Life of a restavek

The Emotional Toll


For children in restavek, work begins at dawn. They clean bedpans, careful not to leave traces of feces or urine. They fill pails at the well, struggling under the weight of the water as they carry it home. They cook breakfast, but when the family eats, the child continues to serve.

The work is exhausting and demeaning, far too much for a young body to bear. But no matter how difficult it may be, that's not what leaves so many children fearful and hopeless. The worst moments are the constant reminders that they do not belong, that they are not wanted, that they're objects to be used and discarded, work mules good only for their ability to make others' lives easier.

So they cook the breakfast and slink off to a corner, watching the family eat. Sometimes, they get the scraps. Other times, they get nothing at all. Either way, they continue with their work.

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