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.


United States

It is a hard journey but it is worth doing it

My name is Ashley, I am a single mother from South West Virginia.

I remember there were hard times at home, times when we had nothing, times when we needed help and we didn’t get it. We only had each other as a family. Dad was working a long way away and he‘d been gone weeks at a time.

He got very sick one year he had a mini stroke. He also had diabetes through the orange agent he was exposed to in Vietnam. His legs got very bad. He had to quit his job and Ma had to start working at the prison. It's hard when you are 13 to see your dad going down slowly. To me he was invincible he was my superman. I had to take over the finance of the family, my dad taught me. He also taught me to drive. He taught me a lot. He always encouraged me to read, He’d say if you read your mind will be open and you will learn.

I had started going to college but then I had my son Xander and I had to give it up. I knew I had to care for my son first.

I ended up being my dad’s full carer I used to drive him to the hospital a long way away. Getting him in the truck and I came back in time to take my mum to her work in the prison. Through it all my dad kept telling me: one day you’ll get back to study to be a nurse or a doctor.

When he died 5 years ago it shattered me. I was lost. My Ma helped me she pushed me to get out of the house and meet people I went bowling, made friends…

My best friend mum offered me a job as a receptionist in the nurses’ office. Little by little I got doing things with patients. I knew how to do them because of my dad. The more I learnt in the medical field, the more I wanted to become a nurse. I became a nursing assistant. Now I am studying to be a registered nurse. Between work and studying and looking after my son, it’s a long week. I get very tired. I get up at 5.30 to get Xander to the baby sitter who takes him to school. I have to do miles to go to work and to college. In the evening I get my son from school. At home I have to give him all my attention as he is autistic and needs even more attention. It’s a hard journey but anything you do that’s hard is worth it in the end.

I would like to tell young people never to think “I am not smart enough to do this or that.” It doesn’t matter what people might tell you. It’s not what they think it is what you want. You can do it if you want it bad enough. And if you have people around you who believe in you.

Ashley, Appalachia
United States

What does it mean to build a world of respect for everyone’s human rights and dignity?

What does it mean to build a world of respect for everyone’s human rights and dignity?

Families living in extreme poverty in New Orleans tell us so much about what it looks like when they don’t feel respected as a human being because they are born extremely poor.

Ms. Pat said, “It looks like your poverty follows you all the way around for your entire life and it’s hard! It’s hard on everything: housing, food, transportation. It feels as if you are going nowhere. We can’t wait on the system to support our people; we do it ourselves with the little we have. Look! Linda was homeless with her three children. I cannot let her and her children be on the streets. I have to let her in until she finds a place. But after one month, it’s a lot for me to feed the entire family. I am poor myself! It’s hard to tell her to leave knowing that she does not have a place to go. But it’s like that with our people.”

Ms. Charlene dreams to own a house, said, “When I went to the housing agency they asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I told them ‘My dream is to get my own house so that I don’t need to move from one place to another and that one day my children will not be on the streets.’ But I can never save any money to get to 50% of the cost. There is always something coming up! I have to get my children out of jail, or someone is sick and needs money. Sometimes I feel like I make one step forward and then go ten steps backwards.”

Chantelle added, “I work hard but don’t get a good pay, even with two jobs. They are run by the third parties, so I don’t have someone directly to talk to about employment opportunities. You are always on contract for six months and they keep cutting down your hours. They hire migrants because they don’t have to pay any charges. It would be great if they could at least give us $15 an hour. You cannot move one step forward with $8.50 per hour. You can only think about the future with your family, but can’t actually realize it.”

J.D. added, “Police arrest us for little things. Once you are in the system, you are trapped in it. You cannot get a house, and you cannot get a job. For your entire life you are trapped in! You are left behind because all the curses are on you. I am happy to learn that the City council voted to “ban the box” and provide decent living wages. That will change something in our lives.”

Today, we pay tribute to your courage, strength, and perseverance to stand up every day and face the reality of your lives. No one should be left behind, you deserve respect and dignity as any other human being.

March in the 7th Ward and Songs, band playing
Collective testimony, New Orleans
United States

By getting together you can go beyond the struggle

Good evening everybody. Today we are all invited to reflect upon how we can build a world of respect for everyone’s human rights and dignity.

This question brings to my mind the contributions, determination, and hopes of Ms. Althea who was born in the 3rd Ward and who moved into the 7th.

She tells us,

“There is always something positive that can come from people getting together. You can go beyond the struggle. It is important to do better and to improve as you struggle. Don't give up. There's always a better day.

I have never felt left out of this community. And I've been living here for 50 years. Here, if people can help, they'll help.

When one of my neighbors cooks, if anybody needs something to eat -- and not just me--she’ll feed them.

Donations came to another neighbor for him to share with the community so he could offer a hot meal on Saturdays, and a food drive where bags of food were issued to each individual. He also put out clothes every day.

There was the community center. They had movie nights and computer activities for the children. They offered free information on HIV, copies of documents when needed, and resources to assist people to become first-time homeowners.

Then there's the example of a neighbor that I invited to dinner. I wanted to show him that I really appreciated his saying to me, 'I want to help put your lights back on'. He came up with a plan to assist me with my lights by asking for donations from his friends; so it was a success. My lights are now on. I wanted to say more than thank you for the kind  gesture, but thank you for who you are.

