As you know the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a blueprint for human rights for children and has been signed by most of the world’s nations. Yet a few months ago CNN documented how the issue of child slavery is still a major concern in Haiti which is only a few hours away from New York City. How do feel about child “restavec” in Haiti.
Albert Brunn, Age 14
I think that child slavery in Haiti is uncalled for. I believe that a meeting with their government and the JFC Alumni could make child slavery illegal. Every time I hear about child slavery in a different part of the world I think about my life and how I take advantage of my freedom. I would love to give up some of my free time to raise money to at least decrease child restavec in Haiti. The money could be used to pay the debts that are keeping these unfortunate kids enslaved. I feel that if money doesn’t do it we can hold protests. Eventually their government will break and make child restavec illegal.
Zuliana Burnett, Age 15
I feel sad but also angry about the child “restavec” because it’s not fair for the children to have to be put in to slavery. They should do something about that.
Jasmine Figueroa, Age 16
I feel its against the law and its sad for little kids to go through this beacause they don’t know any better and they should have the freedom to be kids and even act like kids. I know how it is cause I experienced first hand in Ghana, dealing with trafficking and child slavery. It was disturbing and so hard to watch talking to the slave masters was like they was not even listing to us or they thought it was a joke they didn’t take us serious at all.
Latoya Massie, Age 16
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.
How do I feel about this issue well I feel that they are defying there own laws and this issue needs to end in one place not to begin in another.
Shaquille Cadougan, Age 16
I feel as if children shouldn’t be forced to work. By forcing them to work you take away their childhood. Children need to be children. How would they like it if they were forced to work as kids?
Joshua Hall, Age 16
A couple of months ago CNN documented how the issue of child slavery is still a major concern in Haiti although they signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a blueprint for human rights for children that has also been signed by most of the world’s nations. Just coming back from Ghana a few months ago and seeing the damage inflicted on the lives of many children due to child trafficking I know how serious this issue truly is. I honestly believe that that we, the United Nations should not condone this, especially because Haiti signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well. I think that if the world sees how we “discipline” a nation, not necessarily Haiti, for continuing in such unethical ways then child trafficking would gradually begin to decrease.
Vandesha Walker, Age 15
I think that it is wrong and cruel to do such a thing to children. Children are still people, and a person is still a person no matter how small. I think that children can change the future if they put their mind to it. They should ask the children what they want to do and ask them for their ideas because they might have something to offer.
Jenee Lawson, Age 16
I feel upset that child labor is still going on in Haiti. Child labor is unacceptable, no child deserves a horrible life. I know that some parents need the money but at the same time they need to realize that, that’s their child. The children in the United States are really lucky that they don’t really have to go through stuff like this, because most situations like this happen outside of the United States. Every child has the right to enjoy their childhood, to laugh, play and be Loved by family and friends. Instead of working for more than 10 hours a day, barely getting fed and not even getting paid enough money. Child Labor needs to stop now so that the next generation won’t have to go through this. It is wrong and needs to be addressed in Haiti and any other countries that are laboring kids.
Sayris Pallares, Age 15
Children should be children. Why should us kids have to be slaves at such a young age? Child slavery isn’t right at all . Us kids should be able to have fun , and attend school. We need an education to become successful for our futures. That’s how I feel about child “restavec” in Haiti.
Jordan Ratley, Age 14
Since the gigantic earthquake in Haiti slavery has become on of its major concerns. Child restavec is just wrong to even think about and being that its most common in Haiti, I feel that someone should put a stop to it. Maybe Journey for Change can do something or any other International groups. I feel that if nothings’ not done about it then Haiti will become one of the world’s biggest concern on a level where you can’t really do much. When there’s a problem such as disappointing as this one its sad to see it go down in history.
Donovan Rogers, Age 15
Dear JFC Followers,
Even though slavery is illegal here in the U.S, other countries still are holding slaves. It’s even more horrible because now slaves don’t have a qualifying age. As long as they can walk and respond to the orders that are given, they can be a slave. If you don’t have a hint of what I’m talking about, I’m informing you about child slavery. Not just any child slavery, but child slavery in Haiti. I want to share this article I found on the internet while researching for this topic. It saddens my heart.
Child Slavery in Haiti: CNN Covers Jean Robert Cadet Foundation
“Timoun se moun” (children are people too). In Haiti, far too many children are treated as less than people. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta recently travelled to Haiti to learn more about the restavek practice. His blog is below. All social problems have solutions, and while the attention of foreigners to this issue is welcome, lasting change must come from within. One person fighting to bring about this change is Jean Robert Cadet, who was himself a restavek forty years ago. He has gone on to found the Jean Robert Cadet Foundation and has devoted his life to ensuring no one else experiences what he did. Far from a victim, he is a hero and a change agent.
