Brazil: Participatory Education and Grassroots Media

Changing Social, Health, and Environmental Attitudes

Learn more about NGO Viramundo’s approach to engaging youth to improve slum conditions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil below!

Organizational Overview and Project Goals

Viramundo, a non-governmental organization in Brazil, has the ambitious mission to help restore collective involvement in public health in Brazil and abroad. To do so, they use participatory social technology (namely photovoice & participatory video) to document life in communities that face chronic social, health, and environmental problems in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 2011 Viramundo created a multidisciplinary, international course in health and environmental education called the HEED course at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) in order to disseminate their technological approach. Acting as the HEED course’s facilitator, Viramundo has established meaningful relationships with scholars of prestigious national and international centers.

One of their current projects focuses on Rocinha, one of the largest slums in all of Latin America. By employing their technology/methodology here, Viramundo seeks to call attention to residents’ daily health and environmental issues. In particular, the goal is to empower adolescents to engage with this media so that they in turn can encourage the wider community in Rocinha to take action to improve the quality of health and social wellness in the slum. Furthermore, the project aims to research and further develop knowledge about the participatory social technology run by adolescents and its results in order to pave way for its improvement and adaptation in other similar places around the world.

Community Change Agents

Viramundo encourages adolescents to engage with social, health, and environmental issues through the use of community communication technologies (CCT). They advocate for the creation of participatory videos and photos that address huge problems in Rocinha where more than 100,000 residents live under abject conditions, including rat infestation, tuberculosis, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and drug abuse, violent drug traffickers, and police truculence.

Its grassroots nature is one of Viramundo’s distinguishing features; projects come from the bottom up. Youth participate in both the selection of social, health, and environmental issues to be addressed and the application of the CCT aiming to document them in the
 Rocinha community. They encourage deep community involvement and believe the current project can bring potential benefits to the communities themselves by both creating positive change and by promoting conscious attitudes toward persistent issues.

Learn More

You can learn more about Viramundo here:

You can also hear more about their current project looking at bias between slums (favelas) and wealthy neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro here: In this video project, the adolescents identified and denounced the impact of social bias on both mental and physical health.

Viramundo has launched the beginning of a new chapter. In order to continue with their innovative participatory health education work with teens living in Rio’s urban periphery, they’re planning to renovate a building as their new home. There, they’ll hold video and PhotoVoice workshops, offer trauma therapy for groups and individuals, and host expositions and community discussions of the teens’ work. You can learn more about their campaign here:

Any questions or comments should be sent to Dr. Flavio Wittlin at