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Sonvela: How it all started

· Sonvela

A few days ago I realized how little you can read about my yourney on the Sonvela homepage. The very short story explains how Sonvela got started in a few sentences, but it definitely does not tell the story of how it all started and what happened from there.

If you want to get to know Sonvela and the journey of the Non-Profit, you'll have to get to know me as well. Sonvela has become a very big part of who I am, and was one of the reasons why I wanted to get on this adventure a few years ago that led me to leave Rotterdam and move to Cape Verde.

As you can read on the homepage, Sonvela started when I spent some time in the Rocinha favela in 2011. I was planning a 2-month stay in the biggest favela of Brazil, and I wanted to support a few inspiring local community initiatives I had come across.

Going to Brazil

Zezinho, the Favela Adventures founder who had helped me out with my travel planning, was collecting supplies for the art school of Tio Lino in Rocinha. I wanted to collect art supplies as well, so I spread the word among my colleges about this.

I also told my colleges about the Borel Football School led by coach Magno Ribeiro. The response from my colleges was overwhelming. In a short amount of time I had an incredible amount of very cool stuff for both projects. This really got me thinking.

This was all happening a few months before I would be turning 29, which I think is something that got me thinking more about what I wanted to do with my life. I was about to go to Rio for two months because I was feeling ready for a bigger adventure than the holidays and short trips I used to go on. But I was also thinking about how I wanted to contribute to other peoples lives as well.


At a young age I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Cape Verde with my family a couple of times. This made me see how other kids were living and growing up. I realized not everyone was as lucky as I was, although as son of imigrant parents we were far from rich. Another thing that influenced me a lot was my mother who was always (and still is) very helpful to others.

She used to talk about her dream of one day returning to Cape Verde, and working with street kids. Basically, that's exactly what she is doing today. My mom always made sure me and my sister understood that we were lucky to have what we had, especially at times we complained about it not being enough.

This influence continued to develop into my own ideas when I started traveling myself. As much as I could back to Cape Verde, but to other places in the world as well. The inequality that I witnessed traveling was painful at times, and has never left my mind. So here I was, at the start of an adventure to Brazil's biggest favela and a 'perfect' example of the incredible inequality we live in.

As I went on to organize the trip to Rocinha and all the art and football supplies my colleges were donating, I started thinking about creating a small organization. It felt logical to set up something for projects in Cape Verde as well, and what I was doing felt really good. The name Sonvela came to me as I was on my bike, on my way to a football match.

Sonvela is a combination of Soncent (the way Cape Verdeans call the island São Vicente) and Favela. Not only because I was almost ready for the trip of a lifetime to a favela, or the fact that I was already thinking about future projects for São Vicente. Early on I thought back to the many neighborhoods on the island, and how some of them come across as completely neglected. Here, in these 'favelas', is where I wanted Sonvela to make an impact.

Freddy, the founder of Sonvela

Hi, I'm Freddy, the founder of Sonvela. I'm also the creator of the popular Sonvela Arte project, and the travelblog Thank you so much for reading! Feel free to message me if you have any questions.