La misère n’est pas une fatalité
Letter to Friends around the World # 99

Key principles for engaging with people living in poverty
Before joining the literacy program, my life had a bitter taste. I did not recognize numbers. To wake my children up for school, I relied on the position of the sun. I sold eggs at the market place and asked my husband to count how much I had earned. These difficult situations prompted me to learn how to count, to write, and to read...The teacher tried very hard to lead me and the other members of the group out of the darkness linked to illiteracy. I became another woman. Although I am already forty, I felt like I had been born again. Fatima, association CODEV, Morocco

I think probably one of the most important people who, through my adult life, changed my perspective about speaking out and having self-confidence was definitely Francoise, an ATD Fourth World permanent volunteer working in Ireland. Before that I would hardly speak out (...) I always had my opinions, but I never expressed them. (...) The encouragement and support I received from her, as well as the fact that I was listened to and respected by “educated” people, convinced me that I could turn my life around. Noleen F., Ireland

Understand the different dynamics and the relationships within the community..
We are convinced that a person living in extreme poverty is intelligent, courageous, and eager to succeed in life. She needs human warmth to feel like a whole human being again, like someone useful in changing society. Old Raoul was facing an unacceptable loneliness. He feels useful ever since belonging to the group of Families Living in Solidarity. When we say : ”Don’t leave people behind,” we are talking about those crushed by extreme poverty, forgotten by society and yet still alive. Families Living in Solidarity. Democratic Republic of Congo

Assess and mitigate risks to persons, groups and the community…
Often I would see the poorest families go to enormous efforts to grow their ties with their neighbors. These efforts were evidence of a desire to see the community survive.It was no easy matter, however, as each day would bring a host of obstacles to be overcome. Outside projects and aid are very often a one-off (…) Our activities should never endanger the community ties or mutual aid. Instead, they should operate alongside them in order to reinforce them. Elda G., Guatemala

Empowering people in extreme poverty to claim their rights.
After becoming a defender of rights, I often felt mistreated by the public administration. My documents were not the problem. It was the fact that I was living in poverty, a situation common to all women facing administrative formalities, month after month. (...) We need a change on the level of persons and on the level of structures. People ought to do their job in a spirit of service and not of power. (...) I believe that it is possible to build a fair world. Ana I., Peru