Kids from the Barrios

This semester I’m taking Olon Dotson’s class about the 4th world (3rd world living conditions in a first world country). At first I wasn’t sure how the 4th world and my thesis were related but after listening to the documentary “Ghetto life 101” and watching the documentary “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth”, I realized just how much all these cities living in poverty have in common, one of them being the kids. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is narrated by people who were kids when they lived there and they all have very fond memories of growing up in such a community. The narrators of Ghetto life 101 are also kids, two 13 year old boys who have been forced to mature quickly due to the things they’ve had to face living in the ghettoes of Chicago, one of these events being the murder of a 5 year old boy who was thrown out the window by two 10 year old boys. Both of these documentaries reminded me how important the first years of our life are. When we are kids we can make every situation positive, we can play with anything, being able to rely in others makes us feel safe, we are innocent. Therefore it came to me that if I want to help the people from the barrios of Caracas, the kids would be the ones that need the most attention. They are the ones that have the choice to be violent or not, to do drugs or study, to be happy or angry, or do they really have that option?

After commenting with Wes Janz, my advisor, all these thoughts, he suggested a playground for the kids, since we are supposed to design something at the end of the research. I told him that a playground is not what these kids need; they need something that will keep them occupied and away from drugs and violence. We came to the agreement that when I visit a barrio in December I need to talk to these kids and figure out what they want and need. Another useful source will be teachers and social workers who are already trying to help the kids from the barrios to live a safe and more positive life.

As our conversation went on, we discussed how designing for the barrios doesn’t necessarily mean building and designing like the people from the barrio. I do believe that any intervention I attempt to do must be done with the people of the barrio so that they feel they have ownership of the project and respect it and care for it more. This doesn’t mean that my design can have pieces from the legal part of the city such as new technologies or materials that are being used. Another important part of the research done in the field will include interviewing someone from the barrio who builds in the formal city and for his/her neighbors in the barrio.

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