Donate Now to Overcome Poverty Worldwide
Drawing: 1989 © Jean Pierre Beyeler/ATD Fourth World/ CJW AR0200104016-1
By Bruno Dabout, Director General, ATD Fourth World International
Although the Covid crisis remains daunting around the world, many of us still hope to gather with family or friends this year for the holidays. This reminds me of how important celebrations are when poverty separates people who love one another.
Martine is an ATD Fourth World activist with a lived experience of poverty and she recently served on the International Leadership Team. Two years ago, she told our team about an ATD Fourth World Christmas Eve party she had just attended:
- “There were more than one hundred people: Activists who go way back with ATD, their children–some are young adults now–and allies I’ve known for years. It was so great to see that some of the activists we’ve known the longest felt comfortable enough to bring along a neighbour who was alone or a family from the shelter where they’re staying right now.
“For so many years, ATD has worked hard to reach families who were excluded or forgotten so that they could take their rightful place in our shared projects and celebrations.
- “So, it was fantastic to see some of the families we’ve known for years now also reaching out to people in their lives who are left out too.
- “The tables were beautiful in the big room decorated for the occasion. There was a magician getting “oohs” and “ahs” of amazement with each trick, and a juggler thrilled the children with his skills. Everyone was laughing; then we all sang our hearts out together and danced until we were out of breath.
- “There was a striking contrast between the joyous freedom at the party and everything that hampers everyday life for a lot of the families who were there. Some of the young people at the party are parents between the ages of 17 and 25 whose children are already placed in care.
- “Even so, it was wonderful to see all these young people having such a great time together. But part of me ached for them too. How many are working? None. How many have any kind of job training? One or two, I think, but none are employed. Who did well in grade school and went on to high school? Nobody.
- “Cindy, for example, is barely 20 years old. Her three-month old son has already been taken away from her. She herself spent an entire childhood in foster care institutions. Enzo is also 20 years old. Three or four evenings a week he goes to sit in the hospital emergency waiting room just to escape his loneliness and find someone to talk to. In fact, that’s where he met his new partner. She too has a young child in care.
“‘When we’re together, poverty doesn’t weigh so heavily on us’, the couple said. ‘And at least we understand each other.’
- “It makes my head spin to see that, despite all their troubles, these young people are full of hope. I fear for them, but I’m also overwhelmed with admiration and confidence. I always have to remind myself how much they believe in our Movement. They allow their lives to become intertwined with ours, but they aren’t stifled by this relationship. They are willing to share their unbearable suffering so that we become different people–so that, together, we can work side by side to change the world.
- “Suddenly, right in the middle of the party, 12-year-old Gaelle grabbed the microphone and announced, ‘I’m so happy to be here with you all! I feel like ATD Fourth World is my family – everyone listens to us, and people actually respect us. So we feel at home here and we can really have fun together. With ATD, we learn so much and no one ever lets us down. Also, I’m so proud of my mother and everything she tries to do to make a better life. If she were just on her own, she’d never make it because things are too hard. I think everyone should have the right to happiness. So I just want to thank everyone for being happy to be here. I love you all.’ Then she started singing ‘Mon amant de St. Jean,’ a popular old French song.
- “Moments like these connect us deeply to one another and lift our spirits. In celebration, we taste the joy of freedom. These events bring together, in peace and happiness, people who would otherwise never have met.”
Thank you, friends, for helping us create festive events like this one where everyone is welcome and accepted, where together we gain the strength to carry on our fight to overcome poverty.
Your support will help us all continue our struggle–with renewed energy–against poverty’s persistence. We’ll help children placed in foster care to stay connected with their birth families. We’ll work towards quality education as well as training and employment for all. And, as Gaelle said, we won’t ever let each other down.
Best wishes for peace and happiness this holiday season.
“Time is of the essence. Could now be the time when people in poverty no longer live in fear but in celebration?”