Restavek Freedom
What You Need To Know About Haiti’s History

Haiti’s legacy is long and varied, and so much could be
shared about the trials and triumphs of this island nation. Here is just a
brief rundown of what you need to know about Haiti’s history, beginning with
colonization and ending with current day.

Colonial Haiti

As early as 2,600 BC, settlers from South America arrived to
modern-day Haiti by way of handmade boats. Centuries later, around 250 BC, the
Arawak people are thought to have settled there, though records of their period
in history are quite sparse. In addition to the Arawaks, the Taíno population
eventually inhabited this area, as well, occupying Haiti for hundreds of years.

It wasn’t until 1492 that European explorers descended on
this area, with Christopher Columbus setting foot on Haiti’s beaches in
December of that year. Columbus landed at Mole Saint-Nicolas and dubbed the
island La Española, though the name was later Anglicized to Hispaniola. Today,
Hispaniola still refers to the island as a whole, though it has since been
divided into two separate nations — Haiti to the west, and the Dominican
Republic to the east.

While the Spanish initially claimed ownership over the entire
island, they mainly constructed settlements on the eastern side. The western
portion of Hispaniola was left largely empty until the 17th century, when the
French chose to settle there. In 1697, the Spanish and the French signed the
Treaty of Ryswick, wherein France was given the western third of Hispaniola.
They called their colony Saint-Domingue.

In the 18th century, Saint-Domingue (Haiti) became quite rich
by exporting sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, and cocoa. Sadly, however, this
prosperity came at a price. Slaves were brought to work on these plantations,
suffering terrible treatment from their owners. In August of 1791 these slaves
started a rebellion, which in turn caused a war that devastated the colony.
This war raged on until 1794, when France finally decided to end slavery there.

One of the leaders in this slave rebellion was a man by the
name of Toussaint L’Overture. When the war came to a close, Toussaint joined
the French army, who were then fighting Spain against their claim to the
eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola. In 1797, Toussaint was made commander of the
French army, and by 1801 he was in control of the entire island. Not only did he
declare all slaves free, but he made himself head of the new government and
published a brand new constitution.

Displeased with Toussaint’s actions, the French used a trick
to capture him, but the fight was far from over. Another former slave,
Jean-Jacques Dessalines continued the struggle against the French, and on
January 1, 1804, the island officially gained its independence. It was renamed
Haiti, and is recognized as the second oldest independent nation in the Western
Hemisphere (after the United States). Today, Haiti still celebrates its
Independence Day
January 1st, complete with parades, fireworks, and dancing in the streets.

Independent Haiti

Although independent, Haiti was left devastated by the
repercussions of the war. Dessalines would be assassinated in 1806, and just
three years later, the Spanish captured the eastern part of Hispaniola (now the
Dominican Republic). In 1822, President Jean-Pierre Boyer of Haiti re-claimed
this eastern portion, but the two nations separated permanently in 1844.

President Boyer would actually be overthrown in 1843 (having
served since 1818), an action which corresponded with a long period of
instability for Haiti. Between 1843 and 1911 the nation was under sixteen
different rulers, and of these, eleven were overthrown by revolutions.

Modern Haiti

The early 20th century in Haiti was largely marked by this
political instability, when in 1915, the United States commissioned Marines to
occupy the country and protect American business interests there. But because
this occupation was resented by so many Haitians, the U.S. Marines were finally
withdrawn in 1934.

Throughout the mid to late 1900s, Haiti saw quite a bit of
political turnover, with a number of different presidents taking power for
various amounts of time. It was not until 2006, when René Préval was elected
president, that some semblance of stability was hopefully going to be achieved.
But then, in January of 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck fourteen miles
west of Port-au-Prince, destroying most of the capital. The earthquake
took the lives of an estimated 217,000 people, and left more than two million
Haitians without homes.

In the nearly seven years since, Haiti has
worked rebuild what was lost, and has never given up hope for its future. They continue to look ahead to
further growth and success. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016 3:38:01 PM

What Type of Transportation is Used in Haiti?

