Have no fear, Zebras are here!

June 19, 2017

Zebras on the road

Running into a pack of zebras while crossing the street is not something unusual in the streets of La Paz in Bolivia. However, they are not normal zebras, they are the kind of zebras who remind drivers of traffic laws, help people cross the street but overall bring lots of joy.

Road safety is an issue in Bolivia. Drivers are often reckless and they don’t really respect the rules of the road. In order to solve this problem, the city funded a program called “The Zebras”. Teens dress up as zebras and manage the traffic by directing cars and encouraging traffic safety. It does not only bring down the number of accidents but there is also a social significance, it provides jobs for the youth with difficulties, like for instance former drug addicts, people who had faced violence or even single teen parents.

While the police whistles and yells at you, giving you ticket, the zebra will just lay across the hood of your car if it is stopped in the crosswalk. Some crossing guards across Europe say that they would love to wear a zebra costume, because drivers don’t see them, their vest, their stop sign and they don’t hear their whistle. The program was so successful, that it has been replicated in other cities across Bolivia.

The spirit is to make the world a better place. As a zebra, you feel renewed, because despite you are feeling down, when you put the costume on, you will go out and everything will be ok because helping others relieves the personal suffering. In the street there are no two zebras who are exactly the same, each zebra has his or her own essence. Kathia Salazar Peredo, one of the program’s organizers says “They may be dressed up as zebras, but they defend what is human about a city”. The amazing part of it all, is that the zebras are really committed, they do their job with a lot of enthusiasm. They dance, they hug the children and make people smile.

Besides helping to control traffic and create awareness about safe driving, Zebras visit schools to teach about recycling, water conservation or even bullying. They also visit hospitals, take part in parades and on television. If you like the initiative, as a local or a tourist you can try the “Zebra for a Day” experience by dressing up as a zebra!

Why a zebra costume? Because the cross walks, often called “zebra crossing” are a part of the road marked with black and white stripes, resembling the colors of the zebra.

In order to create the world we want, we have to change ourselves, and Zebra is the way to be!

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