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Reform Magazine | August 19, 2017

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Niall Cooper: Nothing about us without us

Niall Cooper: Nothing about us without us

“Nothing about us without us is for us”

niall_cooperWhat is it really like to live in poverty? How does it feel? What does it do to your sense of dignity and self-worth? How does it feel when you can’t afford the school uniform? What does it do to you to be treated as a number, not a person?

These are some of the questions explored by the Poverty Truth Commission, whose latest report, “Names Not Numbers”, was published last month. The Commission, a project of Faith Community Scotland, is radical in its simplicity, and simple in its message: “Nothing about us without us is for us.”
The report comes from regular meetings over 18 months of a group of people – some with experience of living with poverty and others in positions of power and influence. The process involved learning what it means to listen deeply and having the courage to speak out. The stories shared were powerful in the way they changed those involved.

As Fergus McNeill, one of the Commissioners, observed: “When we meet, as far as possible, we leave titles, positions and qualifications at the door and meet first and foremost as human beings, known by our first names. We meet to do two things: listen to one another’s stories and share our own. This sounds simple, but it can often be profound. It allows (and requires) the Commission to be a place of connection between people who may have led quite different lives, but who also have a very great deal in common. Because we connect through our stories and learn to listen deeply and respectfully to one another, truths emerge. Since we are confronting difficult issues this is often a painful process, but we also laugh a lot and find inspiration together. So the Poverty Truth Commission becomes an incubator for hope.”…

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This is an extract from the April 2016 edition of Reform.

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