World Day for Overcoming Poverty: With Jackie and All Those Like Her

Isabelle Pypaert Perrin, Director General of ATD Fourth World, tells of the life and work of an Irish activist who incarnated the theme of October 17 2014: “Leave No One Behind: Think, Decide, and Act Together.”

The room where the International Committee for October 17 was meeting echoed with discussion of the theme projected in huge letters on the wall: “Leave no one behind: think, decide, and act together Against Extreme Poverty.” Jackie, a member of ATD Fourth World Ireland who had been invited by the committee rose to speak: “I can’t keep my door closed if I know that people are on the street…”

Jackie knew life on the streets. She grew up there with her brothers and sisters. With her husband, she never stopped trying to get away from the street, moving from one transitional shelter to another, with the endlessly-renewed hope that one day they would find a real home where they could live together as a family. When she did have a place to stay, she welcomed those who had nowhere to go, even at the risk of being evicted herself.

Jackie’s horizon was other people, those whose lives poverty eats away at. She stuck by them faithfully, forcefully rejecting the idea that some people be left behind. Although she possessed next to nothing, she contributed everything she had—as do all those who face extreme poverty—to promoting peace and human rights.

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Jackie Speaking on October 17th in Dublin

In 2008, at the inauguration in Dublin of a replica of the Commemorative Stone in Honor of the Victims of Extreme Poverty (first inaugurated on October 17, 1987 in Paris), Jackie affirmed, “We want to be part of this Stone for all those whose lives are even harder than our own.” She and her husband often spoke publicly of the many obstacles they had overcome, hoping that others would see that it is possible if there are people who stick with you no matter what. Jackie’s life struggle was that people be able to give the best of themselves.

A few months ago, Jackie passed away; she left us too soon, like Christopher, Juliani, Thierry, and so many others we could name. Their struggle continues, however, carried on by the “millions of men, women, and children whose hearts are still pounding strong to the beat of the struggle, whose minds rise in revolt against the unjust fate imposed upon them, whose courage demands the right to priceless dignity.” On October 17, 2014, we will raise the call which is engraved on the Commemorative Stone wherever we may be, all the way to the heads of State who are working to agree on new Sustainable Development Goals with targets meant to include everyone.

“Leave no one behind…” How can we achieve this, if not with those who, like Jackie, possess a knowledge about the inalienable dignity of being human, a thinking forged in the struggles of a life marked by persistent poverty?