Restavek Freedom Foundation
What Happens at a Host Parent Meeting?

Host parent meetings are an
important element of our Child Advocacy program.  We recognize that it would be very difficult
to create change by working only with children in restavek, and not considering
the families with which they live.  In
order to change the children’s situations, we work to change their host
parents’ mentality towards them.  We do
this through both home visits and host parent meetings.

At host parent meetings, we
address key issues, including children’s rights, children’s needs, the
importance of adults in children’s lives and the value of children.  Our goal is to influence host parents so they
view children differently.  We understand
that if they view the children differently, they will treat them
differently.  Only in this context will
the children have a chance to grow in a secure environment that breeds

Sometimes the most powerful agent of change is one host parent’s
testimony that they share directly with the others.  One day, we were having a meeting for host
parents when a woman stood up and shared her story with the group.  She explained how she had gone to church for
her birthday, and the pastor talked about the family and about children.  She told the group how it seemed as if the
pastor were talking directly to her.  She
had a child living at her house who was not her own, and she treated him very
differently than her own son.  Listening
to the pastor talk about children, she felt ashamed, guilty and sad because she
understood the harm she had done to this boy.
That day, she began treating the boy well.  This testimony was very powerful to the other
host parents at the meeting.  

We understand that sensitization
is a process, and sometimes it takes time to change people’s mentalities.  This year I met with 54 host parents through meetings
like this one.  We believe that when many
people talk about a certain issue, it has a profound effect.  This is why we work hard to tell as many
people as possible that the restavek system in Haiti is something we need to
combat, and it is adults’ responsibility to change it.  

Friday, August 26, 2016 5:37:44 PM

What Is Restavek?

How many times have you heard a speech where the speaker
began, “Webster’s dictionary defines….”?

When it comes to the word “restavek”, you won’t find a
definition in Webster’s. That’s true for
a couple of reasons.  First of all, is a foreign word, rooted in
French and contextual to Haiti.  And
second, while the word itself literally means “to stay with,” and
linguistically could simply refer to a child living with someone other than
their biological family, in practice it carries a much darker and heavier
meaning.  Those who have encountered
children living in know this
very well.  That’s why we decided to ask
our team of Child Advocates, all Haitians working in the trenches with children
caught in the restavek system, to share their definitions of .

Right away, Robenson points out one of the primary aspects
of restavek.  What defines and
distinguishes this practice is the way in which the child is .   As we share other Haitians’ definitions of
restavek, notice how they describe the treatment towards the child:

As Osbert shares, there is no limit to the kind of abuse a
child in restavek may suffer.  Nadine
emphasizes this as well:

Nadine not only mentions the maltreatment a child in
restavek receives, but also points out their lack of rights.  With no biological family close by to come to
their rescue, and virtually no accountability from other adults, they are
vulnerable.  Samuel explains:

Not only are children in restavek typically mistreated,
abused, and/or denied basic rights, but they are also overworked, as Marie
Yolaine expounds:

At Restavek Freedom, we are working hard to end
the restavek system in Haiti.  Each of
our advocates is dedicated to freeing children from a life characterized by
abuse, denial of basic rights and education, and unfair child labor.  They search the streets for children in
restavek, then work carefully with the children and their host families to
invite them into our Child Advocacy Program, where they receive an education
and a Haitian advocate to stand up for their rights and show them their worth
and hope.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 4:15:02 PM

Staff Spotlight: Samuel Jean Baptiste

On a recent trip to Haiti, I took some time to sit
down with each of our staff who are out in the field, and asked them to share
about themselves, their jobs, and their country.  This month we’re featuring the first of these
staff, Samuel Jean Baptiste.  Samuel is a
wonderful advocate with a real heart for the children, and a love for
learning.  He quickly gains rapport with
the children in our program and is passionate about ending the restavek system.  Enjoy getting to know one of our amazing

What is your role with
Restavek Freedom?

I am a Child Advocate with Restavek Freedom.  I advocate for over 60 children at four
different schools in Port-au-Prince.

How long have you been a Child Advocate with
Restavek Freedom?

I have worked with Restavek Freedom for just over 2 years (I began in
June 2014).

How did you first hear about Restavek

I first heard about Restavek Freedom from another of our Child Advocates,
Nadine. We went to the same university and she had talked about the foundation.

What languages do you speak?  

I speak Creole, French and English.

What do
you like most about being a Child Advocate?

I have always
wanted to work with children.  By being a
Child Advocate, I get to bring hope to children living in restavek, as they
don’t generally have a good relationship with their host parents. I also get to
help them have a better future and create a better Haiti, with well-educated kids
who have healthy minds and self-esteem.

What do
you like most about your country?

I like the pride we
have in being the first independent black republic.

What is
one thing people might not know about Haiti?

People might only
hear the bad news about Haiti, but Haitian people have a lot of pride in being
the first independent black nation. We also have some very nice places in Haiti
to vacation—people don’t have to go to the U.S. or Canada to find nice places
to vacation. Finally, people might not realize our style of communication;
Haitian people can get very passionate talking about and defending a subject,
but they are not angry!

What do
you wish most for Haiti?

I want Haiti to
have a better social environment, where children’s rights will be respected.

What most
motivates you in your job?

I love kids, and I know that kids grow
up to be adults. If you want them to have a good future, you need to start now
while they are young.

What is
your favorite song, book or movie?

I like motivational songs, as well as books
about psychology and social work.

What are your favorite things to do when
you’re not working?

I love learning; I’m always wanting to learn new things. I enjoy reading
books and listening to music – it fuels my motivation to learn.

How would
your co-workers describe you?

During our Monday staff meetings, we
often go around the circle and encourage and affirm each other.  When they get to me, my co-workers typically say that I am responsible, that I have a good
sense of leadership and have respect for everybody here. I always try to
understand a situation and people before judging. I’m smart and I keep track of
my goals in life – when we don’t do this, you know, we end can up just going to
work and coming back home without reaching our goals. I keep track of where I
am in reaching these goals. I know myself well.

What is
something else we might not know about you?

I wrote my paper for the university about the restavek system, about
kids who have experienced restavek.  I
have a passion for writing. I’m very interested in teaching at a university – that
is one of my goals.  I also enjoy public

We appreciate everything Samuel and our other wonderful staff in
Haiti do on a daily basis to bring an end to the restavek system!  Next month we’ll feature another of our
hard-working staff!

Friday, August 19, 2016 10:50:14 AM

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