Every attitude, every gesture has to fight poverty and exclusion. There are many ways to act, regardless of our skills and availability. These messages, these testimonials reflect. Feel free to contribute.

Testimonies are published under the responsibility of the author. They are subject to validation: these will be published only if they comply, in form and substance the spirit of this day as defined in the International Charter for October 17.

 

Message of Activist, Patrick Matara, October 17, United Nations HQ, New York

Good afternoon,

Today, I will share my story. I think stories inspire people and sometimes can change them.

I grew up in a very humble family in rural Kenya. My dad left my mom and four siblings, so my mom raised me. When I reached secondary school, I was unable to go because we could not afford the fee. I was devastated because I did very well in primary school and I saw my friends going to school. I thought: “This is my end.” Then I said to the god that I always pray to: ‘‘I know one day, sometime, I will be in school again.” I decided to go to Nairobi to look for my dad. It was a challenge: where could I find him?

After a month and a half, I finally found my father. I was very bitter when I first saw him. But I did not want to show my feelings, so I told him why I was looking for him: I wanted to go to school. My dad used to drink at that time. But I talked with him so much that he stopped, and he found the sense to take me to school. With his support, I finished high school. I even found someone to sponsor me to go to university.

There, I met Sister Joan, my professor. She challenged me. She inspired me. I used to think that you had to have money to give back to society, but she changed my mind. She taught us that we didn’t need money; we had other resources. We could create with the time and energy we had and be friends to the friendless. I realized that there are children who will never have a big brother to talk to. They will not have someone who can be their voice, who can teach them their rights and the responsibilities of human beings.

That inspired me to invest in the children of Kibera, a very large slum outside of Nairobi. There are so many children who are struggling, and as a young adult, it was my responsibility to make sure no child experienced what I went through. So, by talking and playing with them, the group I belong to gives them hope. I tell them my story and how I was able to go to school. It challenges them and pushes them to not feel hopeless, unwanted, and useless. It is something that has touched me in Kibera. Children go through many problems, and they need somebody who can stand up for them, work with them, speak with them, and show them the way.

When I think about the furthest behind, the ones who come to mind are children who have been discriminated against, isolated, and left in the streets. I work with the Edmund Rice Karibu Group to find those who are left behind.

One day, a group of children we work with told us about a child and her mother. We decided to visit them. We met the 16-year-old girl and noticed that she was mentally disabled. At first, she was not comfortable sharing with us because it was our first time at her house. But the second time, she started opening up about her challenges and how she was discriminated against and isolated.

Her father died when she was 7 years old. After she was born, her mother went to a clinic for a checkup and was told that they both had been infected with HIV/AIDS. The doctors wanted to take the child and give her another home. The mother refused. When people in the community learned they were infected, they stopped visiting and talking to her. The woman became depressed. She thought about leaving her daughter. Through time and friendship, we connected them with a center our group works with. The mother was recovering and her daughter went to school, but some people still abused her.

When we found out she was being abused, the police apprehended the man, and now he is behind bars. He did not realize that sleeping with the girl would infect him. This girl and her mother are the kind of people who are left behind. We must befriend the marginalized.

When people experience challenges and injustices, we need to come together to address the problem. If we work as a team, we can win. We will accomplish our goal of eradicating poverty.

Human beings should be treated with dignity. It is our responsibility to value every human and respect them for who they are; to treat them equally. Children like the one whose story I shared today need to be protected. We need to respect their dignity and value them.

We give them value by helping them realize their potential and ability and by addressing their needs. If they need education, how can we help them succeed at school? That shows we value them. Another way we can give value to somebody is making them realize how important they are. Even if they don’t have anything, if they aren’t schooled, if their parents died, they are valuable.

My hope is that the children I am friends with realize what life means and how precious they are to us.

This testimony is linked to the event: 
Video: Commemoration at the United Nations Headquarters
Genevieve Tardieu