Stay with Me: An Evening of Hope for Haiti’s Restaveks (Friday, June 5)

By Bryan Schaaf on Saturday, May 23, 2009.

It is a sad irony that child slavery still exists in the only country to have led a successful slave rebellion.  On June 5th, Beyond Borders and the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC will host an event to raise awareness (and possible solutions) for the restavek crisis in Haiti.  Sociologist and Pastor Dr. Tony Compolo will speak as well Alina Cajuste and Helia Lajeunesse.  Alina and Helia are former restaveks who went on to become members of grassroots movements against child exploitation.  Below are Alina and Helia's stories and a schedule for the event which is free and open to the public.  If you can participate, please register online

 

Schedule

Friday, June 5, 2009
6:00 pm -- Simple Supper (Soup, Summer Salad, Bread)
6:45 pm -- An Evening of Hope
8:15 pm -- Dessert Reception

 

Location

Calvary Baptist Church
777 8th Street NW
(the corner of 8th and H streets)
Washington, DC 20001

(1 Block from the Gallery Place / Chinatown Metro stop)

 

Background

"Stay with" is the literal translation of the Haitian word restavèk. A stay-with or restavèk child is one who has been sent away by his or her parents to stay with another family usually with the belief or hope that the child will be treated well, sent to school, and not forced to work too much.  Up to 20% of Haiti's children may live apart from their families.

 

The treatment these children receive varies greatly. Some are sent to school and treated almost like adopted children. Others don't fare well, but prefer their situation over being back home where they might face chronic hunger and extreme poverty. Most restaveks are girls, whom are more vulnerable and less able to protect themselves from mental, physical, and sexual abuse.  For more information, read Ben Skinner's excellent article "The World Enslaved" or the State Department 2008 Human Trafficking Report.

 

Alina's Story:  A Baby Left on the Doorstep

My name is Alina Cajuste, alias Tibebe [which means “little baby” in Creole]. I will never drop the name Tibebe. It is a slave name.  Only now do I feel that I'm starting to live. I never had a childhood, I never had a grown-up who cared for me, took me in. Only when I was grown did anyone treat me as a human being. Now people say to me, “You must get better, you must learn to laugh.” And I say, "Well, I never had that opportunity since I was born.” That's how my life has been.

 

This is a sad, sad story to the world. As a child I was given away to a woman to live as a restavèk, a child slave. A woman who used to come sell in the market in Leogane told my mother to give me to her. My mother had no support, so she had to give me to this woman. I don’t know how old I was. My mother was totally illiterate; she didn't give me my age.

 

When you work as a restavèk at someone's house, you’re a slave. What did this woman make me do? I had to get up before three or four o'clock in the morning to make the food, sweep the floor, and wash the car, so that when the family woke up everything would be ready. Then I had to wash dishes, fetch water, and go sell merchandise for her in the countryside. When I came back from the marketplace, I would carry two heavy drums of water on my head to wash up for her. Then I'd go buy things to make dinner.

 

And I couldn't even eat the same food as her. If she ate rice, I only got cornmeal. I didn’t even wear the same sandals or dresses as her child. My dresses were made out of the scraps of cloth that were left over from what was sold in the marketplace. I couldn't even sleep in a bed.

 

She treated me terribly. She used to torture me and beat me and break my head open. I was climbing Calvary, my own mountain of suffering. I would ask her if I didn't have a mother or father. She would answer, “You want to know? Here!” and she would take a stick and beat me.  That was how I got treated when I was a restavèk. That's how children who are given away to other people's homes live. Like I said, you’re a slave. Now there are a few places that look at a restavèk as a human being. But before, you were in major slavery.

 

One time things got really serious for me and I underwent a lot of torture. This woman sold cloth, and she went to the marketplace with a permit, which gave her the right to sell. One day when I went to Leogane to sell for her, she forgot to give me the permit. And what happened? The police came. The police arrested me with all the merchandise. They thought I was going to escape with her goods.

 

They locked me up and wouldn't release me. I spent three days in prison and the woman didn't come get me. After three days she came to the area to ask if anyone had seen me. They told her, “Oh, Tibebe's in prison.” My mistress would have left me there forever. A neighbor who was selling in the market said, “Why don't you go help her?” The mistress said, “She stole my merchandise.” The other woman said, “Tibebe's no thief. She's just a child.”

