the charity sector so is a huge help to me and brings a breath of fresh air and enthusiasm to the team.

And, finally, what are your plans for the future?

We have some exciting plans moving forward. We are hoping to reschedule our events to build on our successes of this year. We are launching a commercial partnership with a new, international Brazilian swimwear brand which is exciting, and very much in my wheelhouse, and we've recently opened an online charity shop!

Watch this space, I guess!

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