In Focus: Photo Class Leads to Changes for Dominican Youth

This is one of Denzel's photos that he took recently in Dominica.

This is one of Denzel's photos that he took recently in Dominica.

31 in 31

 Today, Denzel Matthew, a youth in Dominica, is presenting his success story to the United Nations as part of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. As part of our blog series “31 in 31,” we are sharing Denzel’s story in his own words, as well as some of the photos he has taken as part of a ChildFund-sponsored photography course.

By Denzel Matthew

I am 16 years old and one of a group of other people close to my age who are working together to address the needs of our community.

Denzel will speak in New York on Oct. 19 as part of the United Nations' International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Denzel will speak in New York on Oct. 19 as part of the United Nations' International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

We have a high rate of school dropouts in my community. High poverty rates mean that many children and youth cannot attend school. Some quit school early because they are not happy, or they are thrown out because they do not behave properly. We hope to change this by mentoring and tutoring them in reading and writing schools. Our group has made a proposal to ChildFund staff to see if this is possible.

We are also focused on providing positive social activities, such as attending sporting events and playing football and hiking together.

We also want to help protect the environment. We are proposing a conservation program to help protect an area called Nature Island, a popular destination for tourists in my country. We want to help conserve the animals in this area, which includes rare turtles and a frog species known as a Mountain Chicken.

But this wasn’t always my story. Less than two years ago I was known in my community for other reasons. I used to feel frustrated and hopeless. I turned to violence to express my unhappiness with life. Every day was a struggle for me to survive, as I come from a poor family and community. I could not see my future. I had nowhere to go. I felt helpless.

These goats are among many photos that Denzel has taken of animals.

These goats are among many photos that Denzel has taken of animals.

But something happened at my school that changed my life — a photography class was introduced thanks to ChildFund. One of our assignments was a photo essay to show off our community. It seemed strange because in my world, there was little beauty. But I liked taking photos and my other friends liked it as well.

We also had a football program at our school that I participated in with my friends. For the first time in my life, I had a way to let out my emotions without being violent.

Today, I am a happier person and am happy to tell my story. But much work remains. 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 mine.

For more on Denzel and today’s event, click here.

Living on an island nation allows Denzel to take many photos of water.

Living on an island nation allows Denzel to take many photos of water.

What’s next: Our discussion of island nations continues as we stay in the Caribbean to visit neighboring St. Vincent.

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