In 1917, Joseph Wresinski was born in an internment camp for foreign nationals in Angers, France. Being from a family without any means, he experienced at a very young age the injustice and violence of extreme poverty.
In 1957, with the families in an emergency housing camp outside Paris, he founded what is known today as ATD Fourth World. Throughout his life, he actively sought out people in extreme poverty in Europe and all over the world. Everywhere he went, he wanted to learn from them and from people who give the best of themselves to overcome poverty.
Knowing that this struggle, led by people in deep poverty, is both essential and also difficult, in 1980 he founded the Forum on Overcoming Extreme Poverty.
Wresinski wrote: “The Forum came into being because we wanted to unite all resources and strengths, so that no one would be alone or become discouraged, and so that we could learn together how to move ahead with the poorest people. Whether we are officials, ordinary citizens, representatives of national or international organisations is unimportant. What counts is our commitment alongside the most disadvantaged people.”
Joseph Wresinski drew his strength from the resistance to poverty from the poorest people; but he also felt he had things in common with what was expressed in the first letters he received from readers of this Letter to Friends.
In November 1983, he wrote to some of the Forum correspondents: “Dear Friends, it was wonderful to receive your replies to the Letter to Friends. Today, I would like to continue this channel of communication between us and between all those who are trying to put an end to human misery. With your help, we can exchange, not only about distress and worries, but especially about what each one of us is doing to help bring relief and hope to those who suffer most. In this way, we will together be laying the foundations of a new kind of development that will exclude no-one and especially not the most unfortunate.”