Wresinski Forum Feedback: Latin America and the Caribbean

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The second Joseph Wresinski Forum on Poverty and Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean took place in October 2018 in Guatemala City. Approximately 50 people from nine countries where ATD works gathered to reconsider the struggle against poverty and for human rights.

Forum participants included people in poverty, activists, professionals and academics. This diverse group discussed their different perspectives on poverty in order to broaden their understanding of the issue. Below, participants describe their experiences at this unique five-day gathering.

Blanca Méndez
ATD Fourth World Member | Escuintla, Guatemala

“When I first got to the Forum I was feeling depressed, but the attitude of participants like Fernando and Sebastián made me feel more vibrant and energetic. They also made me feel like my presence and contributions were important. People treated me with respect and courtesy from the first presentation to the cultural night when I learned dances from Bolivia and Guatemala, and songs from Honduras and Mexico. I don’t know how to read but my head is like a tape recorder that saves everything. Thank you for inviting me.”

Fernando Monteiro dos Santos
Thydêwá Association| Pernanbuco, Brazil

“We thought the meeting was terrific and it helped us in important ways. When I returned home I was able to tell people in Brazil what we learned through our experience at the Forum. In our village, I spoke at a training session for educators. I also talked about the Forum with more than 40 indigenous leaders from the state of Pernambuco.

Participating in the Forum made me more sensitive and aware. I was heartbroken by the stories told by two women–what was happening in their community, what was going on with one of their sons, and the lack of education and health care. We must have a vision for change and pray a lot for things to get better.”

Inga Ruiz Valladares
ATD Fourth World Member | New Mexico, United States

“It is very important to start by exercising our ability to listen. At the same time, it is necessary to find shared spaces to develop common knowledge to pass on, understanding gained by valuing what individuals have learned from their own experiences. We establish an important foundation when we learn to listen to one another and to lose our fear of speaking to other people.

When we discussed human rights, I understood that beyond the conceptual notion of human rights, raising our voices in support of a dignified life for every person helps eliminate the social indifference that causes much of the world’s population to be forgotten. But it’s not enough just to talk. It is essential that we also seek to be heard.”

Federico Chipana Vargas
Coordinator of The House of Solidarity Life Project (Casa de la Solidaridad Proyecto de Vida)| El Alto, Bolivia

“Before the Forum, I was feeling lonely and almost completely worn out by the volunteer work we were doing in the city of El Alto. I was starting to feel crazy for doing this work without being paid and only getting support for transportation and sometimes food. Attending the second Joseph Wresinski Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean made a big difference in how I feel and gave me renewed strength and resolve. I recognized myself in what other people are doing. It helped me understand that I am not alone in my work for people who experience exclusion and poverty. Now I feel like I am part of something bigger. It was very striking to hear from the terrific young people who were so well spoken and mature. We saw how young people’s education has to be the foundation of our struggle for change.”

Cristina de Mello Monteiro
ATD Fourth World Member | Petropolis, Brazil

“I feel stronger and I have a new perspective on life. Nobody can achieve these goals alone, but one person helping another, another person helping someone else, regardless of the country, regardless of the location, that’s how we will all succeed. I used to think I was the only person who had been through such difficult times. But now I see that many other people have also endured these things. Everyone at the meeting was so empathetic. They were all such good people and I really appreciated that. I used to feel like I was nothing. People stared at me, talked about me behind my back, laughed at me. Here I began to feel like a human being. I’m going to tell other people about what I’ve learned here. We’re going to stay in touch with each other in order to maintain our new network.”

Carolina Sánchez Henao
Human Safety Observer from the University of Antioquia | Medellín, Colombia

“During the Forum I realized that the struggle against poverty has to start with restoring the ability of people in poverty to appreciate what they already know and enabling them to take action together. We must help communities feel that they are deserving of rights. This is the first step to resisting poverty and becoming stronger. Activists at the Forum illustrated this when they said, ‘Listen! We don’t need your charity and forgiveness; we need to be understood.’

This is true resistance to poverty, sustained by the knowledge of what people need in order to stand up to all that poverty implies, and by a conviction that change is really possible. This statement illustrates people’s extraordinary ability to keep struggling despite whatever difficulties they may have experienced.

Finally, it’s clear that we need to ‘listen in equality’. Different people involved in the struggle against poverty must collaborate as equals and be allowed to contribute what they can based on their own past, knowledge, and experiences.”

More information on ATD’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean.