Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ATD Fourth World Success Story

International Movement ATD Fourth World

Innovation Fair Presentation
At the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
Annual Ministerial Substantive Review (AMR)

Presentation Proposal

October 17th: Hear the voices of the poorest and excluded and learn from them.

The multi-media presentation will highlight the theme of solidarity among people living in extreme poverty through different activities such as the commemoration of The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17 every year. The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1992, when the United Nations General Assembly designated 17 October to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was first celebrated in 1987 by thousands of participants at the Human Rights Plaza in Paris, France. Since its creation, 17 October has been a day for those living in extreme poverty to speak out and for all citizens to consider how they can contribute to the eradication of extreme poverty.
The Day provides visibility to those who are usually unseen and unheard by the rest of society. This visibility for local efforts is within the context of global challenge. Through its focus on respect for the rights of all sectors of society, the Day provides an opportunity to re-emphasize the basic foundation of all peaceful societies – respect for the dignity of every individual.
Rwanda: the initiative to reach the poorest.
There are two groups of Friends of ATD Fourth World in the area of Butare, in the south of Rwanda. Cyanika (district of Karaba), which currently consists of 176 poor households, was created in 1991 by the initiative of a Belgian doctor and people working of the rehabilitation health center for young malnourished children. The group had identified families living in an extreme poverty and came together with them to look for solutions to their difficulties and precariousness they faced. In this area, the population is made up to 45% vulnerable people (widows, the poor, orphans of the genocide of whom some are heads of households, and homeless persons). The group of Kiruhura was created in 2004 building on a starting point of the experiment of Cyanika. It unites more than 120 families. The main objective of the groups of Friends of ATD is neither to collect nor to distribute money to the poor populations, but rather to lead these populations to refuse a life of dependence. In each place, two mothers, living or originating from the community, were trained to do the work of “a welfare officer". They visit people most in need. They support them in various steps such as getting free care or benefit from the mutual health insurance company. These welfare officers spend a good part of the day to encourage families to come together, to work together, to support each other. They encourage each one to come out of their isolation. Many families live in a multiple isolation.
"Before becoming a member of the Friends of ATD, I thought that I was the only one living in misery. But I discovered that it was not true. My child sees how I am now open, and he also becoming more open. When there is a problem, I can go to see the welfare officers and I am sure that there will be somebody to understand me ".
To build solidarity each month the two groups of Friends of ATD Fourth World meet to decide the activities of the general interest of the group and the allocation of credits. Each member brings a small contribution for the cause of solidarity, which makes it possible to deal with the urgent needs. They decide together who must benefit from a building chest of solidarity. Often, it is a question of building or repairing a house, of building a cattle shed, of cultivating the land of a hospitalized family, of housing the orphans left by a widow. Each one brings its share: a tool, some material, food or encouragement. During these years, with the support of the ABR, a system of credits for smaller live-stock, seeds or animals was set up. Some families received hoes. Collective fields were obtained from the authorities and the fruit harvest is divided between the members.
The significance of the activities of the group can be summarized in two main points:

The collective work and solidarity is an important means of social security for all the members of the community
· Working together as a group or an association has given them social visibility and credibility. This allowed then to get support for farming from the authorities, to negotiate the access to employment and to credit for medical care in the Health Centre of Cyanika with NGOs and other structures, and to negotiate a better access to administrative services with local authorities.

With time, the friends of ATD succeeded in agreeing to give priority to the poorest among themselves. They identified several "categories" of the poor. First of all, there are the poor ones who have to beg to survive. They do not have land or cattle; they lack housing, clothing, and food. They often fall sick and do not have access to the medical care. Their children are badly nourished, and they cannot send them to school. They have priority because they absolutely need others to survive. Then, there are the very poor who are physically able to work on the land owned by others, even if they themselves do not have land and cattle. Then there are the poor who have land, they live by the fruit of their work and of their production, they can escape hunger, even if the food is not very nutritious, and they do not have any excess production to sell in the market. Their children do not go to the school, and very often they do not have the means to reach the healthcare. Lastly, there are the poor who manage. Compared to the poor described above, they have more smaller live-stock and their children attend the primary school.

