Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Many Faces of Brasil

So far every city I have visited in Brasil feels like another continent. 

Rio stands up to it´s dreamy reputation, beaches, mountains, and all the mod cons what more could you want? The Cariocas are a bit different from everyone else, they have a really strange sense of humor.  For example, everyday someone would yell at me: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!!! I had such an amazing time, and made a lot of new friends. Carioca cab drivers are especially chatty, they love tourists and want to hear all about Manaus and Toronto.  Whereas, in Manaus the Manauaras are less interested in trying to decipher my broken Portuguese. Did I mention the steak-cheese-pineapple sandwhiches!?

Petropolis is a very worthwile bus trip one hour outside of Rio.  The bus ride alone is on par with driving through the Rockey Mountains on Glacier Parkway, the mountains outside Rio are just spectacular.  Petropolis has a lot of historical colonial sites such as the Imperial Museum.  I had a fun time getting lost on a local bus in the mountains! Petropolis feels like being in a sleepy town in the midlands of England, the pace is slower, and there are lots of older people doing funny outdoor exercises.

Sao Paulo is a monster of a city, I thought I could handle it but I was wrong.  I lasted about 4 minutes on Rua 25 Marco, which is the big shopping street. In the downtown centro part there are so many people you can´t see your own nose, it is very overwhelming.  Sampa feels like the most dangerous city so far, I am not sure why. Maybe it is because the streets are not lit very well, and everything is located in private space.   Sao Paulo feels closed, everything is behind a door or in a random place so you need to know precisely where you are going. I am so lucky to have some wonderful friends here, otherwise I would be totally lost in this massive jungle.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Prosamim Parte Dois: Dia de Saúde

We were lucky enough to be invited to two Prosamim events, health services day and a food waste preparation seminar. 
Prosamim hosted a health event (Posto do Saúde) for the Secretary of Health (Secretaria Municipal de Saúde) at its Base de Atividades which is a meeting hall for the Prosamim Ipixuna Residential Park. The event had 7 doctors giving consultations, a vaccination station, and dentists in fully equipped mobile offices, a pharmacy, optomologists, nutritionists, psychologists, social workers, as well as blood sugar and pressure tests.      
The Prosamim residential park at Ipixuna consists of 3 different Quadras and has 819 apartments. About 372 families live in Quadra #3 alone.    

Profile on PROSAMIM

Prosamim is an organization we hope to work with for the purposes of researching their unique framework for urban revitalization, and investigating the possibility for future partnerships with Niagara College. Prosamim recieves government and Interamerican Development Bank funding.
Prosamim has successfully replaced former slum areas of Manaus with new residential parks and public parks.  Not only does Prosamim construct new housing for the most marginalized populations in Manaus, it also continues to work directly with communities through providing diverse social services. The reason for Prosamim’s success is their unique framework which utilizes participatory methods, as well as project transparency and accountability.
These pictures are of Prosamim's Residential Park Quadra 3 and used to be a slum area consisting of shanty houses and palafitas (houses on stilts over polluted waterways).

Thursday, 4 August 2011

IFAM: Distrito Industrial Campus

We hope to spend a few days a week at the beautiful Distrito Industrial campus helping out with the final year English class! This campus specializes in computer sciences, telecommunications, and electronics.  Each IFAM campus carefully considers regional specialties and needs.  For example, the IFAM campus in Parachins focuses on the aquaculture industry.  In the upcoming third phase of IFAM's development more institutes will be opened in the interior of Amazonas.

Brasilia! Ordem e Progresso Indeed!

After finding an insanely amazing airfare deal I was off to visit my friends for a weekend in the capital city Brasilia! Going to Brasilia from Manaus is like entering a new planet.  It is shocking how different Brasilia is to any city I have ever seen in Europe or North America or Brazil for that matter. I love concrete, and Brasilia is a lesson in how to use it!

Oscar Niemeyer built this town.  The architecture is unlike anything else in the world. Niemeyer envisioned a planned and organized city of the future alongside architect Lucio Costa and President Juscelino Kubitschek. Flying into the city at night is breathtaking because you can see the entire linear structure and layout of the city.  The roads are curved and winding in the shape of a handle of scissors, while the neighbourhood blocks are formed into squares each with its own main street of shops to ensure equal access to amenities.  Most of the building heights are regulated to a maximum of 6 stories.  At age 103 Niemeyer is still working. My favourite sites were the TV Tower, Office of Foreign Affairs, Presidential Palace, the soup bowl of National Congress, the communist style block of Ministries, and the Star Wars like National Museum of the Repbulic.  It's hard to believe that the whole city did not even exist 50 years ago.

It was interesting to see a visual representation of futurism through the lens of the historically older international modernist style of architecture, the city looks futuristic and retro at the same time! 

Haitian Migration, IFAM, and Social Inclusion

Haitians are migrating in large numbers into the state of Amazonas.  The Brazilian government is offering recognition and refugee status to these new migrants.  Several IFAM campuses at Tabatinga (on the border with Colombia) and the Centro Manaus campus have responded to the needs of these newcomers by offering a Portuguese course specifically for Haitian Creole speakers.  This course is being offered as a social service to help Haitians integrate into Brazilian society and find jobs which are currently quite plentiful here.  Housing for the new migrants is being offered by churches, and other social assistance is being given.

One of the most interesting aspects of this partnership between Haitian migrants and IFAM is the new interior construction course designed specifically for Haitian women.  The construction industry is exploding here in Manaus; everywhere you look there is a new building or construction site.  This is partly because of the World Cup being held here in 2014.  IFAM recognized that the new demand for workers with interior construction and design skills would perfectly suit the incoming Haitian migrants looking for new livelihoods.    

This is a perfect example to illustrate the IFAM mandate for social inclusion in education. The Portuguese for Foreigners course starts soon at Manaus Centro campus, more on that later!

Meet the Instituto Federal do Amazonas!

Instituto Federals all over Brazil are changing the face of education.  Many school systems have been built on social exclusion, and Brazilian education is no different.  Expensive private schools compete with public schools in preparing students for standardized post-secondary entrance exams.  Some public schools are very well respected, and some are not equipped to prepare students for entrance exams.  It is mostly the students coming out of private schools that are successful university candidates.  The irony is that federal universities have free tuition and yet mostly wealthy students from private schools are accepted.

The Director of the IFAM Distrito Industrial campus Jose Pinheiro argues perhaps university education cannot fulfill the needs of the Brazilian context.  Currently the Brazilian economy is booming, and desperately requires skilled labour. There is a high demand for jobs in the new construction, trade, and manufacturing industries yet the workforce lacks training. 

Instituto Federals (IFs) have taken a completely opposite approach by making social inclusion their mission.  IFAM, the Instituto Federal serving the state of Amazonas is an exciting mix of high school, online courses, adult education, technical college courses, and post graduate programs.  IFs have been perfectly adapted to Brazilian contexts where the diverse needs of different segments of the population can be met.  Unlike the university system, IFAM has successfully developed a more inclusive education system with multiple levels of learning. 

The technical college courses offered by IFAM are very popular and gaining a prestigious reputation amongst computer, telecommunications, and electronics industries.  Many large corporations such as Honda and Nokia have sponsored IFAM programs and research.  Suframa, a governmental organization responsible for innovation and development in the state of Amazonas attracts much attention from industries and enables corporate funding for IFAM.  Many professors stated their students go on to work in the industries they were trained in at IFAM.  Through IFs the Brazilian government has been able to generate employment using accessible highschool and technical courses.