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Why we need a special day to see the poor

  • 10 November 2022
Just in case you missed it, umbrella day this year took place on February 10. It celebrated everything from the enormous umbrellas you see in sidewalk cafes to those pesky little paper ones that sit in cocktails.  Not long after, on February 13, it was International Radio Day. World Chess Day was on July 10, Checkers Day was on September 23 and, for those who prefer cards, World Bridge Day will be on December 12. In fact, practically every day is dedicated to something or other. International Crochet Day is on September 13. This is not to be confused with world knitting day on June 10. Nor with World Doll Day which is the second Saturday in June. World Bonsai Day is May 8. Origami Day is Nov 11, which coincides with armistice day. Are you marking these in your calendar?

Sadly, by the time we get to November, we are worn out with so much celebrating and commemorating. This is a pity because one day that really should stand out is the World Day of the Poor which, this year, is marked on Sunday, November 13. It deserves special attention because, as we all know, the rich get 364 days. There is just one for the poor.

Caritas Australia, where I work, does not always use the word poor as it can be disabling and dismissive. Sensitivity to language is part of the subtlety of our work. Language both shapes and reflects attitudes. When I started at Caritas a little less than two years ago, I had a two-dimensional knowledge of what the agency does. I associated it mainly with Project Compassion and, sure enough, had done my share of urging people to put money in those little boxes during Lent. More recently, I have been on a steep learning curve, not least about the diversity of what we do and, just as important, how we do it. Numbers are one thing. In the last financial year, Caritas Australia directly reached hundreds of thousands of people across 32 countries.

Stories are better. This year, to take a single example, I became aware of Ms Kaswera who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an enormous country with such fragile infrastructure that outsiders are discouraged from visiting. The Australian Government urges travellers not to go there. People like Kaswera simply fall out of sight. She is 55 and has nine children. Her husband is