October 17th in Rwanda

October 17th is celebrated in Cyanika since 1991 and Kiruhura since 2004. This day, prepared with joy, makes it possible to the poor families to meet, participate in the festival, to exchange ideas in public with other citizens and to feel like all the other people.
The Day is preceded by building sites of solidarity decided by each group (construction of huts, repair of roof, plowing of a field, etc) to support the poorest families. It is an essential step to reinforce the bonds within the community and to make sure that nobody is excluded from the "festival".
Often, this Day of the festival starts with a mass homage to the victims of poverty. Then, all the friends of ATD join their guests. Among these guests, often there is the mayor of the commune, the assistants, the priest, or the members of the ABR, the agronomists, the representatives of the dispensary, the school staff and the administrative services people. The celebrations continue with a meal eaten together.
Various events stress the importance of the solidarity around poorest. Friends of ATD use the occasion to point out what it means to live in misery, to see his/her children crying the whole night because of the hunger, to be not able to provide education for them for lack of means or to see them leaving. They underline the courage and the efforts of each one who lives with dignity and develop solidarity. When the authorities speak, they often to testify to their moral support, emphasizing how much they appreciate the spirit of solidarity which drives the Friends of ATD and which flashes back on all the community. Some promise to support initiatives.
This day of festival often ends in songs and dances, with people forgetting all the problems temporarily, being glad to be with the people.
For many poor families and the poorest, October 17 is one of the rare occasions in the year that allows them to be together, without the fear of other people, to freely address their messages to the administrative and religious authorities.
Several people said that "the presence of the guests, of the persons in charge raises our moral".
Some people in power stress that October 17th is one of the rare moments of the year when they can meet the poor equally, beyond their destitution and to be invited by them to share a meal and to exchange ideas. They can acquire new ideas being able to enable them in direct actions to fight poverty and misery.
For the Friends of ATD, October 17 is certainly a strong moment in the process of reconciliation, carried by the whole country. For them, that cannot pass only by the word. At the time of the genocide, the media so much propagated hatred and the word was at the origin of too many massacres to be enough in this effort to reconciliation. While being linked around the poorest of their community, they show the new ways to us to build this reconciliation. It is a big work to recognize these experiments, these engagements, and especially recognize that the poorest are craftsmen of peace
In 2004, the Friends of ATD in Cyanika sent a delegation to Kiruhura to support them in the preparation of their first October 17. In 2005, exchanges again took place between Cyanika and Kiruhura around October 17 in order for them to commemorate the Day together and to share their experiences, which included the organization of community projects throughout the month of October. Because of the country’s recent history, there is a distrust of words. One seminar delegate emphasized that “The sweat that I put into my neighbor’s field is worth more than any words that I could say.” He went on to say: “Solidarity is very important, because it enables you to break out of your isolation. When you join with others, when you’re together, you can do a lot of things. I now understand that solidarity enables you to discover your brains, you have peace in your heart, you understand that you’re like the others, and that you’re on the same level of equality.”
On every October 17th, the Friends of ATD in Rwanda receive testimonies and examples of solidarity from elsewhere in the world, particularly in Africa. These testimonies are shared with others the same day. The friends of ATD say that it is important for them to know that in other places, throughout the world, people like themselves are seeking out the most excluded and that together, they are looking for ways to testify to their refusal to give in to extreme poverty.
In 2005, members of the International Movement ATD Fourth World in the Central African Republic were inspired by this approach and worked all through the month of October on community construction projects, assisting very poor families to rebuild their homes which had been destroyed by flooding.

October, 17th, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
Ending Extreme Poverty, a Road to peace

In 1992, the UN General Assembly declared the day the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Since then, a commemoration has been held at the UN, in the presence of high-level representatives from the UN, Government Missions to the UN, and NGOs.
In 2005 the UN General Assembly (A/RES/60/209) asked the Secretary General to undertake a review of the observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to identify lessons learned and ways to promote the mobilization of all stakeholders in the fight against poverty. To support this initiative, a Steering Committee was established with members of civil society organizations, who welcomed this Resolution. In addition the civil society carried out a survey. Also, the International Movement ATD Fourth World, in consultation with the Steering Committee members, organized a seminar in Montreal entitled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Road to Peace” in May 2006. Its objective was to identify the lessons learned and put forward recommendations to strengthen the impact of the International Day.

This year, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of this Day, the International Movement ATD Fourth World has launched a global campaign entitled "Call to Action -Ending Extreme Poverty, a Road to Peace" which will end with a large gathering in Paris and many other places around the world on October 17, 2007. Through this campaign, thousands of people in all continents are indicating their commitment to creating a culture of peace and refusing extreme poverty, while recognizing people living in poverty as the front-line actors in the fight against extreme poverty.

We would like this campaign to provide visibility to those who are normally unseen and unheard by the rest of society. We want to reaffirm their status as full and equal citizens, who are struggling to survive under difficult conditions, and who are making a contribution to society that is often overlooked. This contribution is essential to carry out the UN programme of social development, and particularly to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
You can participate in this ccampaign and show that everyone counts in the fight against poverty.
Please visit to sign the declaration online and show your solidarity in the fight against poverty. This appeal can be signed until October 17, 2007. It will be submitted to the United Nations and made public this day.


International Day for the Eradication of Poverty as way to hear the voices of people living in poverty

October 17: Poverty

• In poor countries as well as in the wealthy ones many men, women and children live in misery and poverty.
• Families are isolated, excluded, deprived of rights that any human being deserves such as lodging, clothing, health care, food, education, access to culture, participation…

October 17: Poverty

• Families living in poverty have no voice, their efforts are not acknowledged and they are forced to live under the weight of scorn and prejudices.
• Prejudices that destroy confidence: «By being told we are lazy so many times, we end up believing it”. These men and women remind us that it is not shameful to live in extreme poverty.
• It is poverty itself that is a true shame for our societies. Only the commitment of people will be able to destroy it.