 

A long time ago when you were in prison, they did nothing for you. Other prisoners had to share their food with you. So, by the time I got out, I was in terrible shape. The woman who kept me never even asked me how I was. She didn't even take me to get washed. She just sent me right back to work. She said, "Go and fill two drums of water," so I just kept right on working. She never even considered me a human being.

 

When they released me, the neighbor said to her, “You took someone's child to make her suffer misery like that? She helps you, she brings in money to give you. Why do you do that? You didn't give her food, you didn't ask her if she had eaten today. You should have taken up her case first, just shown the permit and gotten her released, then bathed her and cleaned her up. Only then should you have gone after the merchandise.”

 

My mistress answered, “And what about all the money I had tied up in that merchandise? What are you saying to me?”The neighbor said, “Oh, that poor little thing.” She told the others, “All right, I'm going to find her mother.” And she went, truly true. She found my mother, whom I never knew from the time I was little.

 

Then the neighbor came back and told me, “Why don't you run away? Before you go out to sell, collect your things and put them on the porch and escape.” And I did it. I really did escape. When I ran away, that was my second Calvary to climb.  When I got to Gressier, an officer stopped me as I was walking along the road. He asked me, "What town are you going to?" I said, "I'm going to the place called Darbonne. That's where they tell me my mother is."

 

Then the officer saw the cuts and bruises on me. I had a big cut on my foot, and he said, “Did they beat you? Someone who beats a person like that… What did you do? Did you steal?” I said, “I'm no thief. I've never stolen anyone's money.”

 

He said okay, and a group of them took me to see my mother. They insulted her. They said, “Madanm, you have a little girl, you don't know who she'll be tomorrow. Why did you give her away?” My mother said that she used to do the wash in one man's home. The man raped her. And then I was born.

 

I asked my mother how she had had me, why she had had me. Then I asked who and what my father was, how he had made me. That was when my mother explained to me how I was conceived, how I was born. While she was washing and ironing at the home where she lived, the son of the household grabbed her and threw her down on the ground. He held her down and ripped her body apart. My mother was bathed in blood and that's when she conceived me.

 

While she was lying on the ground, the master of the house came and said, “What are you doing lying there? You seem very relaxed.” He said, “You're supposed to be doing washing. What do you think you're doing? Staying in a guest house?” He forced her to get up. She had clothes to wash and iron, and supper to cook. Soon she started feeling so sick she couldn't work. But when they saw that my mother was slowing down in her work, they said, “Girl, you can't stay here and continue like this!”

 

My mother explained her situation to a neighbor who went and told the lady of the household, “That girl is pregnant,” and told her what had happened. The woman said, “I don't know what you're talking about. It's impossible that one of my children would sleep with some servant.” “But your son raped her! You must take the child.” The woman answered, “Oh, you think that my son would want that type of person? That's not possible.”

 

When they saw that my mother's stomach got big, and that she couldn't hold her body very well, they said they couldn't keep her in the house. The man who raped her said she was too low to bear his child. My mother was a restavèk; she didn't have the right to give her child the father's name or even to acknowledge that it was his baby.

 

So she went and lived in the street. I was born right in the middle of the street at an intersection. I came out black. I was so black I really couldn't have access to my father. A market woman who was passing by cut my umbilical cord with a Gillette. Another woman came to bring my mother a towel. They made that woman my godmother. Anyway, I don't know that person. I don't even know her name. I just heard this.

 

From the moment I was born, it's been humiliation. When I was baptized in the middle of the street, they just gave me a little paper but it got lost. My birth was never even registered. I told my mother, “Ah, so my whole life, it's been spent in the street.” She said, “Well now, that's because of your father.” 

 

When I was just a baby on her shoulder, my mother went back home. That's when she gave me away to the woman who abused and tortured me. Actually, after my mother gave me away, she'd forgotten me. I said, “Well then, Mama, why don't you show me to my father? Maybe my father’s family will take me.” So my mother showed me to someone from my father's family.

 

When the relative saw me, she cried. She said, “Lord, you look so much like my family, you must be my relative. We'll take you.” Then she cried and said, “I heard someone say that my brother had grabbed a girl who was working in his house and that she had had a baby girl who was never recognized. We'll take you. But we have to go back to your mistress's house.”

