ChildFund works in 31 countries globally, but in only one does the president of the country currently sponsor a child. His Excellency Dr. Nicholas J. O. Liverpool, president of the Commonwealth of Dominica and a respected legal expert, has taken on this commitment with a keen interest in the well-being of children.
“I would hope that whatever assistance I am able to offer will ease the burden on the parents and allow the child to concentrate on his studies, and eventually become a more useful member of society,” says Liverpool, now serving his second term as president.
His Excellency made the decision to sponsor a child last year based on the positive work being done by the ChildFund team led by Francis Joseph, national director for Dominica and St. Vincent. Having attended a number of ChildFund activities and functions, Liverpool says he was “impressed by the enthusiasm” with which Joseph and his staff are engaged with their duties.
“They were doing a wonderful job,” he says, “so I thought this will be one way that I can offer assistance. Mr. Joseph can now say: ‘The president is a sponsor.’ I’ve been passing on the literature to my friends to arouse their interest as well.”
ChildFund came to the Caribbean island shared by Dominica and St. Vincent in 1985 and has assisted more than 36,000 children and family members in the intervening years. In Dominica, 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the infant mortality rate is 8.32 deaths in 1,000.
One of the greatest disadvantages in these countries is the lack of education. ChildFund is working to improve literacy rates and opportunities for higher education as well as employment.
“I’m very enthusiastic about the project,” says Liverpool, who has placed a strong emphasis on education during his administration. “There are a lot of children in need.”
His Excellency, a former Judge of the High Court in Antigua and Montserrat and Justice of Appeal in Grenada, Belize and the Bahamas Court of Appeal, is also a strong advocate for children’s rights.
“Years ago, I was a member of the legal team that drew up the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he recalls. “It’s become a hot issue because people are becoming more aware of the rights that children have and enforcement of those rights.”
A former member of the Governing Board of UNESCO, Liverpool points out that education with regard to children’s rights is a first priority. “Some people just don’t know how children should be treated. Educate first, then enforce,” he says.
As a new ChildFund sponsor, His Excellency is eager to participate more fully in the issues that impact children. “I’ve been involved in children’s issues on and off for years,” he says. “In a few years — when I’m free to be able to play a part — I hope to do more,” he says.
As with every sponsor, it starts with one child.