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News from ATD Fourth World Regional Team

Marie-Claire Droz, Patricia and Claude Heyberger

Over the past months, we had the opportunity to visit Vietnam, Philippines and to take part in a forum held in Beijing, China.

“Do you plan to start projects in our country?” was the most frequent question we were asked by those in charge of peer organizations in these countries. Indeed, being members of an international NGO, people often expect from us to expand our organization by implementing new projects. Once we think about how widespread and entrenched poverty is around the world, this expectation is understandable. However, our teams in Asia, as well as in the other regions in which we work, are very small! Most often there are only two or three full-time volunteers at a time, and while we are graciously supported by the ongoing efforts of members and friends, these individuals take upon many responsibilities and are limited in number.

Another reason is that ATD Fourth World’s full-time volunteers choose to dedicate a part of their time and their experience in joining other organizations instead of initiating only action programs. Extreme poverty, as we know, is both an economic and social condition: effective action therefore cannot be based on material support alone. ATD Fourth World’s choice has always been to focus on the long-term human investment, building trust and friendship among people. Members of ATD Fourth World are willing to join the ranks of those who are trying to create a better life within their neighborhood, their society, and their country. ATD Fourth World is always very eager to understand and to learn from other people committed to fight extreme poverty and injustice.

How do these encounters contribute to the efforts to overcome extreme poverty? We have witnessed that this approach works to facilitate an open and trusting dialogue among people, groups and organizations. This exchange can lead to new ways of learning and taking action, towards building social wealth for the good of all.

In their writings these modest individuals recount their frustration about having to witness the
unnecessary suffering of people living in poverty, often while facing the additional injustice of social programs which do not properly take their needs into account.

Maew is one of these observers. It is not necessary to identify the country she is speaking of, because unfortunately the marginalization of populations living in extreme poverty occurs
in almost every country of the world. Our purpose is to highlight the people who do not resign themselves in the face of these realities. Maew, Aizhen, Adonis and Noi are all individuals who have struggled to confront extreme poverty where they have found it. These ATD Fourth World friends and members are aware that progress is by necessity a slow process, which involves reestablishing severed human relationships, changing mentalities and reforming institutions that have been shaped for centuries by discriminatory attitudes towards people in extreme poverty.

People like Maew, Aizhen, Adonis and Noi work to build peace by standing up against poverty. If you know other people you also consider to be peace builders, please assist us in meeting with them. We need to know each other, so that we can build a greater solidarity among people of various backgrounds and interests in the fight against extreme poverty.

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