By Robenson Saint-Hilaire, Child advocate

There is no doubt that education is the best way to succeed in life. The key to open many doors, education is manifold and encompasses basic skills such as reading and writing, but also social skills allowing one to interact confidently with others. It requires the presence of an adult to provide guidance, content, a role model if needed. School is one such space allowing children to thrive and develop their capacities.

Etherson’s story impersonates this power of school and education. He is one of the many children living in restavek in Haiti. His parents could not provide for him and gave him to a host family in the hope of a better future. In reality, he became a slave, working long hours to perform household tasks with no compensation. His situation got even worse as he changed houses many times. In every home, he was considered as worthless and faced ill-treatment.

Etherson enrolled in Restavek Freedom’s program in 2011 when he was 10 years old.  Every time I meet with him, I encourage him to keep his chin up. I help him to gain self-esteem and I show him the importance of school, and how it can change his life.  With our support, he started to have better grades in school. And more importantly, he started to see himself in a different way.

Summer camp revealed Etherson’s hidden gift 

Last year, during summer camp, he surprised everyone when he made sandals in handicraft. Summer camps are great opportunities to discover new things, outside the school curriculum. We try to introduce children to arts and crafts to broaden their perspective. This is how Etherson got inspired and made the sandals. This creation is changing his relationship with the members of his host family in a positive way. And at school, everybody knows now that he is very intelligent and has a creative spirit.

Today, Etherson is proud and has gained confidence. He is pleased to be able to teach others kids how to make sandals. Thanks to Restavek Freedom, Etherson is able to go to school and discover his talents. As his Child advocate, I am pleased to see him becoming a stronger person and I can say his life has changed dramatically because now he sees that he has a bright future.

Want to learn more about our work to end child slavery in Haiti? Pease visit Restavek Freedom !