Strange Things: PBS to Broadcast Documentary on Haitian Street Children

  • Posted on: 5 January 2011
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

Two years ago, we posted a blog about a documentary under development entitled Strange Things (Bagay Dwol).  Directed by Alexandria Hammond, Strange Things follows the lives of three street children in Cap Haitian over three years.  The film has since been completed and screened at dozens of film festivals.  An abbreviated version of the documentary entitled “Children of Haiti” will have its national broadcast premier Tuesday, January 11th, at 10:00 PM as part of the PBS Independent Lens Series.  It will include updates on the main characters and address challenges facing homeless children in post earthquake Haiti.   


The “Children of Haiti” TV cut will be available for purchase on DVD (limited release) through the Strange Things website.  The full version will also be available for purchase on DVD in the spring.  In the meantime, a trailer is available here.  A portion of the profits will go to charities in Haiti, including the Kids Alive Program that works directly with street kids in Cap-Haitian.


Associate Producer Regine Zamor relocated to Port-au-Prince and continues to work on community-based development with the Haiti Recovery Initiative.  She also maintains a blog documenting her experiences since the earthquake.  Her goal is to promote community led reintegration programs for street children, and to provide people with a deeper understanding of Haiti through its children.  According to Regine, “Whether you know us or not, whether you know about the depth of our commitment to Haiti and our work on behalf of Haitian children, or how much love and how organic the process of this film has been - this is the time to watch… when you see the children telling their stories, traveling through their city, and taking you on the journey of their lives over the course of several years there is one thing to keep in mind:  Why did they get there and how?  As much as anyone helps it is important to note that if the children cannot go home, where will they go and who will they be?  What families will give their children up next?”


As Hammond notes, “One can only admire these children and how they've been able to stay hopeful despite a nearly impossible life.”  Interested in learning more about the documentary?  Join the Strange Things Facebook page, visit the PBS Independent Lens website, and check the Strange Things website for updates. Questions can be directed to Alexandria Hammond at  Please help spread the word about this documentary and Haitian street children.




United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Interview with Vivienne O'Connor
As you look back on the past year since the Haiti earthquake, what are the major challenges the country now faces regarding the protection of children in Haiti?
The children of Haiti were already vulnerable before January 12, 2010. The challenges they faced were only exacerbated by the earthquake. Child trafficking, an ever-present phenomenon, became an even bigger problem in the wake of the earthquake. In the confusion that ensued and with children separated from their parents, an estimated 3,000 children were reportedly taken from camps and trafficked abroad to become domestic or sexual slaves. The Haiti “restavek” population (the name given to children sold by their parents to “restavek” or “stay with” a family who bought them for domestic servitude) faced a fate worse than that which they had been sold into. Thousands of restaveks were kicked out onto the streets after the earthquake to fend for themselves, becoming vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. They, like the other children of Haiti, face the threat of rape and sexual violence on a daily basis.
Since January 2010, children have also become increasingly more susceptible to recruitment by organized criminal gangs, including those gangs that escaped from prisons during the earthquake. When children are arrested for taking part in these or other crimes, they face extended pre-trial detention contrary to international human rights standards that require that detention of a child be “a last resort.” Moreover, children are held in prisons with adults, leaving them vulnerable to sexual abuse and criminal contamination. These are only two of the many human rights challenges that face the Haiti juvenile justice system.
What has USIP been doing and what does USIP plan to do in the area of juvenile justice in Haiti?
USIP has been providing assistance to Haiti since 2008, as it drafts a series of new criminal laws that will ensure that Haiti complies with its international human rights obligations and addresses serious crimes problems. Technical assistance has been provided by USIP’s Rule of Law Center of Innovation to Haiti lawmakers on both the substance and process of criminal law reform (See the Special Report, “Building the Rule of Law in Haiti: New Laws for a New Era”). Moreover, the USIP Model Codes for Post-Conflict Criminal Justice project, which developed a criminal law reform tool, has been used in Haiti as a source of inspiration in the drafting of new laws. Included in USIP’s model codes, and in the proposed new Haitian Penal Code, are offenses against children, including child slavery, trafficking in children and the sale of children. All of these crimes are currently occurring in Haiti, as discussed above, but they are not classified as criminal offenses. This leaves the justice system relatively powerless to protect child victims. When the new criminal laws come into effect, the justice system will be able to fully address these heinous crimes against children.
In addition to protecting child victims of crime, a special Juvenile Justice Code is also being drafted that will focus on children who come into contact with the justice system because they have committed a crime. This initiative is a priority issue for the government of Haiti, as was mentioned in USIP’s Special Report, “Rule of Law in Haiti: After the Earthquake.” The new Juvenile Justice Code will ensure that the rights of children who come into contact with the Haitian justice system are adequately protected and that their best interests are taken into account throughout the criminal process. The new Juvenile Justice Code will also have a strong emphasis on the rehabilitation of child offenders, rather than taking a purely punitive approach as under the existing law. USIP will provide ongoing assistance in this process. In the same way that the Model Codes for Post-Conflict Criminal Justice has provided inspiration to the drafters of the forthcoming penal code and criminal procedure code, the section of the Model Codes on juvenile justice will also prove a useful reference tool for the drafters of Haiti’s Juvenile Justice Code.

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