In Haiti, many people do not get the chance to go to school. Tuition fees can be an obstacle but often there may just be no school in the area or if there is, it might be difficult to reach due to very rough terrain. This explains the current literacy rate of 60%*. But most people realize the importance of reading and writing and the difference it may bring in one’s life. So when an opportunity arises to learn, people are eager to participate.

Restavek Freedom has literacy programs in several regions. The classes aim at teaching the students how to read and write at a 2nd grade level and to get some life skills through math class or workshops on various subjects. These classes are also an opportunity to raise important social issues and bring into the discussion the value of human life, children’s rights and social justice. Raising awareness on the issue of children in restavek is an important part of this effort.

Around Port-Salut, we have six literacy programs including the one at the Learning Center. Five of the programs are based far in the mountains, in places where inhabitants are not able to get to the Learning Center easily.  One place is so far up the mountains that it takes us over an hour to get there by car.  There are no health centers or any other institutions to serve the general community other than a small school and a church.

In Route 9, participants in the Literacy Program are numerous. They come from different backgrounds, and despite their economic hardships and their life challenges, they attend the program on a regular basis, and some mentioned how this program has helped them in their work activities.

Literacy as a tool to grow confidence and skills

By the end of every trimester, participants take exams to determine if they can go a level above. By the end of June, monitors in the Literacy Program cumulate the grades of participants from every trimester and calculate the average to see who is in capacity to attend the next level. And then the participants in Route 9 and in Onaville took the final exam. They were studying hard minutes before taking the exams. For three days, they took the following exams: Reading, Bible, Singing, Copy, Drawing, Calculations, Poetry, Creole, and Writing. In Onaville, for all three Literacy classes, participants had a 100% success rate! The monitors are thrilled that participants are acquiring new skills allowing them to be more fruitful in the Haitian society.

The Literacy Program is a useful tool allowing the participants to grow significantly so that they can change their life’s situation. Here is what some of them had to say about it:

Johny Saby is a 17 year-old who is attending the Literacy 1 class in Route 9. Johny testified how prior to be part of the literacy program, he was ashamed of his inability to read and write. Through the Literacy Program, Johny said that he is developing abilities to write and read, and he has some basic knowledge in mathematics. He said how the Literacy Program is instrumental in shaping a more promising future for him.

Dorelus Gulvert is a 32 year-old man who is a foreman in construction. Dorelus has 4 children (1 boy and 3 girls). Dorelus said that now that he is in the Literacy 3 class, he is able to assist his children in their homeworks. Dorelus has been in the program since 2015. He said how the Literacy Program gave him confidence to supervise the work of his coworkers in the construction site. Dorelus believes that the Literacy Program is key to his success.

Celebrating literacy achievement

In Route 9, there was a party to celebrate the achievements of the year. The room was completely full. Over 60 people attended the party; they were glad to take part of this wonderful evening of celebration. During the evening, there was the following activities: singing, theater, songs, riddles, handing over report cards etc.. A remarkable moment during the evening was the fact that one of the participants stood and went up front to have a speech; she was reading from her own hand-writing in a notebook. Another powerful moment was when the monitors in the Literacy Program sang a song gratifying the Restavek Freedom staff who were alongside them during the past few years. The audience was happy to see the participants doing something that would be unconceivable a few years back. At the end of the day, the participants shared supper. This party concluded a successful academic year; participants discovered how the Literacy Program really equipped them to be more successful in life.

Literacy programs are only one part of the comprehensive approach Restavek Freedom has adopted to end child slavery in Haiti in our lifetime. To learn more about our work please visit Restavek Freedom and there are many ways you can help!

* CIA World Factbook updated in July 2017