Previous Winner Testimonials

Read what our previous Rio Raffle winners had to say about their experience:

2015 – Rachel Handforth and Claudia Dolezal

“I had such an amazing trip to Rio in 2016 thanks to winning the raffle. I’m not sure I ever would have had the opportunity to visit the city otherwise, so I felt really lucky to be able to go! I loved getting to know Rio, especially sampling the local food! Thanks for a wonderful trip!” – Rachel Handforth

2014 – Bob & Karla Weldon [album]

Bob & Karla Weldon“In December of 2014, my husband and I were debating whether or not to attend the Rotary International Convention, to be held in São Paulo in June 2015. RI conventions are generally great (+), airfare is expensive (-), we’ve been to Brazil once before (+/-),–back and forth. On the very last day, perhaps at the very last hour of opportunity, my husband decided to buy 8 tickets for the CatComm Rio Raffle. Just a short time later, after a phone call from Theresa, he came downstairs and announced, ‘Well, I guess we just decided to go to the convention.’ We were able to work out the timing with Theresa and take advantage of two events for the price (free) of one—or actually two for the price of a Rio-São Paulo round-trip ticket.

Our week in Rio was most enjoyable! The Bed-and-Breakfast, located in the charming area of Santa Teresa, was delightful and we were well cared for.

Breakfast “fixin’s” in our own little kitchen got each morning off to a good start, and Theresa was most helpful in giving directions and/or calling taxis for tourist spots, even accompanying us (along with her daughter) to the Christ the Redeemer statue.

We were fortunate to get to meet a number of her very able interns, and to see several of them in action as we toured three very different favelas, learning about their various needs and frustrations, as well as seeing some of their successes and what CatComm is doing to improve their conditions.

We are so happy to have had such a wonderful opportunity. Thank you Theresa and CatComm.”

2013 – Tanmay Davé

Tanmay Dave“When I first got the message from CatComm that the 2013 Rio Raffle deadline was a short week away, I didn’t think twice about donating for a couple of tickets. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the email the next month that listed my name as the winner. I thought it was a hoax and literally called Brazil to confirm that I had indeed won! Having had an opportunity to volunteer in Rio in 2010 on my own, I considered it a blessing that I received this win and we decided that I’d make my trip down to Rio during the summer of 2014 to once again do some good work with the wonderful people of Brazil.

On my second day in town, I surprised one of my good friends, Neuza Nascimento, the entrepreneur of a grassroots NGO, CIACAC, who I worked with in the favela of Parada de Lucas. She was shocked with surprise as we enjoyed our time and caught up and I got a chance to set aside a good chunk of time to volunteer there with a new batch of kids. I felt I was no stranger to the favela life as it was the same space I remembered it as, of energetic children and friendly families all greeting me with smiles and fun. Meanwhile, my stay at Santa Teresa felt like home away from home as I had the chance to explore the hip side of town and meet new friends from countries such as France, England, and the U.S., courtesy of CatComm’s welcoming staff. Enjoying a children’s birthday party, volunteering with children in a couple different favelas, enjoying the nightlife of Lapa, Usain Bolt’s ‘Mano a mano’ friendly run in Leme, hot days at Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and even the last few days of the World Cup, were all part of the fun time I enjoyed in the vibrant city of Rio.

I was also lucky enough to be the first winner to enjoy the newly built Bed & Breakfast in Santa Teresa, with its outdoor pool and waterfall, private bedroom and bath, and the great hospitality of Theresa Williamson, including some fine exotic passion-fruit and coconut jam on tasty multi-grain bread as part of my breakfast! It’s difficult to capture the essence of a fantastic trip all in a few short lines, but the CatComm Rio Raffle initiative is most certainly a worthy cause to support to help empower the voices of those who are living in the favelas of Rio and who deserve improved conditions and a better life. Taking part in the Raffle is a win-win situation…make it happen!”

2012 – Frana Milan

Frana Milan with CatComm ED Theresa Williamson from Cantagalo favela in Rio“As a resident of grey, rainy Seattle, I was surprised and absolutely delighted to win CatComm’s 2012 Rio Raffle. Having lived in Brazil before, I have a lot of ties to the country, so I used my trip to spend a month catching up with old friends in sunny Rio, São Paulo, and Vitória and enjoying the beaches of the Northeast. During my stay in Rio, I met some of CatComm’s staff and interns and toured a community where CatComm has worked in the past. I was able to see firsthand the challenges facing favela communities, which only reinforced for me the impact and importance of CatComm’s work. With Brazil now so prominently on the world stage, it has never been more important for people in these communities to have a voice and CatComm’s work is helping make that possible. Can’t wait to see more amazing projects coming from CatComm and hear about the next Rio Raffle winner’s adventures in Brazil!”

2011 – Colette and Mark Crutcher

Colette and Mark“We are a couple from San Francisco whose daughter has been living in Rio for the past 2 years. She volunteered with Catalytic Communities early during her sojourn there, and so we bought raffle tickets to support her, and because the organization seemed to be doing important work.

To our surprise we won the Grand Prize, and the trip to Rio that we would have taken anyway–to visit our daughter–was suddenly on a very different footing. Besides the obvious advantage of having our flight and lodging paid for, the real prize is getting to stay in Theresa Williamson’s home, which is a very comfortable and congenial place to be, with a location that can’t be beat–in the heart of Ipanema, 3 blocks from the beach, with lots of restaurants, juice bars, shops and grocery stores (if you want to cook at home), and easy access to Rio’s useful, if limited, subway system. Theresa makes you feel right at home, like a house guest, rather than a lodger, and because of the work she does, she can show you parts of the city that most tourists, and even many Cariocas, never see. Even conversations around the kitchen table open up a view behind the tourist facade that most visitors don’t get. Rio is an intense and fascinating place, and we are grateful to Theresa for the insight that she and her colleagues provided into the full spectrum of life in the city.

We had a very enjoyable time in Rio, took full advantage of the fun, sun, sand and nightlife, swooned over the beauty of the city’s physical situation, but because of the insider connection the Raffle winners have, we both felt that our visit was much more than a vacation.”

2010 – Lance Jay Brown and Irma Ostroff

“A welcome and hosted visit to Rio de Janeiro is an extraordinary experience. The generous advice and ‘entre’ or access provided by CatComm transforms what might be a modestly enjoyable visit into a profound and exciting journey. Whatever your preferred or personal interest may be, the architecture of the city, the cultural facilities and museums, the flora and fauna, the historic beach fronts, the dynamic and developing city, or the informal communities and their noble struggles for deserved legitimacy. In one way or another, we did it all. We dove in. We engaged, we took part, and we support. The people are welcoming, the food a treat, and in sum I impatiently look forward to my next visit.”