What you can do!

What others have done ...
...What you can do


On October 17, Father Joseph Wresinski delivered his "I Bear Witness" speech, revealing not only the suffering, but the courage, efforts, and aspiration of those living in extreme poverty around the world. Since then, thousands have contributed to this act of public testimony, developing a valuable record of the lives of the poorest and of the struggle to eradicate extreme poverty. Such testimonies hold a place at the heart of any public gathering on this World Day. Collected together biannually, they compose the Fourth World Chronicle of Human Rights, widely distributed and presented to political, civic and religious leaders.

Write or record a testimony. If you have experienced the injustices of poverty and exclusion, write about them and about your struggle for dignity, so that others may understand and join that struggle. If you have known people afflicted by the waste and shame of extreme poverty, bear witness to them.

Order the ’Fourth World Chronicles of Human Rights’, ’This is How We Live’, and the ’Tapori mini-book series’ "Children of Courage." [1]


Commemorations on October 17 have taken many different forms throughout the world. Some have been large, public events, gathering public officials, people in poverty and thousands of other citizens. Others have been modest, local gatherings in community centers, schools, workplaces, or in a family’s home amongst friends. People have gathered in recognized places of honour and significance such as the US Capitol, the Berlin Wall, the park for national heroes in Manila, the Human Rights Plaza in Paris and the United Nations in New York. Others have chosen to commemorate the often unknown, forgotten, or ignored history of the poorest, gathering in remote villages, potters’ fields, slums or razed neighborhoods, or an area of low-income housing where trains passing too close have killed children at play. In Canada people walked in silence through several neighborhoods, crossing social boundaries, and symbolizing how the poor are accorded no voice in society. In Burkina Faso, a small boy living in the city streets, walked 30 miles so as not to miss the dedication of Africa’s first Commemorative Stone in Honour of the Victims of Extreme Poverty. The following year, people retraced his route, walking in an ever-growing group from the capital city through villages to the African Heritage Museum, site of the Commemorative Stone. They chose to join hands and form one line to cross the last one hundred yards together.

Organize a gathering, public walk, or other commemorative event, large or small. Be creative, while respecting the spirit of the day: mutual respect, peace and unity between poor and non-poor, laying aside all forms of violence of which the very poorest have always been the ultimate victims. To that end and to set the tone, commemorations always include a reading of the text of the Commemorative Stone and Fr. Joseph Wresinski’s "I Bear Witness" address, sharing other testimonies, observing a moment of silence, and responding with a commitment by the community gathered.

Join an organized commemoration in your area. In the US, public commemorations occur in the cities of Boston, New York, Washington, DC, New Orleans, and in a growing number of other communities. Call the Fourth World Movement national center to find out if something is happening near you.

Silence and spiritual observance

More and more people have made it a point to take October 17 as a day off from their work. They have taken time to reflect, be silent, and organize or join a commemorative gathering on the day. Others have simply arranged a moment of silence within whatever context they’ve been on the day: their school, place of work, or even at a meeting of heads of States. Whether with a traditional service in a Rwandan village, meditation in a temple in Thailand, prayers in an Algerian mosque, an Israeli temple, or Notre Dame of Paris, or an interfaith gathering in New York City, people of many faiths and traditions have commemorated the World Day in the contemplative manner of their choice.

  • If you work, take a day off and tell your employer why.
  • Organize a minute of silence in a significant place or meeting happening that day.
  • Call on your religious leaders and encourage them to promote times of prayer in recollection of the very poor’s suffering and their initiation of this day.

Order Fr. Joseph Wresinski’s "Universal Prayer" created for October 17. [1]

Concerts and cultural events

"No matter how poor they were, the people I met were still singing, singing human dignity," wrote Father Joseph Wresinski. The poor have often spoken only through the songs of their struggles, pains, and resistance. Thousands of choirs and choral groups around the world have taken up the challenge to organize special concerts, or to participate in World Day commemorations with a special repertoire of the songs of the poor. Some concerts have raised funds to support Fourth World Movement projects that enable the very poor to themselves access cultural and artistic means of expression. From Chad to Peru, from Luxembourg to Manila, people have garnered their artistic talents into art exhibits, theater pieces, and dance performances evoking the history of the poor.

Organize a concert. Suggest to a choir to sing that day the songs of the poor. Use the opportunity to raise funds for cultural projects with the most disadvantaged.

Order special material and suggestions for benefit concerts. [1]

Communication around the world...

"It helps to know we are not alone," many people in poverty have said during the events on October 17. Whether people gather by the thousands, or only a few to commemorate the World Day, they are all part of a movement that breaks the isolation of the very poorest. People have used different means to make those links real: from international radio hook-up between 20 countries to simple conference calls, to exchanges of post cards, fax or e-mail. A Web Site, with a special area for children, has enabled many to share what they’ve done on the day and learn about what else has gone on in the world.

  • Send your testimonies and messages, to be forwarded to other places, to: World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty, 7600 Willow Hill Drive, Landover MD 20785. Tel: (301) 336-9489. or on this web site
  • Access the October 17 World Wide Web site to learn about initiatives around the world: http://overcomingpoverty.org

...And around your community

"I put a World Day poster in my school and everyone talked to me about it," said Helena. The media in France united to offer free space in newspapers and free time on radio and TV to call attention to the day. Press conferences were organized throughout the world. The departments of education in Senegal, France, and Switzerland asked all schools to include the World Day in their curriculum with lessons on the lives of the poorest throughout history and today, and by encouraging students’ research and expression on extreme poverty and exclusion.

  • Distribute the World Day poster. Ask friends and organizations to do the same.
  • Present the October 17 Infopack to officials and media.
  • Tell schools about the day and give them the Tapori Resource Kit.  [1]

Notes :

[1] Fourth World Movement
7600 Willow Hill Drive, Landover, MD 20785
tel: 301-336-9489 fax: 301-336-0092
e-mail: nationalcenter [at] 4thworldmovement [dot] org