 

She said, “Take me to the woman you lived with.” I said, “I don't need to show you that woman. When my father had me, he didn’t recognize me as his child. After all I've suffered, now you say you’re interested in knowing the people I lived with?” She said, “No, we must meet the person before we hold onto you, so she doesn't get us into trouble and say we stole you.” I said, “Okay, we'll go back to the house and show that woman that I'm worth something.”

 

Truly true, we went back to my mistress’s house. She said, “Oh, Tibebe has relatives?” My aunt said, “Yes, she has family. It was my brother who fathered her but I never knew her. Now that I see her, I'm very happy. I'll take her.” So she adopted me. But she didn't really adopt me. I was still an orphan. The family of the person who raped my mother didn't really accept me as part of the family, but my life was a little better than it had been at the woman's house.”

 

The woman I had worked for had just called me Tibebe. That was the only name I knew. So now I asked my aunt—she said yes, you may call me your aunt because you are a person the same as me—“But what's my real name? Where's my birth certificate?” My aunt answered, “You don't have a birth certificate.”

 

But she said, “I remember when they threw your mother out, your father got engaged to another girl. So then your father got married, and that child was born about the same time as you.” The person who raped my mother was Cajuste. That sister of mine was Alina Cajuste. She had died. So now my aunt took the birth certificate and gave it to me. I must tell you I was never really born and registered. Alina Cajuste is not really my name. It's the name of a dead person that I have. My aunt said, “Now you are Alina Cajuste.”

 

I asked, “Am I a human being? Then why did you let me undergo so much misery? Live with a person who tortured me?” My aunt cried as if someone had died. Me, too, I felt water flowing from my eyes. She said, “Listen, my brother said you weren’t his. The mother was just a servant at his home who used to wash and iron clothes.” I said, “Oh well, that’s life. It seems that my life is to be spent this way. It seems I'll never exist in this society.”

 

I said, "What can you do to get me into school?” She said, “You're already grown. School won't take you. We should show you how to sign your name.” I said, “Sign my name? That's all?” She said, “Yes, that's all we can do for you. And I'll give you one little room to live in. I can't do anything else for you.”

 

Then my father became poor. All his business and his money were lost. He got very sick and I was the one who had to take care of him. When he was dying, he called for me, calling me Tibebe because that's the name I always went by--while I always called him mesye, sir, to his face. He said “Tibebe, I am your father.” I said, “Now you tell me.” He said, “Everyone has regrets.” And he spoke to me of his errors. I said, “I'll help you. Whatever I have, I must help you with that. Don't worry, you don't need to acknowledge me as your child.” Then I was happy. Up ‘til then, he hadn’t even admitted he knew me. I'd been an orphan. I had been a person who had been rejected and now I was able to help him.

 

All of his family was living abroad. None of them helped with his funeral. I had to make all the arrangements and pay for it all myself. I kept saying to myself, “Look at this child that he never needed, and now I'm doing this funeral.” I repeated this the whole time. When I was at the burial, I told my father, “You never took care of me. If you had taken care of me when I was a child, now I would do more for you. But it’s a restavèk doing your burial now.”

 

Then his sisters got mad. They said, “This is a child who was given away to someone to be a servant. Why does that child have our brother's last name?” They didn't recognize me. To this day, only that one aunt recognizes me. If she’s going by in a car, she’ll stop to speak with me even if she won’t welcome me at her home.

 

Once she drove by and I said to the woman selling in the market next to me, “That's my father’s sister, you know.” “You're kidding!” the woman said. “If she’s your relative, how come she drives a fancy car and you’re living in the streets?” I told her that’s because I’m an indigent, and because I was cast out as a servant’s child, like a baby in the bulrushes. A few other members of my family recognize me—I don't mean really recognize me as a person, no, just acknowledge that I'm alive.

 

If you're a child born of rape, everyone, even your mother, considers you worthless. That's how my life has been up to the present; my life is burdened this way. I feel like a baby who was left on a doorstep in a rotten basket. Once I got down so low, I was crying in the middle of the street. A woman asked me, “Why are you crying like that?” I said, “I can't see any future except to kill myself.”

