Free Not To Stay With

I really wanted to talk about restaveks during a month centering around “free.”  So, I will….

A restavek is a Haitian child who has been sent by her or his parents to live with other families as a servant. (“Restavek’  is derived from the Creole  meaning “Stay With.” )

Once a child is sent to stay with employers, the child often has a horrible life.  There is widespread physical and sexual abuse against restaveks. There is no schooling. There is no pay.  There is no freedom.  In short, a restavek is a child slave in Haiti.  There are estimated to be 225-300,000 restaveks in Haiti.  Year check: yes, it is 2010.

I’m just scratching the surface here and have a lot more to learn,  but check this out for what the basic situation is like:


At some point, I’m going to have to write a big entry on all the causes of Haitian poverty according to people from all different points of view. There’s the negative inteference of the developed world. There’s bad governance in Haiti. There’s the population rate which is connected to the way women are treated in Haiti. But one of the horrible offshoots of this poverty is the restavek situation. And we can imagine what the earthquake added to this – more orphans, more potential servants.

Fortunately, not many people I know can say they’ve ever been so unable to provide for their kids that they have had to send them to go live with relatives let alone that they’ve had to send them to go be someone else’s servant or de facto slave. But in Haiti, many kids are starving– extended-belly starving, often in rural areas. And one way the parents try desperately to save their kids is to send them somewhere else. And they don’t know what awaits their children.

So a thing we may do to eliviate the need and the poverty in Haiti is indirectly fighting the slavery. Of course what is most effective in fighting poverty? Well, that’s another entry and one I am really not equipped to write, but, Oxfam can probably lead us in the right direction. Partners in Health, too. I know I keep plugging them, but, they’re two biggies.


As for restaveks specifically, or ending this system?   This HuffPost article by Beverly Bell  lists some grassroots efforts going on in Haiti. This seems like a remarkable effort- or variety of efforts –  Haitian people education other Haitian people about what awaits kids who are sent off to be servants; Haitian people telling other Haitian people “we can’t treat our children this way.”  People on the ground, in their own communities, addressing people of their own culture and locality on better ways to be.  Sounds like  a great way to go.  

This group, Restavek Freedom Foundation, is the one mentioned by Sanjay Gupta in the CNN video above.

 I’ve been really pulled  into reading the blog for Real Hope for Haiti Rescue Center. They feed starving kids and restore the kids to their families.  It sounds like a better solution to an insidious problem than sending the children away.

I support Sheepfold School  is because it provides food and education,  because it houses orphans and poor children who have no where else to go – or would otherwise perhaps end up enslaved.  I read an article with Fr Luc advocates for all kids being on the record. It seems like such an important thing: kids should be on the record, and people dealing with kids should always be held accountable.

I think every kid has a right to food, shelter, water, medical care, education, security. And I think every kid has a right to basic human freedom. Maybe those of us with our own freedom hold the key to unlocking their prison. Something to think about.

Drop as you see fit. And thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “Free Not To Stay With

  1. Thanks for posting this. I just got back from Haiti a couple weeks ago having served with a Jordan International Aid medical team. Nick Arnett happened to help train our team. I am looking for ways to stay involved with Haiti, and your post is a helpful resource.

  2. It’s always great to hear from someone who’s been to Haiti. Seemed like Jordan International Aid was really doing a lot of great work down there! Glad I can provide some useful links. I usually only get to the tip of the iceberg- so many people and organizations working in Haiti! Best wishes and thanks for reading – Beth

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