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.



Focus on people's strengths

My name is Ann.

When I was a teenager I was diagnosed with an intellectual disorder. This meant that my school work suffered and that I found school really difficult. I got extra classes to help me in a practical way but I didn’t really understand what was going on and what was wrong. There was no one there to talk to me about it, to help me understand what was going on. It was tough at home too, fighting with my family meant that I often went to stay with my auntie, just to get away from things.

I should have been diagnosed at a much earlier stage but isn’t that often the way in Ireland? The crisis has to happen before any help is provided. This is something I’ve experienced again and again in my life. Despite all of this I got my leaving cert and started in college but due to health problems I didn’t finish it. I started working but I knew I couldn’t live at home any longer, I needed my independence and also the fighting was too much. I needed to get away. I wasn‘t entitled to

social welfare so there were no options for me – I ended up in a hostel. At this time there were only two hostels in the city for women so my options were very limited. I believe that if the criteria for rent allowance were more flexible that I wouldn’t have ended up in that situation.

The hostel was scary, sharing a dorm was awful and there were people who were using drugs, I felt so unsafe. When I found out I was pregnant it was even worse. When I had my baby a social worker came to see me – my Mam had asked them to because she was worried I couldn’t cope because of my intellectual disorder and the circumstances I was living in - but the social worker closed the case quickly when they heard I was moving into a flat with my boyfriend. Again I think if the social workers had offered me practical support things wouldn’t have got as bad as they did later on.

Myself, my baby and my boyfriend moved to a flat, it was horrible, as bad as the hostel but I didn’t have much say in it. My boyfriend controlled the money and made all the decisions. Things were too much for me, trying to cope with my health, minding a small baby and being fearful of my situation meant I just was just about surviving. I didn’t even realise that things had got so bad, that I was a victim of domestic violence. There was no one there for me.

When my second child was born he got very sick and social workers were called. They could see that I was struggling. Social workers and community supports should have intervened much earlier but again and again the help comes so late because the resources aren’t there to prevent the crisis.

My kids went to live with my parents and I went back into the hostels, I was on the homeless list but without my children I was right at the bottom of this list, I wasn’t a priority when I should have been. It was no surprise that my mental health got very bad at this stage.

The social worker helped to get me an assessment but the mental health services said they couldn’t offer me much help.

I struggled but kept going. Then, after a long dark period I was offered housing with a charity that works with people who have been homeless. Having a home of my own meant that for the first time in a long time I started to feel safe. Things were still hard but there was support to work on the issues that were affecting me, to really settle.

But I didn’t stop there. I wanted to get involved in life again, to be part of something. I took up all of the opportunities that were offered to me – I volunteered in a drop in service where people who are homeless come in to get some food, advice and be away from the street, I became part of a community choir which gave me a chance to do something I love and be part of a community of choice. I’ve now taken up the chance to become a Peer Researcher and together with a group of people from the housing and homeless charity that housed me and together we’ve developed a new charter to guide their work. My experiences, good and bad have helped to inform my understanding of support services should work.

You can see from my story that a couple of things are very important - start working on issues early and don’t wait for a crisis, focus on people’s strengths and build on these not on their difficulties, don’t let people go round and round in a broken system.

I believe that working with people to address their own needs early and consistently contributes to an equal society, a society that we can all be proud of.

Thank you for hearing my story

Ann, Focus 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.

Testimony of Phyllis read by Cecilia, Community Action Network

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.

Testimony of Diane and Ritah with the Dominican Justice Office

17 октября 2015

В нашей стране всего несколько сотен тысяч людей живут хорошо - это в основном в больших городах, большое начальство. Остальные миллионы живут за чертой бедности.

Я и моя семья живем в России. Здесь по официальным данным более 20 миллионов человек живет в очень тяжелых условиях крайней нищеты.  Однако мы видим совсем другую картину и нищих у нас в разы больше. Борьба с людьми, которые выпрашивают милостыню ведется очень жестко - их облагают штрафами за попрошайничество и поэтому только самые отчаянные могут себе позволить просить у других людей на пропитание.

Завтра 17 октября 2015 года, я буду целый день КРИЧАТЬ людям из нашей страны о борьбе с нищетой во всем мире. Около 100000 человек я проинформирую о том, что ООН уже 22 года как объявило о борьбе с нищетой во всем мире!

In our country, only a few hundred thousand people are living well - they live mainly in the big cities. The remaining millions live in poverty.

My family and I live in Russia. Here, according to official data, more than 20 million people live in very difficult conditions because of extreme poverty. However, we are now seeing a very different picture and there are more poor people than ever before. They are now fighting against people who beg  - they are imposing tough fines for begging. These people are so desperate that they have ask other people to help feed them.

Tomorrow, on 17 October, 2015, I will spend the whole day  SHOUTING to people in our country about the worldwide fight against poverty.  The United Nations has declared this for 22 years around the world.

Артём Белый
South Africa


I am very much disappointed about our Governments in Africa.I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. As a young person, irrespective of my circumstances, I genuinely prefer a hand up rather than a hand out. The fact is that I want to live in a country that will enable us to prosper, regardless of my background. I don't want to improve only my own quality of life, but I want to advance the lives of the others. Charity is vertical. It goes from the top to bottom. Solidarity on the other hand respects the horizontal, it respects the other person. If would be good if our Governments allow us or give us a platform to advertise our skills as young people,

Charity helps maintain socio-economic structures that disadvantage those in need of help in the first place. But solidarity empowers the collective oppressed by destroying impediments that are the cause of many of the ills that we are facing. I would like to help fight this battle of poverty.

Boy Samson