Latin America: making a difference

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Latin America: making a difference

URBAN SLUMS IN BRAZIL

Huge challenge: The rich and poor co-exist side by side in the city of Rio de Janeiro where favelas, the name given to shanty towns here, house more than a million impoverished and marginalised Brazilians. Drug-trafficking and violence have long been rife in these parts, and in the past the government’s response has been to remove these slums. But more recently there has been a move towards the urbanisation of favelas, with a more positive focus on integration instead.

Big opportunity: For those keen to help make a difference in these communities, volunteer travel specialist i-to-i offers clients the chance to participate in favela renovation at various locations around Rio de Janeiro. Activities include painting, decorating and maintaining public spaces, gardening, developing awareness campaigns and organising community events.

In Brazil, Intrepid Travel has an optional tour where passengers visit a favela. During this tour, they stop in at a day care centre run by UMPMRS, a Brazilian non-government organisation set up to provide day care services, education and other support to families and children in the favelas. For each passenger that undertakes this tour, Intrepid’s local partner donates a share of the profits to UMPMRS.

DAMAGE TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Huge challenge: Located 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador, this World Heritage listed archipelago of 13 islands is home to nearly 9000 animal species, many of them endemic.

However the introduction of other plant and animal species to the island, brought by humans as the population has increased, has become a major threat to the local wildlife.

Big opportunity: Intrepid supports the Charles Darwin Foundation, which works to protect endangered areas and species in the Galapagos Islands. It also strives to restore and safeguard areas impacted by tourism. It encourages passengers who visit to donate to this project through the Intrepid Foundation, where all donations are matched by the operator.

Peregrine operates its own ship in the Galapagos, with passenger numbers limited to 16 and the local guide trained in environmental impact minimisation. Passengers receive daily briefings which cover minimising their environmental impact. Peregrine is a member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, which works towards a lasting protection of the islands. And i-to-i offers clients the opportunity to undertake conservation work in the Galapagos, where they are based at a biological station. The aim is to help preserve the natural habitat of the island and introduce new organic farming methods.

BETTER CONDITIONS FOR INCA TRAIL PORTERS

Huge challenge: The 43 km, mountainous trail to Machu Picchu is a rewarding experience for travellers, however it’s often the porters who lose out. Many are badly paid by their operators, who themselves are not honest about how much they pay them and often do not provide them with the fair working conditions and the dignity they deserve.

Big opportunity: All operators must abide by the The Porters Law, introduced by the Peruvian government, which sets a minimum daily wage, a maximum load capacity and meal and sleeping conditions. Peregrine was a founding member of the International Porter Protection Group, which was set up to ensure fair and safe working conditions for porters. All Peregrine trips use only local leaders and porters. It also supplies meals, sleeping quarters and basic equipment such as warm clothing and blankets.

Meanwhile, Kumuka Worldwide seeks to use locally-owned and operated suppliers and employs local people as leaders and crew to operate its tours. It also seeks to ensure that suppliers and local crew are provided with health and safety training, not given an unreasonable workload, paid at least the national minimum wage or industry standard and are tipped fairly.

Intrepid prioritises employing locals who are looking for an extra income in the farming off season, offers training in areas such as packing and safely handling loads, and provides medical insurance and a first-aid kit. By law, porters can carry a maximum load of 25 kg, including a five kilogram personal allowance. During the trek Intrepid encourages various interaction activities with the porters.

MORE ON THE SUBJECT

There are plenty of other operators doing their bit to support vulnerable communities in Latin America. As part of its responsible travel practices, Tucan Travel supports the work of the LATA Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting sustainable development, conservation and poverty relief in Latin America. Tucan's donations have helped LATA with projects such as the planting of around 20,000 trees in Peru and Children of the Andes, a charity in Colombia that supports vulnerable children.

Elsewhere, Chimu Adventures, a company that was set up with the vision to support and help develop local communities within Latin America, annually donates a portion of its profits to local communities, assisting with local projects. The operator is currently working with Project Peru, whose endeavours include a children's refuge in Zapallal, in the shanty town outskirts of Lima.