By Daniel Fontil and Jennifer Francois
Building self confidence is not easy for any child. But it is even harder for children in restavek who often live in isolation with limited interaction with other people. These children come from poor families who cannot care and provide for them and who choose to send them to live with family members or strangers in the hope of a better life. These children are integrated into the family with the understanding that he/she will help with household tasks in exchange for food, boarding and education. In reality, they perform endless tiring tasks from dusk to dawn for no compensation. They are neglected, seldom sent to school, exploited and are sometimes abused.
By enrolling them into the Restavek Freedom advocacy program, we ensure that they attend school and get the attention and education they need to thrive. Part of our program when visiting schools is to help them realize that they are valued and that they do have a future of their own in front of them. One of our seminars is entitled “Being a Child today, Become an adult tomorrow” (Timoun Jodi, Granmoun demen). This is an interactive session where we bring the children to understand that they will advance and flourish in life if they put into practice the advice provided and move forward with respect for others and discipline in everything they will have to undertake.
The main points developed pertain to comprehend the definition of “child” from Latin – “infans”, who does not speak – to the more modern definition in the International Convention of the rights of the child: any person less than 18 years old. We explained the whole cycle from conception to birth, then from baby to child all the way to adulthood. A discussion was then held on the different categories of children for an example: orphan children, abandoned children, handicapped children, and children in domesticity. The children added a few more they thought were important: happy children, child delinquents… Finally, our speaker presented the rights and duties according to the International Convention and questioned the children on how to become a good citizen tomorrow. It was a very interesting discussion which ended with the children drawing how they see their future.
The children were enthusiastic about this program which led them into rethinking their future life, outside of the restavek system. Here is what some of them said after this session.
“These activities help me be more confident in whom I am and also increase my capacity of learning.” Jasmine
“I am happy because I get positive thoughts right now.” Esther
“This training helps me to imagine life in a better different way and also allow me to grow mentally well.” Nadia
At Restavek Freedom we believe all children are entitled to a bright future and we work endlessly towards this. Our ultimate goal is to end child slavery in Haiti in our lifetime. If you would like to know more about the issue of children in restavek or our work in Haiti – please visit our website www.restavekfreedom.org