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A network for child-friendly communities in Latin America

The OCARA Network is a Latin American network for the exchange of experiences and projects on city, art, architecture, mobility and urban space with children. With the aim to share work undertaken in similar urban and social situations.

In this interview, Irene Quintáns the founder and director sheds more light on the OCARA Network and her work and hopes for the Child in the City Foundation. 

What is the OCARA Network? 

I conceptualized it in 2013 with the aim of sharing the work undertaken in similar urban and social situations of this region, so that they might be of help and inspiration for us all. In 2013 there was a significant lack of information available about projects and policies on children and city being carried out in Latin America, so, basically, this gateway wanted to disseminate successful experiences to encourage others to try at home with some close references. When the only sources come from abroad, regional teams tend to think that it could be too difficult for them to try locally. I felt this when I was working in the Paraisópolis Safe Routes to School Program and precisely this was what inspired me to create the OCARA Network.

Students using the Urban Band-it (São Paulo, Brasil). Photo courtesy of Irene Quintáns.

Regarding the issue about differences and similarities, Red OCARA develops the subproject OCARA Lab, a laboratory dealing with creative experiences of collective action, in EOR (Educational Open Resources) format, that aims both at being easy to access and applicable to every urban reality.

OCARA Lab encourages children to create some easy tools, investigate and have a critical look and, at the same time, a proactive attitude on their urban environment. The Brazilian Urban band-its experience, the Argentinian Obstacle detector kit or the Mexican Walking logbook (available in Spanish, Portuguese and English) may be consulted. All the graphic material received from kids who played with these materials worldwide has been published for everybody to see.

What are your hopes for the Child in the City Foundation?

All the communication materials, social networks and international conferences of Child in the City Foundation specifically bring forward experiences from every continent. I strongly believe that knowledge today has no physical boundaries, and it is great to be able to learn from what is carried out in different realities and contexts.

I hope and wish that the Foundation will strengthen its position as a source of information and exchange for all the people and entities working on the City and Child issue, and that it will become better known in Latin America or other regions where the English language can be a barrier. “It takes a village to raise a child” (African proverb) and so, we need to build stronger networks to learn from each other and achieve better cities for our children.

Irene visiting Vienna. Photo courtesy of Irene Quintáns.

What is the main way in which events like Child in the City World Conference 2018 can help make a tangible difference to children’s rights?

For me, publishing experiences of all kinds are one of the strengths of the Foundation. Ranging from public policies to more personal academic projects, the Child in the City World Conference is a good example of this. I would be delighted if, in addition to all the people interested in this event (academics, activists, politicians, technicians), we could welcome many more municipal authorities involved in better public childhood policies for their cities. We must understand that children need the best possible city as well as good schools, health facilities or social care. Children are not only the citizens of the future, they are the citizens of today! This Conference is an excellent opportunity to help achieve this goal.

All OCARA published projects. Map key: the dark blue pins with a square in the middle are OCARA lab experiences. The other icons represent PUBLIC POLICIES and OTHER PROJECTS PUBLISHED IN OCARA, with each colour representing one country

Have you registered for the conference for the 9th Child in the City World Conference? It takes place September 24-26 in Vienna, Austria. Register now for an opportunity to network and exchange ideas with delegates from 39 countries and over 100 speakers.

Author: Julia Zvobgo

Julia Zvobgo is a Cultural Anthropologist and the Community Manager of Child in the City.

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