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ATD Fourth World began working in the United States in the 1960s alongside families in a low-income neighborhood of Manhattan. Today, grassroots teams work in the Appalachian region of Virginia; New Orleans; New York City; Gallup, New Mexico; and Boston. A Chicago office supports the other teams’ work.

New York

Five Volunteer Corps members and 60 other members have a dual mission:

  • Street Libraries take place in Brooklyn and at a homeless shelter in Queens, and reach about 50 children and 30 parents weekly. They allow children to discover the pleasure of reading, to be open to the world, to learn, and to gain confidence in expressing their ideas and intelligence.
  • At the United Nations, ATD enables people in extreme poverty throughout the world to contribute to policy debates, such as those on the Sustainable Development Goals. People in the 31 countries where ATD is present, as well as correspondents of its Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty, provide their unique experience and analyses. Each month, ATD representatives collaborate with UN staff, diplomats, and non-governmental organizations to understand issues through the experience of those living in chronic poverty and to impact policy accordingly.


Two Volunteer Corps members and 25 other members work in three areas:

  • Computer literacy classes for approximately 20 adults;
  • Quilting and woodworking workshops for ten adults, five of whom live in persistent poverty;
  • A weekly program teaching 20 young people to install and use solar panels and to learn the fundamentals of robotics.

New Orleans

Four Volunteer Corps members and 50 other members work in three areas:

  • Two Street Libraries are organized weekly for 40 children and five adults;
  • Monthly workshops bring together 15 adults in an under-resourced neighborhood to discuss issues such as abandoned houses, food access, and the positive impacts residents make on their community;
  • A partnership with another local organization addresses the effects on families when a family member is incarcerated. It works to break the link between jail and prolonged school suspensions in elementary and high school.

New Mexico

Four Volunteer Corps members and 20 other members run activities for children and young people:

  • Two Street Libraries are organized each week for 50 children and 20 parents. One takes place at a flea market with
    children of vendors and customers;
  • Weekly school-based art workshops involve 30 high school students in building interactive science exhibits that are
    displayed at local libraries and community centers.


Requested funding: $20,000
Merging Knowledge projects bring people experiencing extreme poverty together with decision makers, professionals from various fields, and other community members. The goal is for participants to learn from one another, with a focus on bringing the knowledge of people in poverty to the table on an equal level with other types
of knowledge. The result is increased inclusiveness and responsiveness to vulnerable families, and increased participation of people in poverty in influencing social policy.

ATD Fourth World has done extensive work on the Merging Knowledge approach with several universities, including
the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Harvard, and MIT. Groups have held discussions and made proposals on the subjects of decent work, food stamps, and the connection between poverty and shame. The goal is to bring essential perspective that emerges from lived experiences of poverty into decisions on policies and laws.

Through a participatory research project, groups in Boston, New York City, Oakland, CA and other possible sites will use the Merging Knowledge approach to determine different aspects of poverty. Groups of people with a direct experience of poverty, other groups of practitioners in poverty eradication programs, and other groups of academic researchers will work to identify aspects of poverty that help policy makers develop projects that address the right problems. Through this approach which prioritizes the experiences and knowledge of people in poverty as relevant, work together in a nonjudgmental environment gives place for critical thinking and truly informed results.

The funding provided will be used for:

  • Stipends and benefits of facilitators
  • Training
  • Travel to events
  • Snacks and meals for participants

The Self-Expression Workshops for Disadvantaged People

Requested funding: $20,000 covering two project locations.
Self-Expression Workshops for Disadvantaged People take place in Gallup, New Mexico and Dickenson County, Virginia (Appalachian region). They reach individuals who have lacked opportunities earlier in life, and want to better themselves and their community. These workshops create opportunities to develop craft skills with
income-generating potential, increase participation in continuing education programs, and explore creativity as a tool for personal development and self-expression. They also capitalize on strong heritages of arts and crafts to build cultural recognition and self-esteem.

In rural New Mexico: Community workshops reach teens and young adults facing challenges in education, employment, food security and stable housing. A variety of techniques and media are introduced, such as painting, ceramics, digital art, multi-media projects and robotics. Workshops have taken place in the Adult Detention Center, community centers, county and Navajo schools, and the University of New Mexico Adult Education Program,
reaching GED students.

In rural Virginia: Our Appalachian Learning Cooperative welcomes community members to share or discover creative and marketable skills, such as weaving, quilting, wood working, as well as computer skills. Our most recent addition is robotics workshops with teens and adults in a solar powered robotics lab.

The funding provided will be used for:

  • Art supplies
  • Training
  • Travel to reach under-served individuals and communities
  • Stipends and benefits

The annual budget for ATD Fourth World–United States is $1.3 million.

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