Sr. Joan Burke lives in Noisy Le Grand, France (a Paris suburb) where she was invited to work with the Fourth World (ATD) organization. Familiar with poverty in Africa, Sr. Joan hopes to get some learning about poverty in first world countries as she serves the people in Noisy Le Grand. This is her May report.
For much of last month and certainly most of this month the entire ATD Team in Noisy have been preparing for a Regional Family Day for all the different ATD groups in the larger Paris area on the May 13. The aim of the day is to encourage the participation of the entire family in an exchange of views with other families living in poverty. The centre welcomed that day 250 men, women and children! I was on the cooking team along with other volunteers and women from our local neighborhood.
The small houses where most of the ATD families are living here in Noisy are slated to be demolished in the next year. As a result all of them will be moving to new "digs" - most in the nearby apartment buildings where I am now living. Many other ATD communities are also experiencing the same disruption and anxiety because of slated projects of "Demolition-Reconstruction." This is what inspired the theme of the Family Day: "Dwelling, leaving and starting life anew elsewhere."
In the morning session participants shared their experiences, fears and hopes, then in the afternoon, after a picnic lunch on the lawns, participants chose from a variety of workshops which included:
Everyone seemed to be in very high spirits, and were encouraged by meeting other persons who were going through similar experiences as they themselves. People were still mulling around talking with each other an hour after the last activity.
We of the ATD Team are also very much involved these days in planning of an annual three-day festival which will involve the larger community of Noisy le Grand on the 22nd - 24th June 2012. We are collaborating with other local associations, social centers in the city and businesses in an effort to bring together artists, musicians, dancers, writers, actors, athletes and others who are open to sharing their gifts with the children and adults living in poverty. The hope is that this kind of an encounter will spark the development of their possibilities as well as their working together with different parts of the city will open all to new relationships and ways of seeing one another. Too often the different groups only see one another from afar through stereotypes and do not really have an occasion to meet face to face!