Suzanne Daniel is passionate about solving the issues of the most marginalized people of the world. As the President of the Pilgrim Foundation, Suzanne travels the globe, providing support for organizations working to bring freedom and hope where little exists. Suzanne has been partnering with Restavek Freedom for almost a decade and last week we chatted with her about her journey with our organization and her many trips to Haiti.
Can you tell us how you first got involved with Restavek Freedom?
Absolutely. I was on a trip to Haiti, following up with an investment there when I met up with Joan and Ray Conn. I’d met them previously at a philanthropy conference. I took a ride with Ray around Port-au-Prince, mostly on two wheels, and that’s when the scales really fell off my eyes surrounding the restavek and child slavery system. He would point out a child wearing rags and carrying a heavy load and say “that’s a restavek kid… there’s another restavek kid.” When you visit Haiti, you get numb to the poverty all around you and you don’t realize what’s going on within that culture. You see the kids on the corner getting their hair braided by mom but then you see these other exhausted kids with hardly any clothes and you realize that this is a whole other life entirely. That’s when I saw it all in a new light, as Ray and Joan see it – this is injustice walking around with a bucket on its head.
On that trip, what led you to support Restavek Freedom?
That’s part of it, but what I love is how deeply and thoroughly Restavek Freedom is approaching the problem. On one of my trips, I sat in on a church class, which was translated for me from Haitian Creole. This class was designed by Restavek Freedom for church people and pastors to help them understand child rights. I was astounded when the participants, people who read the Bible regularly, shared that through this class they had learned that it’s not okay to beat a child. They didn’t know that before! This issue is deeply rooted in Haitian culture and through these classes and through Restavek Freedom’s well produced radio dramas, they are doing more than rescuing children, they are educating the people of Haiti on the needs and rights of kids.
Can you talk about the impact of Restavek Freedom in Haiti?
I mean, it’s amazing to visit the girl’s home and see a child who was rescued come back from the dead, to move from an unhealthy psychological state to one of health and a freedom story. But I can’t stress enough how essential their educational programs are. They are tackling it from the ground up, not just rescuing the child, but educating parents and law enforcement and providing support to the woefully overextended Youth Protection League. They are educating an entire culture on why kids deserve better and it has changed the way I look at rescue work worldwide.
What would you tell someone who’s considering donating to the restavek cause?
I would say do it and do it with this organization! They truly wrote the book on ending this social ill. There is such a deep culture of health and spiritual strength in their organization, a willingness to collaborate and support each other. They take such great care of their people to prevent burnout, giving them trips, relief from their heartbreaking work. Watching their approach has really turned the lights on for me about the need to approach slavery issues at every level. When I look into supporting a new program, I think about the way Restavek Freedom does it. I ask, do you have a holistic approach and a recovery home? Are you working with politicians? Do you have relationships with the abusers? I know Restavek Freedom from the inside out, and their organization is so healthy that they are well positioned for the long fight to end slavery in Haiti.
If you want to partner with people like Suzanne, click here to learn more about supporting the work of Restavek Freedom. For information about our child sponsorship problems, click here to bring hope to children in need.