Transportation in Haiti is certainly varied, with much of the
population depending on a combination of ways to get around the island. Whether
they’re living in the country
or in the city
, few
Haitians own or have access to a personal vehicle, nor do they have access to
more common forms of public transportation like city buses, trains, or subways.
Instead, most Haitians rely on walking, biking, or hitching a ride on a ‘tap
tap.’ A tap tap is essentially a Haitian version of an American taxi cab, with
some buses even operating as tap taps.

The sides of these buses are brightly painted, decorated with
vibrant local artwork and the occasional graffiti from street artists. The name
‘tap tap’ is derived from the passengers’ habit of using their coins to tap on
the side of the vehicle, alerting the driver that they need to be let off. Each
tap tap can hold between 20 to 30 people, and they are typically quite full as
this is the preferred method of transport for so many Haitians!

Another popular style of tap tap is actually a pickup truck,
with benches installed inside and a canopy thrown over the top. Just like their
bus counterparts, these tap tap trucks are almost always at (or over) their
given capacity. In certain instances, a motorcycle may also function as a tap
tap, piling on as many people or as much cargo as it can hold. While the fee
for riding a motorcycle is a bit higher, there’s a possibility for this to be a
faster way to get around.

In addition to motorcycles, donkeys are sometimes used as a
means to transport goods to market or up a mountainside to a neighboring
village. Using livestock to help haul various types of cargo is common in many
countries around the world, and Haiti is no exception. Haitians have
long-recognized the valuable asset donkeys, mules, burros, and similar animals
can be in transporting supplies to different parts of the island, so they use
these resources whenever possible.

With regards to water transport, Haiti has one of the oldest
maritime histories in the Americas. The port at Port-au-Prince (Port International
de Port-au-Prince) has more registered shipping than any other Haitian port,
though the port at Saint-Marc is now the preferred port of entry for any and
all consumer goods coming in and out of the island.

Transportation by air is mainly coordinated through the
airport located in Port-au-Prince, though there a few other active Haitian
airports. The Toussaint Louverture International Airport (formerly known as
Port-au-Prince International Airport) is Haiti’s only jet way, and as such,
handles the vast majority of its international flights. Air Haiti, Tropical
Airways, and a handful of major airlines from Europe, the Caribbean, and the
Americas are currently serving Toussaint Louverture.

Haitians are a busy people, with many day-to-day
responsibilities in both their professional and personal lives. Luckily, they
have a number of methods of transportation to choose from to help them get all
of this accomplished. If you ever find yourself visiting Haiti, be sure to try
out a tap tap and live like the locals do!

Friday, December 02, 2016 2:06:25 PM

How Host Parent Meetings Change Children’s Lives

What is a “host parent meeting”? A host parent meeting is a meeting
with Restavek Freedom’s Child Advocates and the children’s host parents to
discuss about matters concerning the students. These meetings are a very
important part of our Child Advocacy Program, and I would even say are absolutely
vital to our work with the students.

Host parent meetings provide a direct way to share with host
parents our mission and what kind of programs we have for the students.  At these meetings, we explain how we would
like them to be involved so they can have a positive impact on the children’s
lives.  We also talk about many other
subjects, like children rights.

The parents have a lot to say at these meetings about how
they think the children should act. They share the problems they are
experiencing with the children at home, and we talk together about how they can
solve these problems. At a recent host parent meeting, one host shared, 


As a Child Advocate for Restavek Freedom, I see great changes
in the children’s lives after each host parent meeting.  I see this not only in their grades at school,
but also in the treatment they receive at home.  More than once a student has said to me, “Mr.
Daniel, the way my host family treats me has changed.  It has gotten better [since you met with my
host parents]. Thank you.”

Yes, the host parent meetings are extremely important because
of the effects they have on the way the children are treated. They literally
change the children’s lives, and are a vital part of our program.

Thursday, December 01, 2016 4:32:17 PM

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