Friday, April 30, 2010

Orphans... Restavacs... Slaves

Protecting Children in Haiti

We received the following dispatch from Free the Slaves staffer Zorba Leslie in Haiti. He is helping our partner organizations combat the country’s “resavek” system of child slavery. Zorba’s account underscores how dangerous Haiti remains three months after the devastating earthquake, and how community organizations are working to save children from slavery.

Zorba writes:

Some children that were in restavek slavery prior to the earthquake subsequently lost their “host” families and have been left to fend for themselves. And then there are children who were simply orphaned and now left unaccompanied who are falling into restavek slavery.

“The international agencies are working with the Haitian government and local groups to try to protect these children, but so many appear to be falling through the cracks.

“Many children that who have been taken in by families in camps are falling into the traditional role of a restavek: fetching water, running errands, cooking, cleaning, etc. But the conditions are so much worse and more dangerous. For instance, a family isn’t likely to send its own child on an errand after nightfall because they know the chances of that child being raped are heightened. So they’ll send the restavek child out into the dark.

“The community group KOFAVIV is continuing its essential work of providing support to victims of sexual violence. Participants trained in child rights are now advocating for children in the camps, and some parents are actively retrieving their children now that they understand the extreme harm inflicted upon them through the system.

“Free the Slaves’ collaboration with Beyond Borders, Limye Lavi and KOFAVIV seeks to significantly scale up this work.

"We’re planning to provide the training in child rights to dozens of groups across the camps. Participants will then form child protection committees to foster collective action to prevent abuse of children.”

Our work in Haiti is made possible by your continuing support.

Visit our online donor page to make a one-time or recurring contribution. Enter “Haiti Fund” in the designation window.

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