Arrive in Rio at any time on Day 1. Information will be posted about the volunteer program in the weeks ahead and you will be contacted by a local representative to coordinate and answer questions. "God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio," so say the Cariocas, residents of this beautiful city. This is a densely packed city of over 9 million inhabitants, whose economic foundations lie in the cultivation of sugar cane and gold mining. Referred to as the “cidade maravilhosa” (Marvellous City), few cities enjoy such a dramatic setting as Rio. The brilliant, white beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, deep blue waters of the Atlantic, luminescent green of Guanabara Bay and bare blue slopes of the Sugar Loaf mountain combine to give Rio one of the most stunning cityscapes in the world. Standing over it all, atop Corcovado (Hunchback) mountain, is the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, symbol of Rio and the best place from which to appreciate the city. Superb panoramic views of the city and area can also be found from the top of the Pao do Açucar (Sugar Loaf), reached by cable car. Head to some of the famous beaches, and prepare yourself for an experience unlike anything else on Earth. Rio is divided into a Zona Norte (North Zone) and a Zona Sul (South Zone) by the Serra da Carioca, steep mountains that are part of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca. These mountains descend to the edge of the city centre, where the two zones meet. Rio is definitely a tale of two cities: the upper and middle classes reside in the Zona Sul, the lower class in the Zona Norte. Favelas cover steep hillsides on both sides of town - Rocinha, Brazil's largest favela, is in Gávea, one of Rio's richest neighbourhoods. Most industry is in the Zona Norte, as is most of the pollution. The ocean beaches are in the Zona Sul. The latest trend in the Rio de Janeiro tourist industry is to take adventurous backpackers and travellers into the heart of the shantytowns, or favelas. Our Project Brazil tour brings you into the root of the favela community and provides an insight into the vibrant spirit of its people. We will spend our time volunteering in Rocinha, which is the world's largest slum area. Unable to find accommodation, or pay rent, many people have established homes on any available empty space, which in Rio usually means the slopes of the hills around which the city has grown. Here, the poor live in squatter settlements with sea views while the rich live down below. Your time living and volunteering in the favela will allow you to interact freely with the local people while having a hands-on cultural experience. The people of the favelas are largely friendly and proud people but travellers are advised never to enter a favela without a guide who is known and respected by the locals. Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail into the bay, it was the French who first established a settlement in the area, logging Brazil wood along the coast. Their first permanent settlement lasted a brief five years, when they were attacked and driven from the area by the encroaching Portuguese. In 1567 the Portuguese began construction of a fortified town to repel any invaders, naming it Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro. Amassing wealth with the gold rush of Minas Gerais, in the early 18th Century Rio became Brazil’s most important city and a great temptation to the French who, in 1710, waged war against the Portuguese and held the city for a sizeable gold ransom. Again in the 19th Century, under threat of Napoleon’s invasion, what remained of the Portuguese monarchy fled to Brazil where they set up court in grand style; many of today’s older structures date from this period. The gold rush was followed by a coffee boom in the mid 1800s and the wealth generated led to the city’s initial modernization. Replacing Salvador de Bahía as the colonial capital in 1763, the city remained the capital until 1960, when it was replaced by Brasilia. Today, the city is a magnet for tourists who come to walk the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, and generally partake in the Carioca zest for life. Many ascend the Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao do Açucar), whose image is nearly synonymous with Rio and Carnival. Modern Rio is perhaps best known for the contrasting images offered by the favelhas (also spelled favelas; shanty towns), and the glitz and glamour preferred by the Samba schools and their Carnival celebrations.
Experience Rio first-hand while volunteering at a community run day care centre where over 50 children are provided with a loving atmosphere to learn and grow, games and educational activities, nutritious meals and health care. We will spend two weeks volunteering with "Union of Women for the Betterment of Roupa Suja" (UMPMRS) which is a community run, non-governmental, not for profit organization located in the neighborhood of Roupa Suja, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Rocinha, the largest favela in Latin America. UMPMRS’s mission is to improve the quality of life for the children and families living in the community. Main programs at UMPMRS include: Daycare: Approximately 50 children from the community, ages 4 months to 6 years old, are cared for by 12 local women. Children receive three meals a day, a shower, medical attention and a comfortable loving atmosphere to play and to grow. Office of Knowledge: Over 50 children, ages 7-15 years, come to receive tutoring in reading, writing, math and science after attending half-day public school. The goal of this program is to keep children interested in school and off the streets where there is pressure to join gangs involved in drug trafficking. The program has been a huge success keeping the children united and involved in a constructive and encouraging environment. Extra-Curricular Activities: Children are also able to participate in various cultural and educational activities - from art classes to capoeira and music classes. All the children in the daycare and the after-school program have the opportunity to participate in these activities with teachers who are all professionals from the community. Healthcare Services: A doctor’s office employs a child psychologist and a pediatrician who treat all the children and families in this program. This project has made a remarkable improvement in the physical and mental health of the community. Women’s Services: Unites and empowers unemployed mothers from the community through job opportunities, continued education and arts and crafts including sewing, quilting and embroidering. Now, with a full-time teacher, the women come together a few times a week in an empowering and supportive atmosphere. Computer Centre: The computer lab has five new computers and a high speed internet connection. 60 children from the after-school program participate in this program and in the evening, classes for adults are held. This project gives children the opportunity to learn crucial computer skills, not taught in public school, which will open doors for them in the future. Portuguese lessons are included on the first two Saturdays of your trip to help you better connect with project staff and children and locals during your stay (2 hours per 2 Saturdays).
One last day of volunteering in the favela before transferring to a hotel for the night.
Depart at any time.