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
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

Resembling the Stone

The Stone, a reflection of our lives intertwined as a sturdy slab.

Intertwined with affection, unity, harmony and interdependency.

We are learning to think positively.

We are learning to search for those courageous to face the truth and stand up for righteousness.

We are learning to handle injustice with prudence, tenderness and kindness.

We are learning to know our true selves through the grace of the Lord.

Give us the chance for mothers and fathers to bring up their own children,

For the new generation to have a benevolent, warm and secure future,

Where they are free to choose to work for the joy of their families,

To have jobs that bring pride and dignity to their lives.

The Stone is hope, not a shadow of destitution.

The Stone whispers out in search for the honorable luster of loyalty and equity.

The Stone calls out for voluntary minds to alleviate trouble and strife.

The Stone calls for those responsible for themselves, their families and society.

The Stone yearns for courage that helps the people and the land to survive.

Have we forgotten money is not the most important thing in a person’s life.

Have we forgotten democracy is not power to violate the rights of others.

Have we forgotten the law is a peace-keeping tool among the crowd.

Have we forgotten we all have the right to comfortable, peaceful and safe lives.

Selfishness makes us forget the future of our children, our lineage and our land.

Selfishness makes us forget the future of humanity and the environment.

Selfishness makes us forget ourselves and our future.

But in the graceful Stone lie our lives forever joined.

Aporn Poompanna


Translation : Ajarn Sasee Chanprapun

Aporn Poompann

Cold and Warmth

I address these words to the Church, to politicians and neighbours and to society as a whole. My theme is Cold and Warmth.

Children especially need a loving family like a warm nest.

But everybody needs a home, some emotional security.

A cold social atmosphere makes people shiver.

First, to the Church:

The church is a place where one should be able to recharge, isn't it …

Where one should feel at ease.

Why is it often sooo cold in our churches!?!?!?

Both denominations, protestant and catholic, should take some time to think about that.

After all, the Bible teaches us to embrace those people

who have no defences,

who must live on the verge of isolation, for instance because they are poor …

Nor should we make judgements

If someone has not studied, or is a different colour from us.

Where people are judged or condemned

there is no sense of emotional security.

There one fears to get hurt, or insulted.

I know that well.

Since I've only been to a special school

I am often excluded and pushed away.

At the f.i.t. Project, I am allowed to contribute.

That gives me strength and the courage to carry on living.

Now to the Politicians: Ladies and Gentlemen Politicians!

What is on your minds in everyday life? Politics, of course!

But what about the human beings, the little people!?!?!?

Aren't they left behind!?

Do you know how that is perceived at the bottom: when there are weeks of haggling about five Euros more in benefit for the long time unemployed – while billions are spent in the same year to save the banks?

Or politicians' salaries are raised substantially?

It is like a cold blast to us, the little people, that pushes us even further to the edge.

And what brash words are uttered!

If you were talking with us instead of about us,

you might develop a feel for what it means to be poor.

Many politicians want to be sooo Christian, or sooo socially minded

- then there should also be something to show for it.

Then you should take care that no-one is left behind …

that all are able to live – and don't have to take on five jobs, for instance,

so they can feed their families.

I also want to address individuals and society as a whole:

What happens if someone cannot go on, when he has to give up?

In the Me-first society he is given the cold shoulder, ignored.

Where is the neighbour, or society!?!?!?

There are good neighbours in our society. Unfortunately, they are few.

Where has warm hearted compassion gone!?!?!? Nothing but silence ….?

But we, the little people, won't remain silent today!

We can give each other love, tenderness and warmth -

with kind words, such as: “You are precious, yes you!!!

It isn't your fault that you have to live like that.

Don't give up!

If we all take part in that, you and I,

Then no-one will have to feel cold.

Damit niemand auf der Strecke bleibt!
Mrs L