Inspired Young People Discover ATD Fourth World in Summer Workshop

© Carmen Martos / ATD Quart Monde – Centre Joseph Wresinski

The ATD Fourth World International Centre in Méry-sur-Oise (France) hosted 22 young people ready for an experience rich in encounters and apprenticeships from July 7-14, 2019. Aged 17-31, they came from five countries: France, Luxembourg, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Madagascar to help renovate the Centre and learn more about ATD.

Fueled by a desire to feel useful, the young people eagerly worked to make the Centre more welcoming. With the help of volunteers and allies, they completed several projects: renovation of ATD founder Joseph Wresinski’s former office, creation of a paved walkway, painting guest rooms, repairing a roof, welding, and contributing to a sculpture for the “People of Courage” project.

Participants working on “People of Courage”. © Carmen Martos / ATD Quart Monde – Centre Joseph Wresinski

The young people appreciated the variety of projects:

“I am grateful for the opportunity to participate and to do things I didn’t know how to do just a week ago! I’m so glad to have learned so much from you”,

said one participant whose parents had participated in a summer workshop some 30 years ago.

© Carmen Martos / ATD Quart Monde – Centre Joseph Wresinski

Evenings of discovery and reflection

But the week wasn’t just about renovations. Another project requiring greater effort, solidarity, and perseverance was the topic of evening discussions: building a world without extreme poverty.

Each evening, gatherings around the campfire allowed people from different cultures with diverse experiences to get to know each other better. In addition to presentations about ATD’s work, there were lively debates, personal stories, games and other entertainment.

For example, one evening was dedicated to Image Theatre. As a group, participants created an image that reflected a collective idea about poverty.

Another day, an ATD Philippines ally showed a video on the “Ang Galing” learning program. Ang Galing means “Awesome!” in Tagalog.

The video showed ATD Fourth World Philippines hosting a trip to a cemetery north of Manila where many families live because they have nowhere else to go. Ang Galing offers a positive learning experience for children there who have difficulties in school or do not go to school at all. The  ally explained:

“Most of the children are considered lost causes by their families and the community. Life being what it is, they don’t necessarily learn at the same pace as others. It is important to restore their self-confidence! ‘Ang Galing’ ensures that each child develops self-esteem and feels comfortable in his or her own skin.”

Another time, a member of ATD’s International Leadership Team explained the results of a participative research study on the hidden dimensions of poverty.  The study, conducted over several years, was a recent collaboration between ATD and Oxford University in Great Britain.

These presentations and personal stories had an impact on the young people. Some confided that they never imagined that people in poverty lived in such harsh conditions, or that extreme poverty existed in so many places. Many participants said they wanted to keep learning more about these issues.

“My wish, that it doesn’t stop here…”

Final workshop evaluations allowed everyone to describe their impressions, thoughts and hopes as well as what they wanted to tell others about their experience when they returned home.

Participants found the week-long workshop so engaging that many wanted to  continue being involved with ATD.

“I learned practical, concrete things. This workshop has given me many ideas for young people in Luxembourg!”

“It opened my eyes with regard to others’ work. For an entire week I finished each day exhausted… I thought to myself: people who do that all their lives, that must really be something!”

“I’ve been part of ATD since I was a baby and it has always been a pleasure to participate in the summer workshops. It’s an event I just couldn’t miss!”

“A week like this makes you question the priorities we typically set for ourselves in life, although these may be more important things. It changes your view of things… It added something to be able to interact with people from far away.”

“I learned a great deal here but more than that, I found a family! I will miss you all when I return to Tanzania.”

“We completed the workshop with high spirits and a good understanding among us, in spite of a few small sore points.”

© Carmen Martos / ATD Quart Monde – Centre Joseph Wresinski
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