 

She said, “I'll take you to an organization.” I said, “I'm not going into any organization to get beaten up and killed.” In those days the military was killing people who were organizing. She said, “No, it’ll be good for you. This will help you so you won't kill yourself.”  And truly true, I went to a meeting. I sat down, holding my handkerchief in my hands. I was thinking about my life. But then all the women introduced themselves to me. I told them I was called Tibebe, the slave name I’ve always held onto.

 

They asked, “Why do you want to kill yourself? You don't have the right to kill yourself.” They tried to sing with me but I said, “I don’t know how to sing.” They asked me if I knew how to read. I said no. So they did a little literacy school with me. They said, “Here's how you mark to write your name.” Then they asked me how old I was. I'm an illiterate so I never knew my age. They said, “Go get your birth certificate to show us.” Then I went and got my birth certificate. There was a woman there named Rica who read it for me. She said, “You were born in 1952.” I said, “Ah, tell me again.” She said, “You were born on April 7,1952." I said, “Okay, thank you.”

 

The women's group helped me and my knowledge. They showed me that what the woman had done to me in the restavèk system was violence and torture. It was the women who made me understand that you don't beat children. I came to see that when someone says something humiliating to me, that person is humiliating herself, not me.

 

That’s when I started to become like a child. I started playing with the women. They said, “What makes you so playful?” I said, “Medanm, women, I’ve never played in my whole life. I stayed in a woman's home as a restavèk. Then they said, “But what about the games you played with other children when you were a child?” I said, “I never played as a child.” Now whenever I go to meetings, the women always play with me. Now I know what it feels like for a child to play.

 

I've come to live my childhood, the one I never had. Only when I was grownup did anyone treat me as a human being. Now I can smile and laugh, before I couldn't.  The women looked at me as a human being, the same as themselves. That's where I was first given encouragement. I saw that I was living. They made me feel like I exist in society. I became a person.

 

Helia LaJeunesse:  In Her Own Words

Original was someone whose mother died when I was seven months old and left me as a tiny baby.  My grandmother to me and because when my father impregnated my mother he left my grandmother to care me from the time when I was about seven years old then my grandmother died and that a neighbor took me in.

 

I had to do all the work in the house. I had to got and get water even though I was so young I couldn’t do anything really but they decided that I should be the one to do the work.  I had to sweep the whole house and I had to do all the dishes.  They showed me how to cook food but it was my own food that I cooked because women made food for themselves they didn’t give me any of it.

 

I was the one that went to bed the latest and I was the one and got up first - as soon as it was four o’clock I had to be on my feet to go and sweep the kitchen until light the fire and wash all the dishes and put the water on for coffee.  When they would make their coffee they said I couldn’t do it because I wasn’t clean enough to do it.  Then they would make coffee but they wouldn’t give me any they would just drink it with their own children.

 

They would tell me that I had to go behind the Breadfruit tree to make my own food. Sometimes the children of the house would hit me on my head even though I didn’t do anything. Sometimes the children would set it up so that one would take the money of the other and they would say that I was the one that took it. All the children in this neighborhood were in school.
There were four of them but she said she wasn’t going to put me in school because I was just an animal with out any family.

 

I stayed there because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I didn’t know anybody in my mother’s family till I was about eight or nine years old. There is a marketplace that was very far away so then I had to put the basket on my head and go very far to sell, so that I would bring back all the provisions for them. But the road for me to leave that marketplace to go back was very far and after I had finished selling it I can only get ten cents out of the profit.

 

But there was a type of bread that would sell one for 15 cents - they were 4 for 15 cents and then to eat just that and to go all the way back home - it wasn’t very close.  And then she would have me do a lot of different errands but [if] the money she made off of the sales wasn’t enough she would say that I had eaten the profits instead of doing when she had asked me to do.

 

They would have horses that they had saddles for she wouldn’t saddle a horse for me - she said I had to carry it on my own head. There was water very far away and I had to go below and get it. It was very far down a mountain, it was very steep and the clothes I had, if they got torn she wouldn’t buy anything new for me.

 

But I had other neighbors who would look at me and say to the woman ‘I believe you should take care of her just like she was your own child. I should take care of her like she was any other child of my own.’ [her mistress would respond?] ‘no she’s just an animal without any family.’

 

But they say ‘no you should even thought she’s not your own child you should take care of her like she’s any other child because maybe tomorrow when she could do something for you she will say thank you but she’d say what’s that going to be useful for me? What could she learn for herself that she could take care of herself?

