Middle School Students’ Exhibit Urges: Stop Poverty!

Citizenship Education Programme with ATD Fourth World

What are dignity, poverty and discrimination? Pupils at the Camille Claude intermediate school in Montigny les Cormeilles, France spent a term working on these issues with their history, geography and art teachers, in collaboration with ATD Fourth World, through a citizenship education programme.

“This is a very positive project”, Marie Cordelier, the school’s art teacher explained. “The pupils first met with an ATD Fourth World Volunteer Corps member, then worked on a press review with the teacher-librarian. They also studied the issue of poverty in history and geography. Students chose a carefully considered statement about poverty and then used the medium of abstract art to illustrate its meaning. They gave a talk on the theme of prejudice and how to challenge and overcome it.”

The students produced 26 brightly coloured pictures, each with a sentence addressed to the viewer beginning with, “Since poverty is first and foremost a human issue….”. The sentences were quotations from Joseph Wresinski, who experienced extreme poverty himself and who founded ATD Fourth World sixty years ago.

Student poses by her artwork

In the presence of Jean-Noël Carpentier MP and Mayor of Montigny, Madame Louisette Esor, the school headmistress, their teachers and some ATD Fourth World members, the pupils proudly presented their work at the launch of the exhibition in the school on 23 March 2017.

“In relation to history and geography, we watched a film about the hard working conditions of people living in poverty in India. All that started us thinking about poverty here in our own country and throughout the world”, explained Ali, summing up the journey taken by the group.

“Nobody should feel guilty about their own poverty. It is fundamental that each person’s dignity be respected”, the Mayor stressed, recalling Joseph Wresinski’s legacy and the fact that 2017 is the 100th anniversary of his birth. “You are aware that Father Joseph lived in Montigny les Cormeilles, aren’t you? We have placed a commemorative plaque in front of his house and a street bears his name”, M. Carpentier added before congratulating the pupils on their work. “You have grown up into fine citizens. Now we can be sure that you are going to follow in his footsteps!”

The exhibition, presented as a gift to ATD Fourth World, is part of the global ‘Stop Poverty’ campaign. It will encourage those who come to see it, in schools and other locations where it will be presented, to reflect more deeply on the reality of poverty and how it can be overcome.

In the Students’ Own Words

“The worst thing is for any of our fellow citizens to be despised.”  Violet is my favourite colour. I represented a girl, all by herself, despised because of her origin.

“Loving to know, knowing to love.”  When you love someone, it means you know that person, but you may also know someone else who can love that same person.

“It is much more pleasant to give than to receive. At the end of the day, receiving handouts can feel shameful.” When you are receiving handouts, it is not as good as being able to give to others.

“The biggest scandal in the world is not poverty, but the indifference of the wealthy to it.” Everybody should be treated equally and even if someone has less money than others, that person should be respected. This is the same respect we show to our parents.

Students show off their works of art in the Stop Poverty campaign.

Photos by ATD Fourth World – Carmen Martos.