Developing Trust

Above: ATD Fourth World USA members at Window Rock, capital of the Navajo Nation

By Monica Jahangir, Volunteer Corps member and Executive Director ATD Fourth World USA.

Dear Friends,

The beginning of 2024 marks the start of my responsibility as ATD Fourth World USA’s new Executive Director and more importantly, 60 years since ATD Fourth World sent the first Volunteer Corps member to the United States. Over these 60 years, profound relationships of friendship and solidarity have been built with and amongst people and communities most isolated by persistent poverty. Generations of families who were shamed and discriminated against have formed the foundation of ATD Fourth World USA, supported and accompanied by ATD Fourth World Volunteer Corps members and Allies. Space for their participation has been purposefully and carefully created, ensuring that their voices and experiences are heard. Many say that we have become one large family.

None of this would have been possible without a longstanding commitment to building trust. Trust is at the core of everything ATD Fourth World does. Community cannot be built without trusting one another. Trust is needed at all levels of society, and even more so when involving families constantly experiencing poverty, shame and humiliation.

Institutional maltreatment emerged as one dimension from the international Hidden Dimensions of Poverty research led by ATD Fourth World and Oxford University. Historical trauma from government intervention into the lives of people in excluded and marginalized communities, particularly people of color, and lack of governmental accountability to remedy the wrongdoing, has fractured the trust between institutions and the people they are meant to serve. You can read more about the concept of subjugation in the report that came from the United States research about dimensions of poverty: Pushed to the Bottom: the Experience of Poverty in the US.

To break these cycles of oppression and isolation, meaningful participation is the key. For children and adults to participate, the first step is to feel safe, in a trustworthy environment. A place where they will not be judged or instrumentalized. A place where they can be who they want to be, express themselves freely, have their experience truly contribute, and become activists defending their rights and those of their communities.

From creating safe spaces for children to discover their strengths and identity, to building intentional participatory spaces for adults in the community, ATD Fourth World is committed to supporting and standing alongside those whose opinions and thoughts are usually never considered.

In our Spring 2024 newsletter, you can read examples of how and why we develop trust.

For true democracy to exist, the voices of all, especially the most excluded, must be fully included. We have been grateful for your generous support allowing our work to expand in the last 60 years. We hope you continue the journey with us.

Thank you

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This article was first published here.

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