Community Activist Andrew at the UN in New York

On October 15th, community activist Andrew and Mark Hogan, long- term ally with ATD Ireland, headed to New York. Andrew was asked to speak at a UN event that commemorated the 30th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. He has previously given an address to the UN via zoom which is how he was invited.

Mark describes the morning saying that “family members and partners of ATD began to gather in the First Avenue House. Over coffee and bagels, old acquaintances were renewed, and new relationships were started. We travelled together by bus to the United Nations, gathering for a group photo before entering the impressive and historic building”.

Before the event began, Andrew met a woman named Zena: “She was crying. Turns out she lost someone close to her recently. I hadn’t met this woman before, but I told her to cry, let all the tears out, don’t leave anything in. I read out my poem called ‘Depression’:

Choose which face to put on. Rather than depression.

Choose to wear a smile. If only for a while.

She was so grateful, and it meant so much to her. I gave her a copy of the book (Lockdown Liberties) and she asked me to sign it for her. I had a meeting later that day and Zeta spoke up and said she wanted to adopt me as a son. It was unbelievable. The impact that I made on her life was good, it felt good.”

The event itself was in ECOSOC room, a room big enough to fit 450 people. Andrew wasn’t nervous until he saw the size of the room. But he faked it till he made it saying: “I just kept telling myself I’m not nervous so I could implant it into my brain. It worked. When I sat down it was just like I was meant to be there.”

Andrew spoke about ATD and how important it is to have your voice heard as well as mentioned the #AddThe10th campaign: “I had the jigsaw piece and I got to show that… hopefully, the message gets out there.”  Read Andrew’s entire speech here. 

Mark said that he was struck by “how calm and focused Andrew was throughout. With the support of the ATD Ireland team, he had prepared very well, and he had an inner conviction of what he wanted to share at the UN event. With some prior fine-tuning of his address with the help of the ATD advocacy team to the UN and Herman Van Breen of the ATD International Policy and Advocacy team, Andrew delivered his address in the ECOSOC room of the UN with great courage, power, and impact…Andrew’s address was warmly received by the audience, with the event also shared live online thanks to UN TV. We in the ATD family were very proud of him.

Andrew mentioned how many of the people at the event were kids from local schools: “That is so important because I never went to an event like that when I was young. Imagine being so young and the focus of that group was to use your voice. Imagine the impact it had on them and what they are going to do in the future. Just like my kids, I hope what I’m doing here now gives them the confidence to reach for anything.”

Later, Mark says, there was a “second part of the IDEP commemoration which took place outside in the garden of the United Nations, which was so energetically facilitated by Aye Aye Win, President of the International 17 October Committee. Here, Andrew movingly shared a poem written by his wife Lorraine called ‘I’m still Human’ which was warmly received by all present.”

Mark went on to say how “Following the event, people who participated were invited back to the ATD house for a reception. This was an evening of shared recollections about the day, with food and drink on offer. Following two years of COVID restrictions, this was the first opportunity for people to come together in a physical gathering, which was very important and greatly appreciated by all those present“.

On October 18th, Andrew and Mark were invited to a meeting with the French Ambassador to the UN. The French Embassy at the UN has continuously supported October 17th. Mark said, “The Ambassador at our meeting recommitted his support for the future, as well as providing helpful suggestions for how the ATD Advocacy team could further promote the Day at the United Nations.” We are grateful for their support.

That same day, Mark tells that: “the ATD Irish delegation and Advocacy team were invited by Donald Lee, President of ATD Fourth World International, to again visit the United Nations building for an informal chat over coffee, which was enjoyed by all.

It wasn’t all work. Andrew and Mark were able to sightsee as well. They went to the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Grand Central Station, Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square amongst others. Andrew said his favorite part of the trip was going on the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty as well as seeing the Brooklyn Bridge.

When asked how the trip impacted Andrew, he said: “It impacted me so much because it gave me the confidence to come back here and do more than I am doing.” He says that his hopes for the future are “for what I did there at the UN to not just be once a year…where people with lived experience of poverty have a seat at the table multiple times a year. If you are going to defeat poverty in all its forms, there are people needed who have experienced it or are going through it to make decisions.” We are thankful for all the work Andrew does and are so excited to see what he does next.