Delivering mail in Rio de Janeiro’s slums – or ‘favelas’ as they are known in Brazil – is harder than one can imagine. They are informal neighborhoods that the government has never mapped. But a group of entrepreneurs found an ingenious solution to provide this key basic service.
CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco reports.
Located in Rio de Janeiro’s south zone, Rocinha is considered Brazil’s biggest favela, with a population of around 70,000 people, but it could be much higher, depending on who did the counting.
There are no exact numbers. A closer look at this hillside community reveals why: it is a complex of improvised dwellings and a maze of alleys with no names or numbers that constantly change.
But not for one employee of “The Friendly Mailman”, a private mail-delivery service that has been operating in Rocinha for almost 20 years.
Former Rocinha resident, Pedro da Silva and two friends, created the service after a national census. “It was the year 2000 and my friends and I discovered that 90% of the residents in Rocinha couldn’t receive mail, including myself, and we thought something should be done to solve the problem,” he said.
That’s when they decided to map the favela using algorithms. They create codes, identifying all Rocinha’s streets, including landmarks like pharmacies, houses, bakeries – and even rocks.
Though mapping the favela has been complicated, the system is simple: residents sign up, pay a monthly fee of around $6.00 per family, and use the Friendly Mailman’s address as their own.
To collect packages and bigger deliveries like furniture and appliances, clients need to go to the company’s headquarters in person.
“After they invented this system, I have received all kinds of things, refrigerators, TV sets, air conditioner, everything, you name it!” said, Lucia Freitas, one of the company`s clients.
The “Friendly Mailman” also delivers regular mail to a client’s door. It is something government post offices aren’t required to do, because most of the favela`s addresses have never been registered.
As Rocinha grows, “The Friendly Mailman” grows with it. It now has around 14,000 clients in this favela alone, and franchises in another eight communities.