October 17: History of the Day

• In 1957, together with the residents of a shantytown near Paris, Father Joseph Wr├ęsinski, also born in a very poor family, founded the International Movement ATD Fourth World. Together, with the help of men and women, they searched for ways to end extreme poverty.

October 17: History of the Day

• 30 years later, on the 17th October 1987, 100,000 defenders of human rights, rich and poor and from all countries, invited by Father Joseph, paid homage for the first time in history, to the victims of hunger, ignorance and violence.
• They affirmed their conviction that poverty is not inevitable.
• They proclaimed their solidarity with those who struggle throughout the world to destroy poverty.

October 17: History of the Day

• In the centre of Paris, at the same place where in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, a stone was laid that reads:
“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure these rights be respected is our solemn duty”

October 17: History of the Day

• In 1992, thanks to the mobilisation of people living in extreme poverty and the commitment of friends, such as M. Perez de Cuellar, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, October 17th is officially recognized by the United Nations as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

October 17: The Day in the world

• Hundreds of communities, religious and human rights organizations gather their efforts to celebrate this day through events of solidarity.
• Each year, in different places, participants on this day choose to have a moment of silence to better understand the voices of those we never hear: people living in extreme poverty.

October 17: The Day in the world

• Public memorial services take place in sites that are significant in the history of the poor. Monuments in honour of the victims of poverty in North America exist in Rouyn-Noranda, Thetford Mines, Sherbrooke, and also in New York.

October 17: The Day in the world

• These moments are real occasions for people to meet one another: people living in poverty, activists involved in the struggle against poverty and other citizens, based on a common will to reject poverty.
• In schools, more and more children think about life and the hopes of the poor and search for ways of how they themselves can act.

October 17: The Meaning of the Day

• We do not speak on October 17th to ask for assistance or for assistance to be continued, but to propose a co-operation, a partnership, because the world needs efforts and ideas from all to promote peace, development and human rights.

October 17: The Meaning of the Day

On October 17 we are gathered:
• To witness the courage of the poorest
• To affirm our rejection of poverty
• And to remember that people living in poverty must be present everywhere the future of our society is being decided.


An Experience of Friends of the International Movement ATD* Fourth World


• Created in 1991 by Bernard Paternostre, a doctor in a healthcare center in Cyanika
• With the support of the Association Belgique-Rwanda1
• Among its members the association counts :
— 176 families in the district of Karaba
— 120 families in the district of Kiruhura


• To allow families to express themselves and share their difficulties
• To overcome the isolation in which many people live
• To start projects from the families’ proposals
• To make sure that families are partners in and jointly responsible for the projects
• To reach the most vulnerable


• A project is based on human rights
• Promotion of solidarity among members of the community to offer a form of social security and community development
• Everybody agrees to give priority to the most vulnerable
• Microcredits adapted to a very poor rural area


• Human investment:
— Two mothers have been trained to work as social workers to listen and encourage dialogue
— To make sure that every person have the chance of working for others
• To take the time to build trust and ensure that no one is left behind
• To respond to both the needs of the individual and the community
• To adapt financial interventions to support the efforts of people to break out of dependency



• Meetings: The group gathers once a month to decide
— the activities in the general interest of the group
— the allowance of credits
• Some examples of community support:
— Construction work on houses in need of repair
— Cultivating the land of a family in times of medical emergencies
— Taking care of orphans
— Social security fund: everybody contributes a small amount per month used to deal with urgent needs


• Credits of hoes, seeds and goats
• Credits granted by the decision of the meeting
• Creation of a collective reserve of seeds
• Building of a collective storehouse
• Repayment at harvest time in money or in-kind
• Cultivation of collective fields donated by local authorities
OCTOBER 17TH IN RWANDA: The International Day for the Eradication of poverty

• Organized by people living in poverty
• Political and religious authorities are invited to listen, discuss and learn
• Time is set aside for:
— Solidarity workshops: building a hut, repairing a roof, plowing a field
— Speaking out and being heard
— A meal, a chat, a dance

OCTOBER 17TH IN RWANDA. On this day people living in poverty:

• Are recognized as citizens
• Meet with people from different backgrounds on an equal footing
• Share their efforts and commitment to fight against poverty
• Work for reconciliation and peace in their country through concrete acts of solidarity
• Gain in political visibility and social credibility


A few statistics:
• 50 houses and 60 cowsheds rebuilt
• 242 hoes and 6589 kg of seeds given in credit
• 299 goats, 37 pigs and 48 rabbits given in credit
• 103 monetary credits given
• 31 grants given for secondary school

New capabilities:
• Overcoming isolation
• Personal development and dignity
• Empowerment and responsibility
• Reinforcement of community life and solidarity
• Political participation

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