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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Developing a Zebra striped heart


The ICS Project ‘Citizens of the World’, in partnership with the La Paz local government Department of Citizenship Culture (DCC), aims to support the development of a strategy to reduce noise pollution. The growing nature of La Paz has led to an increase in population and transportation, which in turn has led to an increase in noise pollution. This exposure to several levels of noise pollution has had many negative effects, including an increase in the likelihood that citizens will develop hearing difficulities. In 2007, the DCC launched a campaign to improve several aspects of ´citizenship culture´ in La Paz.  It went about doing this through one of its main operational arms, ‘the Zebra urban educators’ programme. However the area related to noise pollution proved challenging to develop and implement, and thus remained relatively inactive.  This was partially due to the fact that the vast majority of La Paz inhabitants belonged to different social stratas that did not have an understanding of municipal legislation.  This meant inhabitants continued to use and abuse the use of car honks, among other sources of noise, without any concept of respect, awareness or impact.

The ‘Zebras’ (as Paceños dearly call them) recieved their name from the zebra suits that they wear. They are made up of 269 young people who volunteer –receiving a small stipend- to educate and change the attitudes and behaviours of paceñas and paceños, to help them become better citizens that love and care for their city. These young people come from adverse backgrounds, and have made the decision to strive for better opportunities in life.  The programme provides them with training, a broader network, and the self-confidence to aim higher. Over the course of the 12 years in which the Zebra programme has been running they have learnt a lot.  Their positive approach and recognisable image has truly touched both citizens and volunteers alike. As Kathia Salazar ‘Mama Zebra’ and Founder of the Programme says: ‘once you become a Zebra, with or without the suit, you will always keep the Zebra attitude and spirit’. Through our project we intend to spread this attitude all over the World.

The project was jointly designed in September 2013 but came to life in January this year when Ben and George arrived, completing our team. Between now and March they will develop a baseline on noise pollution, focussing on the most affected areas of La Paz, to help understand the key points that need to be addressed in La Paz. Future cohorts will then use their findings to shape the development of an educational module on Noise Pollution.  Another goal of this cohort is to establish and build a solid relationship of mutual understanding and open cooperation with the Zebras. This will be done through taking an active part in events and street action.  Likewise, we aim to strengthen the ‘Zebras urban educators’ programme through diverse workshops that are related to specific topics, as well as enriching their daily work. One of the initial workshops that the volunteers will lead on is an intercultural exchange between the UK and Bolivia.

‘I put myself in the place of others’ is one of the premises of the Zebra philosophy.  In line with this thinking, the ICS Zebra team are being trained as Zebras so that we can take on the Zebra attitude. We invite you to join us in this journey, and along the way to allow your heart to become Zebra striped!

Written by Karina Guzman
Edited by Sarah Cassidy 

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