Felipe Rocha, 19, was the only person from Rio selected to participate in the “Transformative Youth” program by the NGO Ashoka.

Have you ever thought about how to make the world a better place? At just eight years old, Felipe Rocha, a native of Rio, wanted to do his part. Growing up in the Quitanda Community in Costa Barros, one of the city’s most violent areas, Felipe remembers his first volunteer work like it was yesterday.

“I always wanted to change the reality of the community where I was born. So, the first thing I did was become a member of the Visão Restaurar NGO that was located inside the favela. When I joined, my first volunteer work was to distribute coffee to residents. It was small, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was such a special moment in my life that I didn’t want to stop,” the young man recalled.

The youngest of ten siblings, Felipe did not know his father and always looked up to his older brother, Bruno Rocha, now 29. “My brother started working at seven years old. Since we didn’t have a father figure at home, he felt responsible for all of us. He was always someone who pursued his goals and didn’t let difficulties defeat him. Today, he has a company with 15 employees,” said the young man, who lives with his 64-year-old mother and 22-year-old brother Patrick.

First contact with technology
Since joining the Visão Restaurar NGO, Felipe has always wanted to do more. So, he came up with an idea to start a project that could “drag” other young people onto the right path. However, the lack of digital tools and means to make the project feasible prevented him from moving forward. But that changed in 2017 when he started his first technology course at Recode.

“I had never had more advanced contact with technology until the Recode courses were implemented in the community NGO. With the courses, I learned how to turn on a computer, access the Internet, and use social media. So, after all that learning and knowledge, I decided to put my project into practice, which I named ‘Me Segue’ (‘Follow Me’ in Portuguese).”

‘Social Project ‘Me Segue’
Felipe gathered nine other young people from his community to map the abandoned locations in the favela that need to be revitalized. “We listed the most vandalized and culturally lacking places in our community and thought of revitalization actions to carry out in these places. For this, we needed material. So, social media was and is crucial for us to ask residents and non-residents for donations. And if I know how to use them today, it’s because the Recode courses taught me,” said the young man, who is in the first semester of Social Communication at Estácio de Sá University.

Ashoka NGO
Nominated by Recode President Rodrigo Baggio, Felipe was one of ten Brazilians selected for the Ashoka International NGO’s “Transformative Youth” program. The carioca was approved with two social projects: ‘Me Segue’ and ‘Oficina BrincArte.’ Both projects are already in full swing within the community itself.