Prior to Hurricane Matthew slamming the southern peninsula of Haiti last Tuesday, thousands of children in Haiti were at risk of being sent into restavek, a form of modern-day slavery.  The risk was particularly high for those born in the very poor, rural regions of Haiti where families tend to be large and opportunities for education limited. Restavek Freedom was already hard at work in the southern region, educating families about the realities of restavek, providing job training and literacy classes, and supporting and reuniting returned restavek children to their families. (You can donate now to Restavek Freedom’s relief efforts now at and every dollar you donate will be matched up to $100,000)

Now, the hurricane-devastated area is an even more dangerous place for a child, and the chances of being trafficked extremely high. In addition to the climbing death toll from the storm, Experts stress, “reports also indicate at least 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents or were living in orphanages have been evacuated.” Children who have lost or been separated from their parents are left vulnerable to middlemen who may capitalize on the situation and take defenseless children to the cities to become unpaid domestic servants.  Moreover, families whose only sources of income were lost in the hurricane or subsequent flooding may soon be faced with the agonizing decision of trying to keep their families alive, or sending one or more of their children into the restavek system.

Port Salut, where Restavek Freedom was working long before the hurricane, was one of the hardest-hit towns in the Caribbean.  The New York Times reports, “The loss in this coastal town is all but entire…hardly a home was left untouched, and many were reduced to splinters and rocks. Fields fallowed by salt water baked in the afternoon heat, while palm trees the width of telephone poles were snapped in half.”


Luckily, Restavek Freedom already had boots on the ground when the hurricane hit, as a number of their staff in Haiti live and work in Port Salut.  Their Learning Center quickly became a staging area for local workers and volunteers to distribute relief supplies and begin clean-up and reconstruction.  Already knowing the surrounding area well, Restavek Freedom staff were in a unique position to support affected families and defend children from being sent into restavek.  As families whose lives depended on the livestock and farmlands destroyed in the storm were trying to figure out how to feed their families, Restavek Freedom was already stepping in to help.  And with safe drinking water being an equally pressing need, Restavek Freedom was grateful for its partners who provided safe water systems and supplies.  One recent major breakthrough was finding access to a deep well with plenty of drinkable water. This meant the organization would be able to deliver water by truck to communities without access.

Restavek Freedom’s mission is to end child slavery in this lifetime, and never has this been a more critical goal. Following natural disasters such as this and the 2010 earthquake, vulnerable children are at a particularly high risk of being trafficked.  As one organization explains, “Under ordinary circumstances, impoverished families who can’t afford to support their kids often send them to live with and work for another family. When disasters strike, traffickers will capitalize on this concept. They approach families in need and promise a better future for the children.”  The concept they are referring to is children who are promised an education in exchange for light household work – a shifty way of luring a child into the restavek system.

Restavek Freedom stands by its mission now more than ever. In Port-au-Prince, where the organization is based, and in the community of Port Salut, where the families it already served were devastated by the hurricane, staff are working hard to provide relief to families and do everything in its power to keep them together.  Thanks to generous supporters and friends around the world, this relief is reaching those hit hardest by Hurricane Matthew and keeping vulnerable children safe.

Learn how you can help Restavek Freedom’s relief efforts at and every dollar you donate will be matched up to $100,000.