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15 Life-Changing Trips

Courtesy of Hands Up Holidays

Volunteering: Rio De Janeiro

Why Go: Few travelers get to do more than scratch the surface of this city of disorienting contrasts, where a golden coastline and buzzing night-life districts abut gritty, overcrowded favelas—home to about 20 percent of Rio’s 6 million residents. This 10-day trip from U.K.-based operator Hands Up Holidays gives volunteers a deeper look at the city and a chance to make a difference.

The Trip: An experienced voluntourism outfitter, Hands Up Holidays excels at balancing unexpected sightseeing expeditions (sunset on Arpoador Beach; hiking in the wetlands of Marapendí; Portuguese-architecture walks) with four days of volunteering in the city’s favelas. Tours of the popular nightlife district Lapa and the bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood, where a boutique hotel of the same name is your base, add a level of luxury to days spent in the favelas of Vila Canoas, Pereirão, and Rocinha. There, you’ll help residents paint street murals, or spend your time teaching English, art, and soccer (depending on your skills). Hands Up also takes volunteers to visit Project Morrinho, an arts and culture nonprofit, to see a replica of the famous “mini favela” that was built from bricks and other recycled materials by local youth and displayed at the 2007 Venice Biennale as a way to raise awareness of the city’s impoverished districts.

The Details: T+L Transformation Vacation by Hands Up Holidays; 201/984-5372; handsupholidays.com; Dec. 9–18, 2009, March 3–12 and June 9–18, 2010; from $3,250, double, excluding airfare.

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