Poetry in Action was born in 1999 when poet Guillem Vallejo decided to organise a poetry recital to raise funds to help people in Venezuela and Mozambique affected by devastating floods. The first few Poetry in Action events were held in the Ateneo Barcelonés (a cultural centre), and the money that was raised was donated to Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
A group of education specialists wanted to take things further than mere solidarity and actually raise awareness about the human values that contribute to the construction of a better world, so they met to develop two objectives that would become the basis of the organization: to use poetry to promote human values amongst children and young people, and to hold cultural fundraising events in support of NGO’s that work with natural disasters and social emergencies. And thus the organization was officially constituted and the first ever Poetry in Action Marathon and Prize were created entitled “Poems for a better world”.
Year after year the organisation has worked with the objective of promoting human values in different school in Catalonia, encouraging students and teachers to take part in different “Poetry for a better world” prizes, which are organised every year. In this way we have managed to get a number of schools to deal with issues such as equality, freedom, ecology, pacifism and interculturality, and we have filled the Marathon with different schools who support us.
I was in fact an eleven year old girl when my teacher encouraged me to go to the Ateneo Barcelonés to read a poem that I had written called “Friendship”, and which I still remember verse for verse. Twelve years on and the organisation has progressed and I am still there, helping every year in one way or another.
For me the Poetry in Action marathons that are held every June constitute the culmination of all our efforts, but are the most magical moment of the year. When you spend eleven hours in the Marathon it means you spend eleven, or even twelve hours hearing poems that talk, generally optimistically, about values, and this really helps you believe that we can achieve a better world through events such as this one. If nothing else I think that the recital helps people go home with the same feeling I had: that albeit through small acts, we can all build something better than the world we currently live in.
This year we are celebrating our XII “Poetry for a Better World” Marathon and I hope the organisation continues to hold many more.