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.

 

Testimonies
Hungary

Have We Lost Them? - Invisible Children

The phrase child-poverty is without meaning for many people. There is no shivering associated with it for the ones who remotely know its meaning. Many think that all of it is the parents’ responsibility. And for sure, it is not part of the responsibilities of others. Yes, that is a good excuse.

Why does one give birth if they can’t afford to raise a child?” or “Why would anyone care for someone else’s child?”

It is easy to say such arguments from the distance. Looking at the question from afar, one does not need to understand the complexities of the problem.

Looking from close by however, the walls raised by stereotypes fall down.

I remember the first time I entered the home of one of my students. They got their electricity from a neighbouring house through an extension cord, they brought water from a public well in 5 litre detergent cans and all their furniture was made up of undone beds, a fireplace used for both heating and cooking and a single shelf that held the populous family’s all clothing, dishes and toiletries next to the inevitable TV.

As I was standing there it came to my mind, what do we want from these kids in the school? What do we want with the Pythagorean theorem, coal production or industrial revolution?

How can we expect these kids to be excited and alert in school? How could homework be done here, where basic needs are not met?

How can a future different than the current situation be outlined?

Then, for years I have been trying to understand the “Why?”-s. I had to understand concepts such as the hereditary-poverty, learned-helplessness and this strange, 21st century poverty mixed with contradictions, where 19th century survival techniques and satellite TVs or mobile-phones - thanks to the consumerist society - can coexist. I experienced how can the positive effects of the school be wiped completely in the living environment and how the education, which is moving further and further away from being opportunity equalizing, is contributing to the children being stuck in those circumstance. I have been analyzing the system of causes affecting the children which today has very few elements that would help them move forward.

I am not sure whether we will ever have the power to break this viscous cycle which is continuously raising the number of people living in extreme poverty in the most disadvantaged micro-regions of the country. Will we ever be able to fight the determining powers of full-time-motherhood, “it-will-work-out-somehow situations”, working-off-the-book, criminalization and the foster-work-carrier?

Education reforms? Foster-work? Prevention? Screening-examinations? Catching-up? Settlement closures? Housing programs? And the list goes on of the attempts that never reach the ones who live in the deepest poverty.

We are running in circles, talking about them but, of course, without them. We come up with well-crafted slogans and campaigns, we use statistics to justify the positive change but one thing does not change, the lives of the ones living in extreme poverty.

The grandparents today left the school system with decreasing knowledge and insufficient knowledge which they passed on to their children. Then the knowledge decreased further in the parents’ generation.

We are here with the teenagers locked into poverty and under-education waiting at home to become adults.

And the ones who come after us will be in the similar situation. There is nothing to break the cycle. We have lost them.

Solution? At this point it is already a difficult question. I see it with certainty that for the future generations we have to work with the current one. We are late to change them because their socialization with this complicated system of problems is stronger than everything else. But it needs to be made up for what they did not get when they should have so their children will see a different path to follow. One with power, perseverance, respect for rules, motivation and responsibility. Everything that is missing but is necessary for the development of the children needs to be filled in.

Complex problem solving, unified effects, real job opportunities, tolerance, solidarity, community development. Nice words. It would be great if one day all of these would actually be present within the system.

For example, instead of the segregated education, the 16 years of obligatory schooling or the foster work program.

Then the report on the situation from me on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty would not be so bitter.

There is a photo I took a few years ago. A young girl with shining eyes and flowers on her face. At that time she was 8. She was happy because she won with her drawing on an international competition in Poland. This photo makes the viewer smile.

However, for me, it makes my stomach cramp. Because I know that she was 11 when she became a prostitute as a result of poverty and even when we took her out, it was too late. For me she is another victim of poverty. Someone whose life cannot be turned around from this path.

When one thinks about such a life story, one can find so many points of possible intervention, where this outcome could have been prevented. Many are responsible, who could have done that.

All of us are responsible for what we call child-poverty . The ones who look away, the ones who nod for everything, the ones who don’t care, the ones who make the decisions, the ones who push away the responsibility, the ones who bring the statistics or the news and the ones who manipulate.

In the meantime, all of us are dreaming about a liveable country, however we cannot initiate a real progress. Perhaps, the reason for it is that within us no change has started yet.

20/11/2015
Nóra R., - Translated by Réka Zempléni
Mauritius

Yes, there is development, but not for everyone.

Collective Witness of the Residents of the Port Louis Night Shelter

Yes, there is Development, but not for everyone. Give us a chance to contribute to it as well

For us, the temporary residents of the “Night Shelter”, if there is a reason for us being here, it's because of the problem of finding lodgings. We are here temporarily while waiting for a solution to our problems.

