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A LL TOGETHER

October 2013

IN

D IGNITY
ATD Fourth World Regional Team region.asia@atd-fourthworld.org

A SIAN F ORUM
From ATD Fourth World Regional Team (Romy Hoffmann-Tran, Quyen Tran, Patricia and Claude Heyberger)

We are a few days from October 17, the World Day for Overcoming Poverty. The theme of this year, Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty, is an important reminder that the unique knowledge based on the experience of people living in OCTOBER 17, 2013 the worst situations of poverty is too often ignored or overlooked. It is a wrong assumption that people who lack so much in terms of Working together towards material wealth, social position and political power, must also lack any A WORLD WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION knowledge or understanding that could benefit the wider community. Building on the experience and knowledge of Events marking October 17, whatever their nature gatherings, people in extreme poverty community interest services, cinema-debate, concerts, art and writing workshops, etc. create opportunities to meet and interact between people living in poverty and other citizens around a common desire and commitment to eradicate extreme poverty. More than a one-day occasion, October 17 is an invitation to promote mutual understanding and lasting solidarity in everyday life. The Asian Forum Letter aims to support this effort with your help. For example, a few editions back, we shared the poem of a mother working on a public dump in Vietnam. This was possible thanks to many contributors, most of them are readers of the Asian Forum Letter the community worker who discovered the mothers passion for poetry; the author of the poem herself who agreed to share it for publication; a friend who translated the poem into English and another who proofread the final text. You are warmly invited to contribute your own stories and also your skills in translating from the local languages, so that the wealth of knowledge, experience and thinking from people in poverty as well as grassroots actors committed alongside them can inspire and encourage others all over Asia. We are addressing you at a moment when we are leaving the ATD regional team in Asia to take up new assignments at the International Center of ATD Fourth World, in France. We may be out of sight, but not out of touch thanks to this letter and other means of communication. We take with us in our heart and mind hundreds of faces of immensely courageous Asian people who continue to believe, even amid the harshest conditions, that tomorrow will be better if we stand up for each other. With thanks and best wishes to each and every one of you. Romy Hoffmann-Tran and Quyen Tran

I want to see women loving themselves more


Beginning of 2013, this young Thai woman has shared with Fah, an ATD intern, about her life in a slum community. They have written the following text together. So did her mother also two years ago with Marjorie, another ATD volunteer who spent 4 years in Thailand. Such life stories give us insight into the capacity to resist characteristic of people born into persistent and intergenerational extreme poverty.

My name is Kwang. I am 21 years old. I live in a community near a bridge in Bangkok. I have been living there since I was born. When I was young, my family was quite happy. My parents took good care of me. But then my father started to have problems with alcohol. Finally, he broke up with my mother and started a new family, leaving my brother and I to live with our mother. Despite the break-up, my father has always helped to take care of me. When I was young, I happily played with my friends and took part in ATD activities, such as outings with people of the community. I also enjoyed helping my mother at her snack shop. When my mother had to buy snacks at the local market, I used to mind the shop in her place after school. Life at school was also fun. I studied at a temple school and then continued secondary level at another temple

school. I did not enjoy this secondary school as much because I was not studying with my primary school friends. I was also bullied at times because I came from a different school. It wasnt because I was a child from the slum everyone was from a slum community, just like me. I vividly remember when there was a big fire in the community. My school uniforms were all burnt. I cried. Luckily, my teacher felt sorry for me and gave me financial support, including for school uniforms. I am very close to my mother. When I was a little girl, I used to accompany my mother everywhere. I did not feel inferior to other children as she gave me all the love and support I needed. I had everything that other kids had. My mother never pressured me to get high marks at school, but made sure I could read and had the time to study. When I went to hang out with my friends, she never said no. My mothers trust in me made me realize that I