Over the last couple days, I have been in Haiti, spending my time walking around with an adorable young gal named Deena. She is 15 years-old, and was born and raised in Haiti.
Within minutes of meeting her, there were things that were impossible not to notice. Her clothes were ragged and clearly too small for her. She hardly ever smiled, and if she did – it was fleeting and purse-lipped. She didn’t look me in the eyes, and in fact spent most of the time staring at the ground.
Her voice was weak, and, her body was frail. When I touched her back, I could feel a hollow space. As part of her introduction, I was told Deena was a Restavek, which in Creole means to “stay with.” Our guide Jean Robert Cadet was more blunt. “Make no mistake,” he said. “She is a child slave.”
Strong words, I thought. I wanted to see for myself and that is why I found myself in a shanty town outside Port au Prince, Haiti at 5 a.m. this past Sunday. It was already well over 90 degrees and there was no breeze whatsoever. We were soaking in our shirts just standing there, which makes what I began to see that much harder to imagine.
Hundreds of kids, ranging in age from 4 to teenagers, were making their way down the surrounding hills that were covered in small huts. They all carried a bucket, most of which were five gallons in size. Fill a bucket with five gallons of water, and it is around 40 pounds in weight. A lot to lift, let alone carry — for about a half a mile up stairs and ill defined rocky paths.
While the water hole was at sea level, most of these Restaveks carried the water up small mountains, more than a 1000 feet in the sky. And, Deena was right there with them, and would do this not once, not twice, but seven times a day. And that is just for starters.
She would also clean the hut, empty the chamber pots (there is no plumbing, obviously), wash all the dishes and get on her hands and knees to mop the floors. She does all this while the inhabitants of the home, who told us they are her relatives, sit back and watched.
Deena performed all of this work before 10 a.m., and then it was time to go and work at her owner’s home. We learned that she was being “lent out’ this particular morning. Mind you, Deena is not paid, and she is hardly fed – just scraps at the end of the day.
A 2006 picture of poor housing conditions in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Hundreds of thousands very young children have been handed over to ‘host’ families to work as Restaveks.
All of this comes with the constant threat of physical abuse, which she — at one point — received almost daily. She has been thrown into walls and whipped mercilessly, while being made to kneel on a cheese grater. As it turns out, whips are sold openly in the market, with the express purpose of child whipping. Half of the girls have been sexually abused and Deena told me no one has ever shown her one sign of true affection. It wasn’t until the age of 14 that someone gave her a hug.
That someone was Jean Robert Cadet, who himself was a Restavek 40 years ago. He cries when he tells me how little has changed since he finally escaped his awful life. He has now dedicated his life to trying to solve the condition of other Restaveks through his foundation called the Restavek Foundation.
He is slowly making progress. He focuses on trying to get kids into schools, as it seems to be their one chance. He has reunited Restavek children with their biological parents and is working on establishing funding for transitional housing for these children, with the hopes of adoption. Deena is on his list, and in the days and weeks to come may finally be freed from her owner.
As you read this, you may take issue with the term slave. Fair enough. According to Anti Slavery International, a slave is 1) forced to work, through mental or physical threat 2) owned or controlled through mental or physical abuse 3) dehumanized, treated as a commodity.
As I read this and looked at Deena, I could not see how she could be defined as anything but a slave. I finally did get a chance to confront Deena’s owner, and you can see that as well as our full report this week on AC360°.
I caught up with Jean Robert the next day and ask him – “in the end, does this all happen because of poverty?” He is adamant. “No, no, no. Poverty doesn’t explain how one human being can treat another this way,” he exclaims.
I realize he is right. While there is a capacity for cruelty that have formed some of the most abominable chapters in our human history, there is never a justification. Jean Robert calms down, wipes his eyes and says “I don’t understand how anyone could treat a child this way. I look into the eyes of children, and I see angels.”
I believe this article speaks for itself. The internet is such a good tool because it gives people the chance to tell their stories. Without it, I would not be aware that child slavery existed and wouldn’t get the chance to blog about this gruesome story. I think I need to start thanking God everyday not just for life but for freedom because yes these children are living, but because they have no freedom, they are stripped of having a life!
To read about the first mission trip to South Africa in 2008, please go to: http://angelrockproject.com/arp/projects/journey_for_change.asp
Journey for Change: Empowering Youth Through Global Service uplifts the lives of inner-city youth through global travel, volunteerism and advocacy work. More information on the program can be found at www.angelrockproject.com.