Traveling from the rural village of La Plaine on the Caribbean island nation of Dominica to speak at the United Nations in New York City, Denzel Matthew had butterflies.
“At first I felt nervous and afraid, but I had a lot of support from ChildFund and friends, so I just stood up and delivered,” he said.
And deliver he did.
Denzel appeared at three separate events related to the United Nations Commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The events were organized by the International Movement ATD Fourth World, a non-governmental organization that seeks solutions to eradicate extreme poverty; the NGO Subcommittee for the Eradication of Poverty; and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Missions of France and Burkina Faso to the United Nations were cosponsors.
First up was a press conference, giving Denzel a chance to describe his experiences with poverty and how an opportunity to take a photography class through ChildFund International gave him new hope for the future.
Denzel shared the panel with Géraud Araud, permanent representative of France to the United Nations; Rachel Mayanja, special adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; and Thierry Viard, International ATD Movement Fourth World.
After a quick lunch with long-time ChildFund donors Jack
and Barbara Clarke
, who made Denzel’s trip to the United Nations possible, the ChildFund entourage hurried to the commemoration event, “Children and Families Speak Out Against Poverty,” in the UN Secretariat Building.
A large crowd, representing countries from around the world, was on hand. Once again, Denzel was honored as the first speaker. Describing his challenging background, Denzel noted, “The poverty rate in my country is 40%, which means many children and youth cannot attend school. Some quit early because they are not happy or they are thrown out because they do not behave properly.”
Admitting that he used to “feel frustrated and hopeless,” and thus turned to violence to express that unhappiness, Denzel related that through his work with ChildFund, he has made changes in his life and now has goals for the future.
“I hope that by helping others in school and getting more youth involved that I can change the future of others who may be in situations like me.”
Immediately following the UN session, Denzel appeared at a third event, organized in partnership with UNICEF. Participating in a panel discussion, Denzel, accompanied by Dominica National Director Francis Joseph, shared the stage with Crispin Gregoire, permanent representative of the Commonwealth of Dominica to the United Nations and Gonzalo Gutiérrez, permanent representative of Peru to the United Nations.
Also on the panel were Liz Gibbons, with United Nations Children’s Fund; Denisse Becerra, youth delegate of Peru to the United Nations; and Ariane Eigler, a New York social worker.
Following the fast-paced day, Denzel expressed relief and satisfaction at its conclusion. “I think it’s important for young people to be at the United Nations because many people from all around the world go to the United Nations—and the young peoples’ voices will be heard.”