International Archives Week 2024

Above: Marie Jahrling, on the right

This article is based on a text by Marie Jahrling from the Cerisy Symposium of 2017 and is published for International Archives Week 2024

By Marie Jahrling, ATD Fourth World activist

The Joseph Wresinski Archives and Research Centre in Baillet-en-France

In Noisy-le-Grand (where ATD Fourth World was founded) Father Joseph saw echoes of his own personal experience of poverty.

From this he intuitively understood that poverty is not inevitable, but rather the result of exclusion, and that only people can eliminate poverty.

For this to happen, he needed to document ATD Fourth World’s work. He very quickly asked the members of the Volunteer Corps to write about their daily experiences with those they met. All this information helped to create a bank of knowledge. This knowledge needed to be archived for it to serve the cause of people in poverty. Given the amount of information being produced and the insecure nature of its storage, the decision was taken to build a modern, secure building. So that all these descriptions about moments shared with the world’s poorest people could be stored in the best-possible conditions for as long as possible.

Baillet-en-France (home of the Joseph Wresinski Archives and Research Centre) is the repository of our history. It is the journey and the fight of Father Joseph Wresinski. It is the place that proves the existence of the Fourth World as a people and the steps we took to become full members of society. It is a place of knowledge, research, meetings, and dialogue. It is a place to show respect for people in poverty in society: a place to remember Father Joseph.

These archives are a spectacular compilation of knowledge and understanding that has been shared for the first time in history, written with people that have lived experience of poverty on every continent.

It is an extraordinary tool in the fight against the injustice of extreme poverty, but it could cause harm in the hands of the ill-intentioned, so great care must be taken. Researchers and scientists are welcome here. The aim is to demonstrate that poverty is not inevitable; rather it is the work of human beings, and it can be overcome only by the work and determination of human beings.

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