New Lens on Life
“For the first time in my life, I
had a way to let out my
emotions without being
violent,” Denzel says.
Sixteen-year-old Denzel, like so many youth in Dominica, faced a bleak future. “Every day was a struggle for me to survive, as I come from a poor family and community,” Denzel says. "I could not see my future. I had nowhere to go.”
Poverty runs deep in the volcanic island of Dominica, a small nation of 72,000 citizens located between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Eastern Caribbean.
Although Dominica’s lush paradise beckons tourists, natives often struggle to have basic necessities such as running water, electricity and sanitation. Children in deprived areas of the country often miss out entirely on an education. Some quit school early because of discontent with the system or lack of school support, while others are thrown out prematurely due to intolerance, impatience and parental negligence.
Denzel, one of five children in a troubled family situation, was one of those who lashed out at life. At a very young age, Denzel found himself involved in violent activities.
But last year, a photography course made possible by ChildFund International donors opened an unexpected doorway for Denzel. After years of desolation, he discovered how to channel his energy in artistic rather than violent ways. A new Denzel emerged.
In addition to providing him with new skills, the photography class also introduced the teenager to others with similar interests. When the program ended, Denzel wrote in his evaluation that he no longer felt like dropping out of school or hanging out with the local gang.
“For the first time in my life, I had a way to let out my emotions without being violent,” he says.
Denzel has now joined a youth group of about 20 peers who are committed to making a difference in their community. The group is focused on participating in positive social activities such as attending sporting events and playing football (soccer).
As he shapes his own future, Denzel wants to change the lives of those following in his footsteps. In addition to helping create local sports teams, he has emerged as leader in the youth group. His latest idea is to create a mentoring program to assist children in his community with reading and writing skills.
The youth group is also developing a conservation program to help protect an area known as Nature Island, a popular tourist destination. Denzel and his friends are working to conserve the tropical habitat, which is home to rare turtles and a frog species known as a “Mountain Chicken.”
Denzel’s story is simple, but for him it’s a revelation.
It’s a story he will tell with passion at the United Nations on Monday, Oct. 19, during an event celebrating the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. He will be joining a panel of other youth and children to share firsthand accounts of their experience battling poverty. Denzel’s day at the U.N. also marks the continuing celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Today, I am a happier person and am happy to tell my story,” Denzel says. “I hope I can change the future of others who may be in situations like me.”