 

I stayed there and I was in a lot of misery and then when I was 11 years old, no 10,  and there was a school that they closed in with some coconut leaves. The men who was making that school was close to the house. The children of this woman went to the good Catholic school.  I mean [they would say] ‘this child we don’t need any money for her to go to school because you say she’s just an animal of the family so all you have to do is buy little milk we’ll help her.

 

And so she said I should buy a notebook - what she’s supposed to do with the notebook? When you have people like this that have no family they’re just like animals we should just treat them like animals. That something that you should say because you have children but she didn’t agree.  So one day she went away into the city and her children were old enough they’re going to be baptized.  One day when she was going to be gone for three days one day when I was washing the dishes in the kitchen and the man called me [and I] responded ‘yes Mr.’

 

He said when you’re done during the dishes come to me under the little shade house.  This was the teacher of the little school he said out, and you can learn a little bit like and for three days while [the owner] was gone I sat there under the shade house with this teacher.  When she came back from the city I didn’t see that she was coming in and so when she got there and I saw her I got up and ran away.

 

I went inside she asked me what was I doing you think you need school? [I said] ‘No it wasn’t me it was the teacher who called me’ And so she beat me all up and she said ‘when you learn to read what’s that going to be useful for?’  And she whipped me with a whip and she opened my skin so then I never learned again. I stayed there and I went through a lot of misery.  Then there was a neighbor that said ‘I’m going to get you out of this, I’m going to put you in another neighbors house’

 

But I said ‘no I don’t know where that is leave me where I am let me pass go through this with my courage.’ And then one day she started to have an argument about me and she said ‘oh you’re treating this child like an animal you’re the one that’s an anima.l’ And she said ‘you don’t even give her your clothes and the food you cook for your own children you don’t give to her’ And so she told the school the little school had a class and it was for everyone.

 

And so when the lady invited me to go to communion class I said ‘no I can’t because she will beat me’ and so the ladies of the neighborhood put a lot of pressure on [the owner], they told her if she was going to beat this little girl they would call the police or burn her house. Then when she saw that they let me go to the communion class. When they had tests I went to the test and I passed it with the first communion. And so they said they’re going to have to and so they pressured me intimidated me and said they’re going to burn my house I guess I’m going to have to give you your first communion

 

And then I was 11 years old but the day of the communion, she took a dress that had three different kinds of fabric in it and I wore that to the communion Service.  All the children had parents - they were so pretty but I went to church with this dress and barefoot. All the other children had nice shoes and I was the only one who was barefoot.  When I left church and went home - as soon as I got home she told me to take that dress off and put the old rag on.

 

Then I did that and she told me to get water in it.  It’s so hot … coming back with the water there was another child that was in the same communion service and the mother of that child saw me and she cried.  That day I remember very well because she said oh how hard it is for a child that doesn’t have a mother and then she called me she gave me a little food of the party food of the other child. (I was seen and beat up).  She said that I had gone and gossiped so they gave me food. I told her no it wasn’t  me it was because the lady saw me and she offered me the food and I told that man that you know today I am just little but I know that there is a God and one he’ll say something for me.

 

So I stayed there in so all those people that came from Port a Prince said they’re going to take me there and I said no I can go there because this is what I know even if I stay here and she (can kill) me. I’m going to stay here.  All the things that she did to me I just stayed there when she would beat me I would say no you have children even though my grandmother left me hear it wasn’t to beat me like this  And she said oh so now you’re starting to talk back to me? Oh,you want to take my husband away from me?

 

I said no I would never do that,  even though I just get a little food here I get a place to sleep even when you don’t give me the food that you to give to your other children at least I have a place to sleep there ok, then one I saw it I said I can’t stand in any longer there was a woman from town and I said I’m going to go with you because I can’t stand it any longer.  So when I came to understand that she was offering me her husband’s I couldn’t stay there any longer.

 

So one day when she went out I took the clothes that she had given me not the clothes from the communion  but I got the clothes that she had given me and I ran away and so the lady told me where she was going to be waiting for me and I found her there.  I thought it was a good thing that I was doing but I should have stayed at home. So the second person, then I was twelve years old.

