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

Youth Testimony from Ireland, Oct17, Clincho, Appalachia, VA, USA


International Day

for the Eradication of Poverty

October 17, 2018 - Clincho VA

Community Contribution from a group of young adults, Dublin, Ireland

We are 20 young men and women from Dublin who worked together to write this message for October 17. Most of us know very well what it means living on a very low income, and some of us have slept in the street. We know what it is to be put down.

To leave no one behind, we first have to put the homeless on a bigger agenda. They live extreme poverty and are isolated, especially the very young. It's easy to turn to drugs when you're homeless, because you give up.

Jackie said : “Leaving no one behind means bringing back a homeless person to my home, like some one from my family. I could lose my flat for taking this risk. But I do it because I was homeless.”

Teresa said: “Now I have my flat, but I would not walk past a homeless person. If you're my friend when I'm on the street, you're still my friend when I'm not.”

Around town we see homeless people, young and old. Why can't all the empty buildings be used to offer them proper homes?

What can we do to leave no one behind? We are born equal and in innocence, but our paths in life are not equal.

One father said, “I was left behind at school years ago. The class teacher hit me and I reacted. I told the teacher what I thought of him. I was then thrown out. I was just 13 and school was finished for me. There were no more chances to learn. I stopped going to school. No one ever came to my house to ask why?. Yes, I was left behind.” It is life-long access to education that gives people another chance.

Our communities can offer the chance not to be left behind,  we have to understand each other, to take time to walk in each other's shoes Let's not turn our backs on those who face hardship and isolation, on those who get a prison sentence.

An answer lies in friendship and in the people you get to know in your community; keeping contact and talking with each other; and being a good neighbour is very important.  All this gives you the understanding of belonging somewhere.  And we never should, put anyone down. Everyone should have their chance to make their mark in their community.

We need to have a sense of humour as well, that we share with others. It is part of being together. Today we want to remember all those who have died in misery, especially those who died during the past year. Their lives were too hard. Sometimes our lives are the same.

Even if our problems take us to hell and back, we still have feelings and we have the right to live with respect.

Our humanity can never be taken away from us.

Isabelle Williams
United States

Collective Testimony from New Orleans, October 17, 2018

Together  let’s  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.”  

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

Marie Victoire
United States

Message of Activist, Stacy White, October 17, United Nations HQ, New York

Good afternoon,

People in poverty are not the lowest of the low.

I live with my daughter in a shelter in Queens, New York City, and I am doing my best to look for permanent affordable housing to stay outside of the shelter system. I currently have twelve weeks to find an apartment based on a voucher provided by the City of New York. Throughout my life, I have lived in poverty-stricken areas. 

For me, poverty is about neglected areas — areas that are not taken care of, where there are no resources for families like libraries, good schools, or even good stores. 

In the stores, most of the groceries are expired, including potato chips and sodas. The store owners think that we’re content with living this way because they think we do not have a voice, but that is not the case. People living in poverty have this fear that if they open their mouths, then action will be taken against them, so nobody says anything. So, we’re going to continue to have stores like that, unless people living in poverty let their voices be heard, so others are stopping to take advantage of them.

In these places where sidewalks are cracked and infrastructures are broken, it's important that we stand up for our rights and that we voice our needs — make noise to get what we have the right to have.

We have to make noise. I don’t mean being loud, being violent, cursing people out, belittling people. I mean going to meet people. Because a piece of paper is just not going to work, you have to go down there and stay in their face and keep staying in their face. You have to claim your right.

It’s important to be heard because it’s only right. Everyone should have the right to speak, to say how they feel about what is going on in their life. It’s a human right to be heard and to listen to someone — to communicate with one another.

A lot of times I had the feeling I was not heard. When I went into the shelter system, I told them I wasn’t giving them any false information, but they weren’t trying to hear that, talking above me and raising their voices.

They don’t listen because a lot of people go by status. If you have a job and I don’t, I’m lower; if I live in the projects and you own a home, I’m lower; if you have better shoes, I’m lower. So, if we’re not on the same level, people don’t want to be bothered.

Often, I get the impression that some people are not properly trained for their jobs. When you’re working a job that requires customer service or dealing with people, you have to be trained to deal with it all.

Inside poverty-stricken neighborhoods, to stop the violence, people need to bring it out into the open and stop keeping it inside. If we don’t get together and say something about it, violence will keep happening.

We, in our community, only make noise if a black person is killed by a police officer. We don’t say anything when we kill each other. In the neighborhoods where I’m from, this happens every day, every other day, but we don’t say anything. Because, first, people are scared of retaliation. And, second, some police officers think, “Let them kill each other.”

We need peacemakers in our neighborhoods because some people don’t feel secure enough or safe enough to tell the police. We have to find someone we can fully trust who will listen to us, and then maybe someone the police will listen to, because they’re not going to listen to the people in the neighborhoods, people in poverty. My mother would play that role.

My mother didn’t care what color you were — if you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble and that’s it. That taught me to raise my kids with respect, and that’s why I have respect for everyone. She had a lot of impact on me.  Now, if I see somebody fighting, if it’s not a violent fight, but something I can resolve, I try to resolve it.

