Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What is a restavek?


I recently finished reading the book A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner. He discusses modern day slavery and as his subtitle says, brings you face to face with it. It is a tough read, but a necessary one if you truly want to understand slavery today. Through the book I was introduced to a restavek child. A restavec (or restavek; from the French reste avec, "one who stays with") is a child in Haiti who is sent by their parents to work for a host household as a domestic servant because the parents lack the resources required to support the child. The restavek may be treated well, or abused. Restavek may refer to a child staying with a host family, but usually refers specifically to those who are abused. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restavec)

My heart just broke for the children and parents he spoke of in this book. One of the things that struck me the most is that the parents were giving their children away because they were deceived into it. Parents were told their children would leave them, but they would receive opportunities, such as a good education that would be unavailable if they continued to live with their parents. The deceivers would act it up, showing up well dressed and groomed to take the children, only to revert to who they really were at home - slavemasters.

I couldn't help but think that if the children could receive an education while living with their parents, the plight of the restavek children could change. In the US education is free. In Haiti it is not. This is specifically why I address the issue of illiteracy on the DFC website. It seems to be a major part of the issue of slavery and trafficking.

Today I learned about an organization that has given me more hope for these children at risk. The Jean Cadet Restavek Foundation. Founded by a former restavek, this organization supports children by educating them, advocating for them and investing in their communities and in Haiti. Through their work directly in Haiti, they identify restavek children and provide sponsorship opportunities for people to sponsor a child, providing for their education, one meal per day, school uniform and necessary books. It is a wonderful opportunity to make a true difference in a child's life. Check their website out here.

In the coming weeks, I hope to introduce you to more great organizations we are working with and support. I can't wait to see the difference you make! Let us know how you become involved and of the great organizations you are already familiar with.

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