needed to control myself and my behavior. No matter what, I always came back home. Despite now having my own family, I have stayed with my mother. We both still live in the slum community. Our lives are not really that different. I just have had more education than my mom. I have undertaken a vocational degree in sales. I have a 3-year-old daughter. My husband is a messenger in a private company. I am looking for a job. But I need a work place that does not involve shift work so that I can take care of my daughter. Ideally, I would like to work between 8 am and 6 pm so that I can send my daughter off to school in the morning and come back to have dinner with her in the evenings. Frankly speaking, my dream is to have my own bread shop business. I want a family friendly business, where we work together and sell things together. I dont want a business that involves asking my mother and other family members to go out selling things in carts. In the past, my grandparents had their own business selling fried fish balls (Tot Man in Thai). They made a good profit from it. If they had continued the business until today, I think it would have been very successful. Unfortunately, they did not plan to transfer this business to the next generation. If my mother and I start a business, we want our descendants to continue the business. We are currently struggling with finding a job opportunity that fits us and our budget. Our old small shop was going well until the 1997 economic crisis. At that time, everything was stuck and we ran out of savings. My mother loves eating bread and my brother studied cuisine. He can make the bread and I can help him with other things to run the business. I have so many ideas that I think could work because no one has tried it before. My idea is to start a bakery under the theme 'Seven days. Seven colors'. For example, the color of Monday is yellow, so I will make custard bread which is yellow on that day. We will have different kinds of bakery items each day. My brother is really good at making cookies, so we can launch new cookie products, such as cookies in the color of fruits or roses. This is how we can make our products stand out in the market. Another option is a clothes shop. My cousin persuaded me to attend a sewing class, so that we can work together and open the shop together. I do not expect to open a big shop. All I want is a small business that can cover the cost of living and improve the living conditions of my family. However, I recognize this is a long-term plan because I do not have money at the moment. I need to work for 10 to 20 years to save. Moreover, there are also decoration fees and equipment costs. We also need to have spare funds in case of emergencies, so that if the business does not fare well, we can still survive. Most importantly, the goal of my life focuses on my daughter. I want her to have better opportunities in life than I had. I want my daughter to have everything that other kids have and to live in a good environment. Actually, my husband grew up in the community too, but he wants us to move out because he does not want our daughter to live in a bad environment.

I dream of one day owning a house and car. To be honest, I have no desire to move out of the community because I was born here and have strong bonds. However, I live under the threat of being evicted and fear how this would affect my daughters life. This is the reason why I want the security of owning a house. It does not need to be a big house. It just needs to be big enough for my whole family to live together. I also dont need a luxurious car. However, the most important thing I want for my daughter is to get a good quality education. I want her to attend a good school, not a school like me because there are really big differences, especially in terms of English language teaching. I want my daughter to be fluent in English, because of its importance for the future. I want my daughter to have a higher education so that she can take care of herself. That is my main wish in life. I also want to see women loving themselves more. I do not want to see them acting as ultimate followers of their husbands and being controlled. For me, I think there should not be superiority or inferiority in the family. Family members should walk together rather than letting one lead and the other follow.
Drawings: Catherine Theurillat, ATD permanent volunteer in Thailand from 1986 to 1992) Zaw Myat Htoo, a student from Myanmar, has been writing poems since he was 15 as a way to support his country. Now 23 years old, he likes walking in the city and sometimes getting into a personal relationship with the people working in the streets. Then he writes about them to keep track of his understanding. This poem is about a father selling on the street at night, thinking of his children waiting for whatever he will be able to bring them.

An Escape in the Rainy Night


I saw the sun falling down I saw the tears touching ground Thunder alarms the rain Tiny trees stand erect on my skin I wished for a plate of rice I hoped for a breath of smoke My blood says, Pa Pa, we are starving My heart was in the deepest depth of grieving I went out hoping to get a meal I started to think my life failed I came to talk to my dear Sea I saw my pleasure in the sea A tiny rain-drop is nothing to the sea Am I also a tiny drop to the world? Waves echoed my name Salty air took my soul away My new friends gave me warm smiles My new world was floating lives It was a world full of vivid sight It was an escape in the rainy night.
Zaw Myat Htoo, 2012

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