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Traveling with a cause!

By: Sarah Logie

Triptrotters are not only global citizens but are also striving to make a difference in the world!  Check out Triptrotter Sarah’s recent adventures combining an amazing trip with her passion for helping those in need and her search for the next adventure trip!

I recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for an amazing children’s charity called Flying Kites. It was a challenging climb (physically and emotionally) as we trekked up to 19,000 ft in 5 days, starting in tropical rainforest and ending in arctic conditions (with very little oxygen!). Nonetheless, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and reaching the summit as the sun was rising is a memory that will stay with me forever. And knowing that throughout it all I helped an orphan at Flying Kites made it all the more satisfying! Not only was it one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but knowing that I made a difference to children in need made it so much better!

Now I’m looking for fun and adventurous people to join me in my next charity trek to Machu Picchu!

Flying Kites KenyaFirst, let me tell you a little about Flying Kites. Flying Kites is a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, NY that seeks to raise the standards of care available to the world’s poorest children.  It helps prepare these children to contribute to their communities and beyond with programs that emphasize practical education, social responsibility, compassionate leadership, and effective advocacy.  Currently, Flying Kites runs a Leadership Academy and a children’s home in Kenya, benefitting approximately 80 children of all ages.  Just look at some of these faces!

As part of its outreach and fundraising efforts, Flying Kites runs a program called Flying Kites Adventure Challenges.  This innovative program allows people like you and me to participate in one or more “challenges” (e.g., Mt. Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, Machu Picchu) by reaching a certain target amount.  This money can all be fundraised so, technically, none of it has to come out of your own pocket!  Roughly half of this target amount covers the participant’s expenses and the other half goes directly to a specific child at Flying Kites.

So, having tackled Mt. Kilimanjaro, I figure it is time to take on a different mountain and I am looking for people to join my team. The Machu Picchu Challenge is April 13th – 20th, 2012 with sign-up closing March 12, 2012.  Spaces are filling up fast so sign up soon!  The target donation amount for this challenge is only $2,000 (this does not include airfare). Participants will cover the 45km trek in four days, with the remaining days being spent in and around Cuzco.

If you have any questions or are ready to sign up, please contact me on Triptrotting here or email me at sarah@sarahlogie.com.

Way off the track in Rio de Janeiro…

By Stewart Alsop

Stewart is a Triptrotting Adviser for South America. He lives in Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro and has traveled all over the world in the past few years. 

For the past four months I have been living in an unpacified favela, known as Vidigal, located on a hill overlooking the richer parts of Rio de Janeiro. On Sunday, the government will invade this favela, as well as a neighboring one and attempt to establish control over the estimated 450,000 people living in these two areas. Around 2000 troops, with the support of armored vehicles and helicopters, will descend upon Vidigal on Sunday and I will be here. I intend to provide live updates of what is going on through Facebook, Twitter, and my blog so that people outside can get a different side of what occurs than that which is provided by the Brazilian and international media.

For those of you that aren’t aware, favelas are informal lower-income neighborhoods that were set up by poor migrants looking for opportunities in the larger cities of Brazil. An unpacified favela is a community that is under direct political control by drug traffickers, not the central government. Almost everyday that I have lived here I see armed men without uniforms. Since Brazil received the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the government has slowly and surely established its control over these areas in order to convince the world that it is ready to host these events. From the roar of helicopter blades over my head, I know that Vidigal is next on their list.

Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro (Photo courtesy of Jason Scott)

As most travelers know viscerally, first hand experience allows for better understanding of a situation than that which can be gained from reading an article or watching the news. Living here for the past four months has made this truth all the more valid to me. Due to the fact that drug gangs control the favelas, the perceptions of people outside the favela are incredibly skewed. Most upper and middle class Brazilians, and many foreigners, associate the favela with danger and violence. While there is some truth in this view, the reality is ever more complex. For the traffickers, the favela is one of the most dangerous places on earth, with casualty rates far exceeding that of many conflicts in other countries. For everyday people unassociated with the traffickers, the favela can be safer than many other places in this crime torn city.

As the cocaine and crack boom in the 1980’s changed the nature of lower income communities in America, the same happened here in Brazil. The difference, however, is that in America the government writ extended to all parts of the city. In Rio, the central government has thoughtlessly ignored the informal communities of the favelas, denying them basic services such as police and sanitation. When it became apparent how much money was to be made in the drug trade here in Brazil, criminals could see no better option for their business than to set up shop in an area that was not under control of any government forces. They invaded these lower income neighborhoods and set up a political system that, to my knowledge, exists nowhere else in the world.

Amazing views from my hostel in Vidigal! (Photo courtesy of Jason Scott)

Rio is generally seen as a dangerous city to the outside world, with some justification. My friends living in other parts of the city have been robbed on several occasions and live their lives accordingly; they don’t take out their cell phones in public and never display wealth. My experience in the favela has been completely different. I drive an expensive foreign motorcycle and have no fear of taking out my Iphone or expensive camera. This is because the dono, or leader, of the main drug gangs, enforces his law rigidly, with the help of his managers and street level enforcers. The punishments for theft or rape are harsh and swiftly administered. Unlike the police, who live on $500 a month in the 12th most expensive city in the world, these enforcers and managers are not corrupt. They too know the punishment for inappropriate behavior.

Obviously, living under the whim of a dictatorial warlord, supplied by money from the drug trade, is not ideal. There is no right to property or a fair trial and the Brazilian constitution does not apply. That being said, the alternatives for those living in the favelas are no more ideal. Police in Rio de Janeiro are corrupt. They are viewed by much of the population as criminals themselves; running illegal gambling operations, demanding bribes, and often supporting the drug traffickers in exchange for money. The people living here have few good options.

Beautiful night views of Rio from Vidigal (Photo courtesy of Jason Scott)

In writing this, I am trying to witness and describe the disappearance of a unique community that is full of contradictions. I have been lucky enough to experience this unique place and want to share what I know before it disappears forever. I am not trying to excuse the drug dealers or portray them in a positive light. They have chosen the life they lead. I only want to bring attention to the majority of the community who are in no way tied to the drug trade. I have lived, travelled and studies in over 45 countries and nowhere else have I encountered such a warm and charismatic people as the ones I have met here in Vidigal.

I know that Triptrotters are the kind of worldly and intelligent people who can see past the stereotypes and misrepresentations provided by the media. Please help me in sharing this with your friends and family so that the people within this community can be seen and heard before they are rolled over by the bulldozer of history.

You can follow me on Twitter @offthetrackrio and on my blog: Stewart Alsop in Rio

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