We would like to launch an appeal with regard to the housing problem.

We are saying that there is development, but not for everybody.

We realise that where there is exclusion, our human rights are not respected. Besides, the word “exclusion” shouldn't exist at all. This idea of excluding people should not exist.

It is said that the country is in the process of development, but there are always those who are falling through the cracks. Those living in extreme poverty know that better than most.

There are houses that have been built at the foot of the mountains (temporary lodgings). Every time it rains, there are landslides and the buildings collapse.

How many people have died there when there were those torrential downpours? Yet those buildings were put up as part of a development project.

Well, there is development, but what counts is that it lasts.

In order to get lodgings, we have to take out a mortgage over a period of 20 years. But we don't have permanent work. After 2 or 3 years, we find ourselves here again (in the night shelter).

In our country, most of the people doing small jobs aren't in work. Employers don't hire us, they prefer to recruit foreign workers. Why?

Because they are cheaper? Because they bring in more money? Because they work better? We don't even know why.

Suppose someone has been to prison, so he wants to turn over a new leaf. So he needs to work. But he is told “no, there is no solution because our past isn't desirable.” These days everything depends on morals. But don't you need money as well? Every day one needs money to live on. For everything in life one needs money. And that's why, in the long run, some start to steal and from that moment, we are considered as criminals. And then it's easy to succumb to despair, alcoholism, drugs …

Sometimes, even if there is work, the wages we are offered discourage us. There are even places you cannot enter with old slippers on your feet.

That's why we are saying that a lasting development is not for us. We have nothing to gain from it. 50% of us little people are in prison. Here, it's the law that rules supreme. If you raise your voice, you risk being put in jail again. But it is very rare for at least two people to sit down with us and to listen to us to prepare our message. Elsewhere, perhaps you won't find such a moment, you don't find it.

As far as we are concerned, lasting development is not taking place for us. For some, yes, it is good... But it should be done in a way that profits everyone.

We are confident that the government could change things because everything is in their hands and they know the situation.

For example, when there is a cyclone, the government helps the victims via the Prime Minister's Relief Fund. We believe that the State could ask the private sector to transfer a certain amount of money per month to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund to help fight poverty.

But however many people there are giving aid, it won't be easy to overcome poverty. If we think negatively we will always have problems, we need to cultivate a positive attitude. Working together, reflecting together, getting together to create a lasting development where everyone gets a part of the cake, rather than one taking one part and the other receiving just a small piece of sugar.

To shape our future, we want a lasting development on which we have left our mark.

23/10/2015
Collective Witness of the Residents of the Port Louis Night Shelter
Belgium

Visiting this area gives me hope!

"Last week I was visited Valeria and her partner. They are an elderly couple that have just been evicted from their house. They have been living in a van behind their house without water, gas or electricity for over a month now.

Sister Marianne told me about them as she lives in the same area. She makes daily visits to numerous people who are living on the streets and also visits families who are living in very unsafe conditions.

The same day Sister Marianne took me to visit Sylvie and her 3 children who live not that far from Valeria. Since their eviction they have been sharing their meals with Sylvie and her children.

Recently, Sylvie saw a message on Facebook from a homeless couple who were asking for help as they were going to be rehoused. They didn't have any pots or pans to cook with. Sylvie gave them her own ones!

Sylvie's children asked her: how are we going to eat tonight? She told them not to worry as she will find other ones in a cheap shop.

Sylvie knows what it's like to not have anything. She has a good friendship with a lady who has helped her to budget in a respectful and considerate manner.

Visiting this area gives me hope! Especially when I saw the teenage daughter of Sylvie returning home from school. When she passed by Valeria's van she stopped with a big smile and embraced her. This moment happened just after Valeria told us how she couldn't take anymore the insults, daily humiliations and people throwing stones at them."

Françoise B. Liège, Belgium, October 2015.

23/10/2015
Françoise B
Ireland

Creating a support network for young mums.

Hi all, my name is Ritah, I am 24 years old and I have a 7 year old boy. Diane, who wishes she could be here today to read this with me, is 23 and has two boys who are 6 and 4. We both got pregnant when we were teenagers and life changed for us completely.

At 18 years old, we were single young mums with no family support. I remember going home after my son’s birth from the hospital. I had no-one to teach me how to feed him, bathe him, change him or what to do when he cries at night, and it was so challenging. I had to figure out all by myself how to look after him even though I had never even held a baby before. Nights were so tough, because he would stay awake all night.

