Hundreds of Letters from Estonia Reveal the Face of Poverty ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Letters from 700 Estonians share stories and observations about destitution and social neglect with poverty-fighting organizations that called out to the poor.

The effort is part of a Europe-wide project, organized by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and UNICEF, which draws attention to the pain of struggling families, giving a voice to those whose everyday lives are touched by poverty. The project also invited thoughts on how to ease serious hardships.

“We wanted to help make the voices of active citizens heard so that they are taken into account,” said EAPN Estonia’s director, Kärt Mere.

The letters sent to the EAPN office came from all ages. Noticeably, a large portion was from southern Estonia. Most were written by women. “Beside a few men, women were generally more emotional in their letters, while men focused more on potential solutions,” said Mere. “Mothers wrote how families […] begin to struggle. Then desperation, weariness and hopelessness follow. Teenagers begin avoiding home, as the oldest children carry a heavy burden on their frail shoulders.”

Sharing their stories and reaching out for help were the unemployed, single parents, university students, grandmothers, disabled people, seniors and schoolchildren. Some of their troubles include problems with mothercare allowance, as well as the difficulties of returning to work from pregnancy and obtaining an education while working. “Those were [some of] the most painful issues,” said Mere.

The letters were read by volunteers who drew conclusions about the profile of the writers. In addition to the letters, dozens phoned in and some even showed up at EAPN Estonia’s office to tell their stories.

“Impoverished families aren’t able to support their children’s hobbies, or give them the chance to travel or partake in events. When all entertainment and hobbies have been cut, they start saving money at the expense of clothes and food. There are children who haven’t been able to go to the movies for years,” said Mere.

In the EU, 84 million people, or 17 percent of the population, live below the poverty line, which is considered to be 60 percent of the national average income.

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