by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
Almost two and a half years ago, a timid young man from Dominica represented ChildFund at the United Nations telling his transformational story from a life of violence to one of involvement, participation and empowerment.
Denzel, now 18, remains a positive influence, championing the role of youth participation in their communities. Change doesn’t happen overnight for children and youth in ChildFund programs, but even small changes are worth recognizing and celebrating. Denzel believes that change starts with voicing your opinion. He tells me he has “learned the importance of participating and encouraging others to participate and learn and share and be present.”
As Denzel finishes his last year in high school, he’s focusing his studies on auto mechanics, wood working, technical carpentry and social studies. He isn’t entirely sure what he’ll do after graduation because there just aren’t many jobs in his community. “One of the biggest issues is unemployment,” he explains. “We need support creating job opportunities and helping youth see that a different future is possible. Most people my age do not have a job, and most are discouraged about their futures.”
But even with this frustration, there is still hope among Dominica’s teens. One source of hope is the ChildFund-supported youth group. Following a program review in 2009, ChildFund realized that children and youth were discouraged that they were not being heard within their community.
Denzel was one of the more vocal of the youth. At that time, he was involved in drugs and violence, often missing school. He felt that no one was listening to the youth, and there were no opportunities for them. As a result, ChildFund helped form a youth group – one that gives youth a positive outlet to talk about the issues facing them, their peers and their communities.
More tomorrow on ChildFund’s work with youth groups in Dominica.