Maria de Lourdes Braz
This profile was prepared when Maria de Lourdes Braz was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Working in one of the poorest favelas of Rio, Maria de Lourdes Bráz is dedicating her life to finding new solutions for one of Brazil's most disenfranchised groups: the very poor, elderly citizens of the country. Maria de Lourdes has established a low-cost Day Center as an alternative model to the private homes used by the wealthy of Brazil, and the poorly managed, state-run institutions that serve to hide away the rest of the country's older generation. At the core of Maria Lourdes' idea is the notion that services for the elderly should be provided by their communities, and that clients should remain fully integrated into their families and communities. She has built her center with an array of partnerships which range from the local municipality, to universities and hospitals, to local businesses and international donor agencies. Not only does the Center provide medical assistance but it works to guarantee senior citizens an active social life, a means for participating in the community, and the opportunity to continue to livewhen possiblewith their families. The Center itself provides better services for the elderly at one third the cost of state-run institutions, and is providing an example of how to leverage local resources, volunteers, and the seniors themselves in the most difficult of economically and socially circumstances.