There was no one who asked me how I felt or to have a chat with me about how I was getting on as a single young mother. Being a mother is hard in this world, but being a young single mother is extra hard because you also have to be the father to your children, not just the mother. Diane was also going though the same struggles: like me, she had to grow up so quickly. She was meant to have social workers but didn’t and so was all alone with a new-born baby and the only option she had was to really fend for herself.

Life was just hard for so long and the road was tough, lonely and scary. But the two of us were determined to give our children a better life and we found an inner strength to carry on, to go back to school and try to achieve the dreams we’d had before. Diane and I became friends and we would speak about all the challenges of being a young mother and hoped one day to reach out to others. Because of what we went through, we never want to see any other young mother with no family support or other networks to go through the same challenges we did. We know how it feels to be alone with your child with no one asking you how you feel, check on you in the hospital, give you a call to find out how you doing or have a cup of tea with you.

Some people need a holding hand, a shoulder to cry on, and we wanted to be people the people who can empathise with them. We also want to remind mothers that having a child young cannot stop you from reaching all your goals. It could be education, employment, engaging in different activities or anything. There are barriers such as child care, the stigma attached to being a young mother, mental health issues, but there is power in togetherness, and once we come together we can overcome these barriers and reach for our dreams.

We’re both studying social care and when Diane heard about a social enterprise where people have to come up for an idea about something missing in Irish society, we applied. What we thought was missing in Irish society was help for young mothers, mothers who are alone, young mothers with no family around, young mothers who are completely isolated and lonely and having to grow up quickly. Our idea to create a support network for young mums won first place. And after that happened we thought “do you know what? We have to work towards this, we have to make it happen” so today we are working on our dream, we’re working with Marie in the Dominican Justice Office and we have our first meeting of the Young Mothers Network in a few weeks, we’re starting small at the moment but the whole idea is for young mums to meet with other young mums, to find strength in being together, to help each other not to lose their goals, or to forget who they are.

Yes they are mothers, but they’re still individuals with dreams of their own. Maybe someone here will want to come to our group. We want to tell you that you would be welcome.

Thank you.

17/10/2015
Testimony of Diane and Ritah with the Dominican Justice Office
Ireland

We are supposed to live a life of dignity and respect.

Good Morning, My name is Phyllis and I have been a resident in Dolphin House, Dublin 8 for many years. My community is a strong, vibrant one, full of people some of whom have lived there for generations but all of whom put their hearts and souls into building homes for their families. But for years the odds have been stacked against us doing just that.

We have lived and continue to live with poor housing: damp, mould, sewerage, overcrowding - for which we pay rent, and which costs a fortune to heat and decorate, which impacts negatively on our health and the health of our children, which in turn costs a fortune in medical bills and in time off school and ultimately causes huge mental stress on a daily basis.

Until such time as we started naming this lived experience as a violation of human rights, we were getting no satisfactory response from the state. We had no where to turn but were left frustrated, powerless to get on with it. We never saw the Celtic Tiger but we were told that now that he was gone, we could expect even less by way of state response to our living conditions. That is what prompted us to set up Rialto Rights in Action and to re- name poor housing as human rights violations and to campaign for change. Before this, the only human right I had ever heard about was the right to remain silent but over time I learned I and you have human rights because we are human.

We are supposed to live a life of dignity and respect. From the very beginning, I really connected to that idea of emphasising the “human” in all of us, especially when so much of our experience is de humanising. And yet all we want is an adequate home which is a basic human right.

I have come to know that an adequate home means: a dwelling that is fit to live in, affordable, has access to services, family and community supports, and is one where adults and children can live in peace, security and dignity. How can families be fully human when they live in overcrowded poor conditions that damage their health and well being? How can we as a society respond in a more human way to this type of reality?

In our campaign in Rialto Rights in Action, we learned that the state has a duty to respect, protect and fulfil our right to adequate housing and that they can be held accountable for not doing this.. We experienced the power of using human rights language, of gathering evidence, of using the media to highlight our experience in a new way. And it has delivered real outcomes in terms of:

  • Empowerment
  • Better quality short team refurbishment
  • Regeneration – at least Phase One begun
  • More respectful engagement

But it is a long journey and one where we have to keep the pressure on all the time, otherwise the system just has a way of reverting to old ways!

That is our story locally, but it led to a bigger campaign to deal with similar housing issues for Local Authority tenants on a national basis. Through this national campaign we gathered evidence across many more communities and lodged what is known as Collective Complaint with the Council of Europe.

I know it is no longer about asking please and being made to feel grateful, undeserving and blamed. This way of working is all about shifting the blame from residents to systems. It is all about taking power and feeling equal.

17/10/2015
Testimony of Phyllis read by Cecilia, Community Action Network