If someone is in need, I am always reaching out. That's the way I am. I have taken in some people who needed a place to stay. Some of them have fixed things in my house. For example, there was a man who chipped away some plaster to reveal the chimney beneath, and then he helped to do the whole chimney.

I don’t want to set prices high at my food stand because I don't want the community to feel like they can’t afford a snack. Just because I don't have a lot does not mean I don't have anything to give.

If I see a need, then I don’t mind helping by giving what is needed.

Now I'm getting to know more and more about Fourth World. One thing I am sure of is that the Street Library motivates the young ones; it encourages kids to excel. It is awesome. That means a lot to me.”

Ms. Althea participated in one of the activities of the Street Library Festival of Arts and Learning this summer. She offered to assist with a workshop.

Her presence, as an adult member of the neighborhood, expressed that the community agreed with these summer activities that allowed the children to explore their talents.  

Ms. Althea continues,

“Kids need to be able to read. They need to spend time reading. Books give knowledge. Books are self-educating because they help to understand topics. They advance the child outside of school.

When the child hears the topic in school, she or he already knows about it. That’s how a three year old can know his ABCs and numbers and colors before entering kindergarten.

I sell books that teach how to sew, knit, make quilts, and even play the piano. This is how people can become self-taught.”

She concludes,

“It is important to share this message with others who are struggling: As long as you live, you can do better.

It’s taking a long time, but Rome was not built in one day. No matter how many steps backward we make, it is going to happen. That hope is the most important thing. As we overcame slavery, we can overcome poverty.

March in the 7th Ward and Songs, band playing
Ms. Althea, New Orleans
United States

Building a world leaving no one behind, is building a world for everyone

Good Morning everybody. Today I pay tribute to the courage, tenacity and hope of Ms. Yolanda A. a native of New Orleans. Ms. Yolanda is 41 yrs. old, a mother and of six children: three daughters and three sons.

Talking about “Joining our voices – building a world leaving (that leaves) no one behind,” You added, “I am joining my voice today with all mothers that struggle in everyday life to raise their family. Building a world leaving no one behind, is building a world for everyone. I guess I had (have) been left behind a long time ago.”

Ms. Yolanda, you are usually a quiet person, and you don’t need lots of words to express yourself. “Building a world for everyone” says a lot about your life and your family’s. You had been homeless for many years and had been waiting for a long time to get access to an affordable house for your family. The day you left the office of the Housing Authority of New Orleans with your housing voucher in your hands, you had a big smile on your face, and you said to me, “Looks like today I won a lottery! It has been years I waited for my house. It has been a struggle to move from one place to another with my children. My children are growing big, and I needed a safe place for them to stay. That’s why they could not learn at school. My son D. and my daughter got always suspended at school. I had spent my time going back and forth to court, to school. I lost my job when I lost my house. Since Hurricane Katrina I applied for a voucher. I was all the time on their waiting list. The last time I went to check, they said they had sent me a letter which I never received. I did call them many times, and they never responded to my call. I was discouraged! I was crying. I had moved my children so many times and I could not take it anymore. I am happy today to finally get a chance to be in a house again. I will restart anew. Now I have to find money to furnish my house. All of my belongings that was in storage was taken away because I could no longer pay for the storage. They have auctioned my furniture. But you know those are materials; I will find new one.”

As many families, living in persistent poverty in New Orleans, finding affordable housing is becoming more and more difficult. Due to the lack of decent affordable housing, families are scattered, separated and broken. Children are more than disturbed with (distracted from) their education, and our youth are disoriented. Gentrification creates more and more isolation of families living in persistent poverty. More and more families living in persistent poverty in New Orleans are pushed out to the outskirts of the cities where access to basic needs is denied to them. Building a world that leaves no one behind is to take into consideration the experiences of those who deal with keeping their family together safely in everyday life.

Ms. Yolanda A
United States

We have to fight to get our freedom back

People call me Shay; I am 28 years old, a mother of 4 boys, 13 to 1 years old. I live in New Orleans, my entire life.

When I was a little girl I dreamt of becoming either a police officer, a lawyer or a hair doer (Dresser). I wanted to be an independent woman and to sacrifice my life for my kids and not to depend on others.

Very soon I realize that these are not going to happen, school was tough, and the kids were picking on me calling me bald head. I was in 11th grade when Katrina hit. I was displaced and separated from my family. I could not find my mother, my brothers and sisters. I missed school and ended up getting pregnant for my first born Ryan.

I think I am left behind because now I live on food stamps for my kids. We have food stamps and we are not getting it free, we got that from the government. When the government got your information in the system and knows what you are doing, you are not free.

If I have a full time job they will cut my food stamps and I will continue to struggling to raise my kids. I hope a better place for me and other mothers to help others in need.

This world is not just for all of us because everything is a struggle for us.

It’s a struggle every day and I have to do what I have to do. I take a part time jobs and I have my food stamps to make us going.

We cannot find housing because we don’t have jobs.

I am afraid and I fear they (the government) are going to take my freedom away. I am worrying for my kids and other mothers too, due to the high violence and shooting in the city.

I have to step up and find our community and fight for your community and stand up for your civil rights. We have to fight the system to get our freedom back.

I say to all young mothers to be strong and stay beautiful, do what you need and have to do for your kids.