HAI138 Rehabilitation child slaves
In 1890, Haiti was one of the first countries to abolish slavery, but nowadays about 300.000 children work as slaves in the household of their host parents. Restavek Freedom is committed to let restaveks go to school and offers them psychosocial help. Host parents are made aware of their responsibility: exploitation and/or exclusion from school is not accepted. Every child has the right to education and a safe environment! Deputies work together with ‘Woord en Daad’ (word and deed) in this project.
why this project?
Many children in Haiti cannot or are not allowed to continue living at home, for example because of poverty, and are put in a host family for a long time by a mediator. There they get room and board. In exchange for that, the child has to help in the housekeeping. The parents often do not know exactly where their child is staying, while the child ends up in a lonely and vulnerable position.
Every child in the program of Restavek Freedom gets accelerated education. This makes them as capable as possible to still be part of society. Additionally, every child gets guidance from a social worker. This help is essential in building self-confidence and self-awareness. Furthermore, this counsellor ensures a safe home situation for the child, most of them continue staying with their host family. Restavek Freedom also focuses on awareness of church leaders among others, to treat restaveks with charity, inform, do preventions in schools and lobby the government via ‘Woord en Daad’.
what can we learn?
The practice of restaveks is widely socially accepted in Haiti. Restavek Freedom overcomes the current ideas with the biblical message of love and justice. Do we dare to speak up for the suppressed? To go against the established order? But also, do we act if children are oppressed?
story of Sophia
Sophia* is a cheerful girl who came to the program of Restavek Freedom at the age of 10. Before that she had never attended school. She was sent to a woman with a family by her mother to do housework there. Sophia does not remember how old she was when she was sent to this woman. Her mother is psychologically weak and her father did not want to take care of her, this was also the reason that she was sent away from home. She told the counsellors of Restavek Freedom what kind of work she had to do and that she was often the victim of violence. She said that everything that went wrong in the house, was always her fault and that she had to pay for it in the form of violence. Besides physical violence, she was also sexually abused by the neighbour of the woman she worked for. At some point she was hit so hard that she fled to a school principal who lived near the woman. The school principal made sure that she ended up at Restavek Freedom.
Currently, Sophia is 17 years old. Last year, she was chosen to be the leader of her class and she is doing that very well. Soon, Sophia will be allowed to represent Haiti at an international conference for women’s rights in Boston. However, she will always carry her past with her. She is often bothered by depressive thoughts and she also longs for the love of her father. However, her father does not feel the need to be in contact. In the future, she would like to become a businesswoman, so that she can financially help the organisation that helped her so well. We believe that that is possible!
*because of her privacy, the name Sophia is fictitious
Learn more about Dina, also a former restavek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STq2lhjlRdc&t=4s.