Nobody deserves to be put down because of where they are from, what color they are, how much they make, or what they eat. I don’t feel disrespected too much. When someone tries to disrespect me, it feels like I have a raincoat that gets wet and the rain rolls off. Because I know who I am, I know where I came from, and I am proud of who I am.

Respect starts at home with a very caring adult. Kids are bullied so much. If you tell your child, you stand on your own two feet, and you are perfectly fine the way you are, when he’s being bullied, he will just walk away with a “Please, get out of my face with that.”  But if a parent or a caring adult doesn’t let them know that, then that child is going to absorb the bullying until the pressure becomes too much. Let’s see what their art and their talent is. You have to help your child be confident.

It's the same for our LGBT young people.  A lot of them are killing themselves, turning to drugs, or living on the streets because their parents are not accepting. When you have a child, your love is unconditional.

Homeless people also deserve respect. Anyone who has any care in the world for people should let them know where they can find help. I tell people where they can find support. Also, simply saying hello to someone makes a world of a difference. 

Everyone can and should come together. All it takes is one person to take the first step. Usually, another follows behind. It’s not too hard to follow someone else’s steps. What is hard is to take that first step to tell other people. So, today, I am telling you: “Don't be afraid to take that first step, and let's come together to make a difference.”

Video: Commemoration at the United Nations Headquarters
Genevieve Tardieu
United States

Message of Activist, Kimberly Cook, October 17, United Nations HQ, New York

Good Afternoon,

My name is Kim Cook. I was pregnant when I first went into a shelter.

At first, the Department of Transitional Assistance couldn’t help me. They said I didn’t need a shelter — I could sleep on someone’s couch. I only got into a shelter when I showed up with my infant son in February and told them: “I have nowhere to go. I am going to be out on the street tonight with a 2-month-old in the middle of winter.”

I have been in a shelter for five years now. They were giving out housing vouchers, but I was not eligible because my last permanent residence wasn’t a Boston address. The shelter I am in now is infested with mice. People break the rules and have cats to control the mice, and the shelter lets them do it.

In the welfare hotel we were in before, there was no kitchen, just a tiny microwave and fridge. Microwaving food is not a healthy way to raise children, but that was the only choice we had. I got a crockpot, but they took it and said they would return it when we moved out because crockpots were not allowed.

It seems like a lot of the system is built to keep people in poverty. For example, there’s a limit to how much money you can save. If you have more than $2,000, your benefits get cut off. But it costs more than $2,000 to get an apartment. You need the first month’s rent and a security deposit. How am I supposed to save for an apartment if I can’t have more than $2,000?

There are assistance programs, but it is not feasible for families to get assistance with all the hurdles they have to jump. Sometimes, I feel like policies are put in place more to protect the system from abuse than to lift people up.

My children are half Native American. We lost our state health insurance for two months because they said I didn’t send in the necessary paperwork to prove that my children are Native American. With Massachusetts’s health insurance, there are no extra benefits for being Native American. Why did I have to get all these documents?

In the end, they listed my kids as white. I got my health insurance back by hiding who they truly are for the bureaucracy. I think it’s partially discrimination, but it’s also a lack of trust.

At the dentist, it was either live with a rotting tooth or pay the $1,500. In the end, I went to a dental school where a student worked on me. They got hands-on training, and I got the tooth removed. When you live in poverty, you have to know those strategies, otherwise you can’t get what you need and access your basic rights.

I know homeless couples who are in the street because they are not legally married and can’t go to a shelter together. I know a 17-year-old teenager who is out on the street because family shelters won’t take males over 17. There are so many faces of humanity being ignored because of poverty.

In Boston, most public bathrooms close at 5pm. After 5, there is nowhere for people living on the street to even wash their hands. There should be access to basic necessities regardless of income or housing status. The homeless community says this is just how it is; the bureaucrats don’t listen to us. We vote, but things aren’t changing the way we want. Why am I settling for that? Why am I not crying out that this is a crime against humanity? That this is degrading?

I want to be part of changing the system.

I volunteer every week with a program that has free lunch and art programs for the homeless. I can always help people in some way. I buy them a cup of coffee when I have the money. They struggle and get down and I say: “It’s going to get better; just keep hanging in there.” The only thing that gets us through each day is that we rely on one another. We are stronger together. Really, we’re a family.

While I live in the shelter, I’m trying to give my kids as normal a life as possible. I might not be able to afford everything, but I want my children to have diverse learning experiences. They know they live in a shelter, but they don’t feel any different than their friends at school. I don’t want them to feel they missed out on something because of our financial situation.

Children are the ones that will carry us into the future, so we need to raise them right. I pride myself on raising my children without discrimination. I teach them that everyone is the same; it doesn’t matter if they look different, if they speak different; everyone is the same. That is a very important lesson that needs to be spread.

There can be discrimination against people who receive public assistance or have government health insurance. There needs to be public education to end this discrimination. It’s not something that happens overnight; it’s not something that’s ingrained in us. It’s something that’s taught. This is a vital step for people to get out of poverty. It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it.

Video: Commemoration at the United Nations Headquarters
Genevieve Tardieu
United States

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.

Video: Commemoration at the United Nations Headquarters
Genevieve Tardieu