I will open this conversation with the statement that I believe in with my heart and soul: Athletics are an essential part of life. Not just for the fun of watching the pros, but for making every single one of us better. With a good training session or competition, the soul of the athlete is strengthened. When people exercise in groups, the bond created there forms a community, which in turn strengthens the community at large. As a result of that one workout, every one of those athletes – whether ordinary or professional – now has a slightly stronger support system within his or her own body, and also within their city. Every one of those athletes now feels empowered to achieve those things that were previously thought to be impossible – regardless of whether the playing field is in the gym, on the court, or in the office.
My friend Rogério is the trainer at the only nonprofit Crossfit affiliate in Latin America, Rocinha Crossfit. Rocinha is a favela (a shantytown) in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You know, Rio, that city where the world’s most elite soccer players are getting paid to play the best soccer of their lives right about now.
Rocinha CrossFit typically holds classes outside in the city, on the beach, and anywhere they can find a little space. But Rogério has informed me that he has had to put many classes on hold lately. Not because he doesn’t want to run the programs. Not because his members all quit. But because sometimes it has become too dangerous to hold classes in the streets.
The Police Pacification Program (UPP) in the favelas of Rio has been moderately successful, returning control of the favelas to the government rather than the drug cartels. However, despite the good intentions, things have become a little more inflamed in this city that my friend calls his home. This program was implemented mainly as as a direct result of the international athletic events that are being held there. With the buildup professional sport in this case comes the slight downgrade of sport for those who truly need that sort of strength in their lives. Unfortunately, that’s the irony. But we can do something about it.
The community in Rocinha and other favelas like it need our help. Now more than ever, they have a tremendous need for the community empowerment that fitness can foster. Rocinha CrossFit needs a home, a physical space, where they can attract new members and be a beacon of personal and community strength at all hours of the day.
Rogério plans to host workshops and events several times each year in order to afford to pay the utilities on the building. This man is one of the most supportive, uplifting, and community oriented people I know, and he is continually encouraging his members to be proactive about the changes they want to see in the world.
From what I hear from Rogério, with no permanent address and no equipment the strength is already starting to take hold.
Keep an eye out for our Rocinha CrossFit fundraising effort coming your way this summer. Please be in touch with any comments, ideas, or if you would like more information. And in the meantime, please visit their website at www.rocinhacrossfit.com and check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rocinha.crossfit.