 

I had to get up early because she was doing a lot of Commerce this woman she had a restaurant she needed food.  So that I had to get up really early because I was the one who cleaned all the pots and the pans for the restaurant and then I had to get to the marketplace she used a hire people to work for her but then since I was there in our house she didn’t have to hire anyone any more.

 

I had to light the fire she was the one who would put oil in the pot the then I had to do everything else  but to know if there was enough salt I had to bring her a spoonful to know if it was correct if there was enough salt and after she sold all the food she would tell me that I can scrape the pot to eat.

 

I left because I was so bad and now I’ve gotten worse off but there was a woman who said now your old enough you could probably work for yourself.  Ok, there was another woman who lived across from this woman I was working for and she saw the misery I was going through and she told me that when I was old enough I can make a living for myself and I said yes because I needed some clothes I need to be able to buy them myself.

 

I would have the hope that somebody would deliver me I always have that hope and I believe that not everybody can be the same way. I spent two years at this woman’s house with the restaurant and so the woman said now I was 14, I can work for myself and so I asked her to go look for some work this is the other woman has said I can work and so she found some work for me and so then I was working for 9 dollars a month and I would make food and I would wash clothes, and I’d iron, and I carry water and I did the market selling.

 

The woman I was working for had two children and I was taking them to school at noon I had to go back and get them and so I thought it wasn’t too bad...I could buy sandals or a dress. I stayed there and I stayed there and I spent six years there and so they treated me well because they saw that I like children in there really took care me. They saw a brand new pair of panties they would buy it for me and so I spent six years there until I was 20 and why did I leave?

 

One day when I went and got one of the kids from school at that time the child was four so I was walking the street holding their hand and I just passed the priest's home fell down while I was holding her and so their leg got scraped up.  Oh and the woman that I was working for called the police she said that I scarred her child. It was in my fault Madame Danielle because while I was holding their hand and they tripped and fell.

 

After spending six years of this it is not now that I would do something to hurt them and they said those people around how is it after six years that you would do this the you would make the police come and beat her too?  And she said oh I am working so hard for my own children even if they are scarred they’re not going to be able to do what they want to do you if they want to leave they can’t leave and so on. I decided that I wasn’t going to stay there any longer and I would go with them.

 

So I went to a place very very far from the town of Jeremy  on the southern Peninsula. Then this person took me to this place very far they weren’t my family so I went there and so then I bought a machete and I started making a garden just like a man when they had coffee and needed a harvest I would go out and get coffee. And those places they would pay you for a day’s work in the garden and they would buy coffee from you sometimes they would pay you for a day’s work or they would just give you a can of coffee for the payment.

 

I stayed there and I worked for people and I just stayed and then I found a man who loved me and he wanted to know my family and I said well God put me on this earth and I don’t have any family. But his parents liked me a lot and so I stayed with them and I had a child and so the parents of this man got mad at me because I had this child and then I didn’t know where I was going to go and then I was really having and lots of misery.

 

Then I was just perishing in this man had a brother here when his brother came to visit I was the one that washed and cleaned for him and his brother’s sent word to a brother in law of his in Port a Prince. At that time to get a boat from Jeremy it cost a lot.  This is the brother of my husband and so then I went to him. Okay so he was married because I was in so much misery because I was living with my husband’s mother and it was so bad that his brother saw that and sent for me to come into Port a Prince and I stayed with them.

 

And I still live with my brother in law his wife and his child  and then I had another two children at his house. Then my husband came they rented house together like a family and we had one room in their house.  One night while I was sleeping with my husband my three children I heard a knock on my door and I didn’t open at.  That should be my husband knocking on the door but he’s with me so I don’t have anybody else and so they knocked the door in so these people had black they had masks over their faces so you couldn’t see their face. They asked oh  you didn’t open the door and I said no I don’t know anybody outside my husband is here with me.

 

There were several that came there were three that raped me when they were finished they went and took my husband and to  this day I don’t know where he went. And then my brother in law left that area and I left too and went to another place and stayed with people and then I had a lot of troubles because I had nobody to give me anything to help me.

 

And so then I found a man who was already married and said he would take me but I wouldn’t have chosen that but for my children I did.  And then I had a child for him and we had no problems really he helped me when I needed something and I left with my children and then there was a woman who went and told the wife of this man she brought him to her house.

