Carla Siccos has lived in Cidade de Deus — a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — for 25 years. Tired of her neighborhood's image as a place of crime and unemployment, in 2011 Carla started CDD Acontece to share news and information on social media channels, including WhatsApp.
"The bad news here has a very big role, the good news didn’t have the same speed," says Carla. "I wanted to change that and I think I have succeeded."
When Carla launched CDD Acontece, her community was still using physical noticeboards to circulate information. Her posts quickly took off as a way to share announcements and news — from information for pregnant women and job vacancies to missing person reports. On most days Carla finds, verifies and shares three stories with her community.
"One of the biggest problems in the community for 20 years has been rubbish. There were big rubbish bins on each corner but the rubbish wasn't collected often enough so it was dirty," explains Carla. "We started hitting this issue hard and the situation did improve; the city council did send more rubbish trucks."
In addition to sharing stories about important local issues, Carla works with organizations to spread the word about opportunities in their neighborhood. Local groups say the immediacy and ease of WhatsApp makes Carla's service a reliable way to bring people out to classes and events.
"The phone didn’t stop ringing; we filled all 100 places in one day," says Tatiane Maiara Canindé da Silva — a social worker who manages a local organization which connects people to free courses like computers skills. Being mentioned on CDD Acontece, she adds, "was a massive advance for us."
CDD Acontece has grown from a one-person community service that Carla ran from her home into an operation with an office and volunteers. Now, Carla says 6,000 people see her status updates on WhatsApp.
In a place where good news can be hard to find, WhatsApp is helping Carla change the way people access information to improve their lives and make their neighborhoods better.