On July 2–5, 2019, Michelle Baena Ciriacruz, from the Philippines participated in ATD Fourth World’s international session on communication practices and training, “Comm’ON.” Participants came from Belgium, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Guatemala, the Philippines, Poland, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Michelle says that getting to know face-to-face other members of ATD Fourth World’s international community and being able to learn from their experiences encourages her to continue on with her advocacy:
“I have a confession. Lately, I have been feeling what they call ‘advocacy fatigue.’ In my country that is now experiencing a number of challenges, including an increase in human rights violations and environmental problems, it seems to me that what volunteers and allies are doing is not enough to make a lasting impact on society. As I’m involved not just with ATD Philippines but also with groups dedicated to animal welfare, environmental protection, heritage preservation, and community development, I see how everything is interconnected, and especially how poverty affects so many aspects of society. I have been asking myself, “How can my own contributions in communications and fundraising make a difference?” In the middle of this soul-searching came the invitation from ATD Fourth World to participate in the Comm’ON session.
“In my own country, communicating our commitment of ‘leaving no one behind’ remains a challenge. We do have success in social media to highlight the right of poor communities to actively participate in finding solutions to eradicate poverty, particularly on the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and in attracting people to help facilitate our annual Festival of Learning or to tutor children in our basic literacy program, Ang Galing! But I felt that our voice calling for social change may not be enough. Millions of families are still living in poverty. The current political climate has been very harsh on our partner communities.
“At Comm’ON, my world view became clearer. Being able to share knowledge and take part in experiences in person with the other teams allowed me to understand more clearly the big picture of ATD’s decades-long work across the globe. I came to appreciate better how our own community-based efforts impact the international initiatives (and vice versa). I think, perhaps, I may not have properly appreciated the dynamics between the international movement and our own local actions before the meeting. I am awed as I realize that, as an ATD friend, I am part of an ambitious international community that has achieved milestones such as the UN pledge to “leave no one behind” in its 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. More recently, an ATD Fourth World delegation was able to impress on a UN Council President that world leaders should stop making decisions for poor communities but do things with them instead. She shared this message at the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on July 9, 2019.
“The power of communications has contributed much to this progress. I found all the discussions and workshop sessions very interesting, especially about the groundbreaking Dimensions of Poverty research conducted in partnership with Oxford University in six countries, and also the fact that respect for the earth’s resources is integral to ATD’s work of fostering an economic model that is respectful of all people. Now, I am about to go home with useful tools and knowledge for the Philippines. I feel refreshed and empowered because, after all, we’ve got friends from all over — and all together we are working in dignity.”