 

So that wife every day she would come to my house and she would swear and persecute me and so she would come every day and scream and holler  and give me problems every day And so I’ve decided I’ve already gone through two stages of life if god is going to give me something I’ll take it  but I can just at least do little jobs maybe wash somebody’s clothes maybe give me a little food and I can share with my children

 

And rather I not have anything but have peace with my children and so the man left and so I told him now that I have two children through you if you remember them send something for them through another person.  I don’t need to have anything to do with you anymore but it’s not really anything you would call money it’s only a thousand gouds and every 15 days you have to pay back part of it. Then so sometimes I would go and sell a few candles or some juice powder and so whenever I would sell I would buy some whatever it was tomatoes or potatoes and give to my children to eat.

 

So there was a school close by a rural school that I was able to put my children into. But I wasn’t able to buy books and every day they sent them back because I wasn’t able to buy books and so then in 2005 my second daughter was 15, 12 years old ok, so when things got heated up politically the idea why is going to be having a coup, she sent her daughter to a friend of her is in village Deduex and while she was in this village Dedeux.

 

There were bandits that came in and raped her and now she has a child at twelve years old  and now she’s taking care of her a rape child  and I don’t have anything. And then one I’ve found it was like a delivery when I found them and so sometimes when I’m not able to go to the meetings they pull their money together so I can give something to my children. So the two children that are in school can do their final exams even though it’s not their National exams  I don’t have the money to pay.

UN Report Challenges "Restavek" System (National Post - 6/9/09)

UNITED NATIONS -- The chief United Nations investigator on slavery signalled Wednesday that Haiti -- the only nation born of a slave revolt -- has entrenched child enslavement through its long-denounced "restavek" system.
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The finding by Gulnara Shahinian after she toured the Caribbean nation raises pressure on Canada and other major aid donors to the country to focus more on eliminating the blight.
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Named for the Haitian francophone Creole term meaning "stay with," the system is supposed give parents unable to care for their children an opportunity to send them to more affluent relatives or strangers in urban areas. There, the children would receive food, shelter and education in exchange for "light" housework.
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But Ms. Shahinian said the practice subjects children to multiple forms of abuse, including economic exploitation, sexual violence and corporal punishment. Hours of work typically run from early in the morning until the last adult in the home goes to bed at night, witnesses have said.
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While family-to-family placements have long occurred, paid recruiters now scour the country looking for children to traffic both within and outside Haiti, Ms. Shahinian found.
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The majority of the demand has also shifted in recent years from wealthy families to poor ones, she reports.
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"This practice is a severe violation of the most fundamental rights of the child," said Ms. Shahinian, an Armenian national."[It] reinforces a vicious cycle of violence. It should be stopped immediately."
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The International Labour Organization estimates that 300,000 children work as restaveks in Haiti, population eight million. Ms. Shahinian reports children are delivered to work for urban families "as child slaves in domestic work and outside the home in markets."
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A UN summary of her visit says witnesses gave her "various accounts" of the practice as she visited the capital, Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes in the southwest, and Ouanaminthe on the northern part of the border with the Dominican Republic. She "expressed deep concern," says the summary. "She considers it to be a modern form of slavery."
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As part of the $555-million in Canadian aid to Haiti over the past five years, the Canadian International Development Agency has provided millions of dollars to cover school fees and lunches for thousands of Haitian youngsters from impoverished backgrounds.
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But Ms. Shahinian said more needs to be done to give poor families the means to keep their children and send them to school. "The issue should be put urgently on the highest priority agenda of the [Haitian] government and the international community," said the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
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Haiti is Canada's biggest overseas aid focus after Afghanistan. "The agency is aware of the restavek problem, and we're investing in a wide range of programs that we believe will attack it and other ills in Haiti," said Jean-Luc Benoit, spokesman for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda.

Ms. Shahinian acknowledged that decades of political instability and a series of recent natural disasters "have further deepened poverty and enhanced human insecurity" in Haiti, the western hemisphere's poorest country.
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She also noted the Haitian government had taken some steps to try to protect the rights of restavek children, despite being cash-strapped.
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But a law stating employers must pay people from age 15 for work has often resulted in restaveks being thrown onto the streets at that age.
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Among a series of recommendations, Ms. Shahinian called on the Haitian government to place greater administrative focus on "vulnerable children."
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She also called on the government to ensure "compulsory and free primary education," and to help children in rural areas gain better access to schools.

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