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BRAZIL - Curitiba's Urban Experiment, December 2003
a FRONTLINE/World Fellows project
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Social Services

Curitiba has a strong tradition of providing extensive social services and aid to its poor, who make up about 7.5 percent of the population. With Brazil's President Inacio Lula's left-leaning Workers Party influencing regional politics, Curitiba is making even greater strides in reaching low-income residents -- and in the same innovative style with which it has addressed environmental and transportation problems.

One of Curitiba's more established social programs is on wheels. Old converted buses, some even equipped with classrooms, travel to the neediest areas of the city, bringing basic services and education on personal health and the environment.

The five buses in the Linha da Economica program serve as mobile markets, together making more than 90 stops in the city's poor areas each month. The Economica buses are unmistakable, with larger-than-life-sized cartoons of toothpaste tubes, vegetables and meats welcoming people inside. Stripped of their seats and modified to have narrow shopping aisles, the buses are filled floor to ceiling with produce, toiletries and other staples. The government-subsidized goods are sold at a third of regular market prices. The program also subsidizes Curitiba's farmers by selling their blemished or overrun produce, which they otherwise might have destroyed.

The Olhos da Agua ("eyes of water") is another one of Curitiba's social programs on wheels. The bus aims to teach low-income residents about the fragility of the city's ecosystem and the importance of a healthy environment. Many of Curitiba's poor have settled on the banks of the city, which rest on the basin of several rivers. As a result, Curitiba is continuously challenged with maintaining clean water. The Olhos da Agua bus brings student groups to riverbanks to conduct water analysis, which is turned over to scientists who use it to measure Curitiba's water quality. The bus is also equipped with a video room, a presentation area and a three-dimensional map of the Curitiba water basin.

The Linha do Lazer ("leisure bus"), staffed with college-aged gym teachers, offers games and activities to kids at poor schools that don't have physical education curriculum. The multicolored bus is packed with clowns, board games and art supplies. The staff also teaches healthy living and even leads yoga classes. The Linha do Lazer also makes stops at senior centers, children's hospitals and outdoor festivals. Keeping healthy is also the message of the Cárie Zero ("zero cavity") bus, which travels to schools and parks to teach oral hygiene, including dental care. An oversized set of jowls spans the bus's interior, and Cárie Zero staff don toothbrush costumes to carry home the importance of healthy habits. And the show isn't just for the kids. In recent years, local industries have booked visits from Cárie Zero to teach their factory workers proper dental care.

Curitiba's Social Services Busses
Olhos da Agua
The Olhos da Agua ("eyes of water") is another one of Curitiba's social programs on wheels. The bus aims to teach low-income residents about the fragility of the city's ecosystem and the importance of a healthy environment. Many of Curitiba's poor have settled on the banks of the city, which rest on the basin of several rivers. As a result, Curitiba is continuously challenged with maintaining clean water. The Olhos da Agua bus brings student groups to riverbanks to conduct water analysis, which is turned over to scientists who use it to measure Curitiba's water quality. The bus is also equipped with a video room, a presentation area and a three-dimensional map of the Curitiba water basin.
Linha do Lazer
The Linha do Lazer ("leisure bus"), staffed with college-aged gym teachers, offers games and activities to kids at poor schools that don't have physical education curriculum. The multicolored bus is packed with clowns, board games and art supplies. The staff also teaches healthy living and even leads yoga classes. The Linha do Lazer also makes stops at senior centers, children's hospitals and outdoor festivals.
Cárie Zero
Keeping healthy is also the message of the Cárie Zero ("zero cavity") bus, which travels to schools and parks to teach oral hygiene, including dental care. An oversized set of jowls spans the bus's interior, and Cárie Zero staff don toothbrush costumes to carry home the importance of healthy habits. And the show isn't just for the kids. In recent years, local industries have booked visits from Cárie Zero to teach their factory workers proper dental care.
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