Stay in Solidarity with the Most Impacted
This article has been adapted from one published 28 April 2020 on the ATD Fourth World USA web site.
“If we are going to make it through this, we have to be encouraging.
It’s hard to be stuck inside; it’s hard to go outside.”
Missing community, missing school
Many of us can identify with this gently put insight by an ATD Fourth World member in New York City. These are difficult times for everyone and we need encouragement and support in a lot of ways. As the effects of Covid-19 have hit all of us, people who struggle daily because of poverty are experiencing the impacts more severely than most.
For people living in Navajo Nation and neighboring rural areas, the weekly Gallup Flea Market and Story Garden were a source of income, community, and creative learning for children. For more than eight weeks, the Flea Market has been closed.
Individuals living in shelters, welfare motels, or on the streets are in unsafe, crowded conditions. There, social distancing rules are impossible to follow.
Families are scrambling to find and learn the technology they need so their children can finish the school year at home. Yet they know that students will miss out on some of the specific knowledge and skills they can only learn through resources available in a school setting. All of this is scary, angering, and exhausting. All of this adds to the toxic stress that poverty already causes in people’s lives.
My daughter is taking her classes on her cell phone. But some kids can’t even do that. They have to go to the school and pick their homework up. Some of the kids don’t have phones or computers.
– Mother of high school students in New York City
Community calls keep people connected
Weekly ATD Fourth World Community Calls have been a way for people from across the United States to connect with one another. On these calls, people talk about the challenges, emotions, successes, and efforts they have experienced or seen around them. For many, these calls are a source of strength through the uncertainties. Team members and Volunteer Corps members call, text, and message to stay connected with others, particularly people isolated and facing extreme hardships.
ATD in the US has adapted some programs to respond to this crisis and to protect and support people in new ways. In New York City the Fourth World People’s University will take place through video conferences. In order to prepare for the upcoming theme of “Facing Change,” the preparation team has been working together remotely. A newly started Tapori group at a school near the Story Garden in Brownsville, Brooklyn quickly became part of the distance learning curriculum for the class. Students in Brooklyn will now send and receive messages with children around the world during this isolating time.
Vast distances, high rates of poverty, and lack of infrastructure in the rural lands near Gallup, NM, have made being in touch difficult and worrisome. The ATD Fourth World team in Gallup has mailed packages with books, art materials, and as needed daily living supplies to families they know are facing dire challenges. The packages also include personal letters from the team and the Tapori activity children in Brownsville are doing, along with a return envelope.
The children’s messages of hope will travel and be exchanged with others around the world. The crisis is severe in this region of the country. While we don’t know how long it will continue, we do know that families in poverty will be hit hard and need support from the community around them. Our packages, letters, and messages will continue to be part of that support as long as needed.