Mendelson Cesar, Child Advocate
I would like to share with you the story of a child who
has had an impact on me while working as an advocate. This child’s name is Marie*. She is 20 years old and in the 6th grade. One day, when I was meeting with her, she said,
“Mendelson, I would like to talk to you about my life.” I took time to listen to her.
She began, “I am a child who has been through a lot of
trials in my life. My mother died when I
was 7 years old, and my father when I was 8 years old. After the death of my parents, I was living
with my aunt. My aunt had two daughters. The first one was 11 and the second
was 9. In the house, I was the only one
who did the chores: getting water from very far away, cleaning up the house,
doing laundry…I also had to carry the youngest daughter’s backpack to school
for her, even though I was even younger than she was. My aunt demanded I do
this for her. I went to bed late and woke up very early in the morning in order
to complete the household chores. They insulted and beat me a lot. I was with
no hope or value. Life had been difficult for me. Many years passed while I did not go to
When I was fifteen, my aunt kicked me out of the house.
I began living with a lady I did not really know. One morning, this woman sent me to buy something. While I was running this errand, I met a woman
who said to me, “Child, you should be in school right now. Don’t you go to school?” I replied “no,” and the lady filled out a form
on which she wrote many things concerning me. I soon learned that she was a
child advocate for Restavek Freedom. Ever since that day, she has valued me and
told me a lot about life. She also explained how much I am worth in her eyes.
It was the first time I felt valuable. She enrolled me in a school. I was 15.
Now I live with my cousin, and my life is a little bit
better because Restavek Freedom is helping me in different ways. Thanks to the Foundation who helps me go to
school, I believe I will become an important person in the eyes of society.
Restavek Freedom is a blessing to me. I love Restavek Freedom so much and wish God will
keep blessing you!
*This child’s name has been changed to protect their
Friday, February 12, 2016 11:16:30 AM
The Importance of Child Protection
By Nick Lyndon, Chief Operating Officer
What if, when you called for help, nobody answered? For those who grew up like I did, the concept
is hard to imagine. I can’t remember a time when help wasn’t a simple 9-1-1 call
away. Those three numbers, to me, always
meant someone would be there to help within a matter of minutes.
Reality is very different for hundreds of thousands of
children in Haiti, many of whom are in a state of modern-day slavery called
“restavek.” There is no 9-1-1. There is
no help only minutes away. There is no
one to turn to if you are in trouble.
A woman in Oregon tragically found out what this is like. A
man was trying to break into her house, and she called 9-1-1. Due to budget
cuts, there was no officer to dispatch, and the woman listened helplessly as
the 9-1-1 operator suggested she ask the man breaking into her house to go
away. She was in disbelief. How could
there be no one to help?
The man broke into her house and tragically assaulted her.
For far, far too many children in Haiti, this is their
reality. They have been sent away from
their parents, and when they encounter abuse, neglect, or exploitation, they
look around and realize there is no one to come and help them.
Restavek Freedom is working to change that. The Child
Protection Police in Haiti are called the Brigade for the Protection of Minors
(BPM), and we have been working in partnership so they can better care for
children who have been abused, and apprehend offenders. When a child is in
trouble, someone can bring them to BPM for help. And thanks to recent improvements, the child
will now have a mattress, food, and a hygiene kit while they are under BPM’s
protection. We are also working with BPM
on ways to help better track the cases of children in their care and the
outcomes for those children.
In civil rights and cultural movements, there is a moment
when you reach the tipping point, and all of a sudden momentum swings your way.
We saw this in the U.S. with
desegregation. Not everyone will be on board with change, however. This is when it is imperative to have rule of
law step in to enforce the will of the masses.
We believe it is possible to see a massive cultural shift in
Haiti away from tolerating the restavek system. There will be those who resist change,
however, and a policing force will need to be prepared to protect the children
and compel compliance with the law. This
is why it is so important to begin bringing enforcement and policing to bear in
this area of child protection. As this movement grows, we know there will be a
limit to the ability of a cultural movement to protect children, and those who
would bring violence or abuse to children will need to be stopped.
On that day, our hope is that children in Haiti will know
that help will come, that they will have the protection they need. With your support, we can continue to partner
with BPM and others to ensure children in Haiti are not subject to the
violence, abuse, and exploitation of modern-day slavery.
Our Child Advocates stand up for children living in
restavek, showing them someone is in their court. To provide a child in restavek with an
advocate who will care for them, defend their rights, and show them their
worth, sponsor a child today!
Tuesday, February 09, 2016 10:32:26 AM
Nathalie’s Life Story
By Daniel Fontil,
Nathalie* is a sweet little girl who was born into a struggling
family. Everybody knew Nathalie’s parents in the area where she was born,
because they had no money to survive. As their living situation was difficult, Nathalie could not go to school or even eat every day. They ate by chance, whenever they
were able. Nathalie’s parents were not old, but as their life was difficult,
they quickly lost their youthful faces. After some years, Nathalie‘s parents died, one
after the other. This was a turning
point in Nathalie’s life.
After the death of her parents, a woman in the area wanted
to help Nathalie by taking her in. The
problem was that this woman has many children. When Nathalie entered the house,
the family was unhappy because they thought Nathalie would take away from their
already limited supply of food. Nathalie‘s situation became more difficult as her
days in slavery began. She began doing
more chores than she had at her family’s house. She was now responsible for doing the
laundry, sweeping the yard, carrying water from long distances, and cooking. When she was unable to do such things, she
was beaten – even if she was sick.
She was sent to school, but she could neither learn well nor
memorize things because she was so mistreated at home. It was clear her situation was bad.
One day, one of the Restavek Freedom workers was passing by
and heard her crying. He wanted to know
exactly what was happening. Everybody in the area gave him information, because
they knew her situation. He went to her
house and spoke with her host family about how children should be treated, and
asked if she could be part of the Child Advocacy Program.
Restavek Freedom now stands up for her by sending her to
school and providing her with school supplies and assistance, including psychological
and social support. Now, thanks to Restavek Freedom, Nathalie breathes a new air of deliverance from the modern-day slavery that she was in. As I was talking to Nathalie, she told me that
after her formal schooling, she would like to be a doctor. I told her this is absolutely possible if she works
hard in school.
Certainly when you see Nathalie now, you see how much she is
glowing because Restavek Freedom is doing great things in her life here in Haiti.
In a few years, I believe that Nathalie will be one of those who will stand up to
say ”no” to the restavek system.
*Name has been changed to protect the child’s privacy.
Friday, February 05, 2016 3:35:07 PM