By Mathia Philippe
Meeting with the families who take in “restavek” children and promise to care for them in exchange for domestic assistance can have great impact on the way they treat these children, who are essentially living in servitude.
It’s part of my job to organize meetings with parents or a group of parents, on a case-by-case basis. I’ve found that host families don’t always have the best interest of the children in their care at heart for a variety of reasons. That’s why we organize meetings with the parents of each child entering into Restavek Freedom’s child advocacy programs, so that they are well informed about the organization’s objectives and so we can uncover how to better serve the communities we work in. Restavek Freedom’s mission, goals and vision are presented at these meetings.
I recently held a meeting for a group of host parents that I saw had great impact on one parent in particular. Second grader Taina’s host parent is an aunt, who verbally and physically abused her and forced her to do a lot of housework. She once called me to tell me her auntie beat her so badly she wasn’t able to attend school. I set up a meeting with the aunt, spoke to her about RF’s program and invited her to a group meeting I was organizing. At that meeting, I talked about the rights of children as well as the responsibility of parents. I used the strategy of showing the importance of a child without elevating that importance above that of the host parent. I let them know that children have a right to be treated well and that a child’s success and protection means the parents and community thrive as well. After the meeting, Taina’s aunt told me she had been envious of Taina, who attends school, gets food care packages and transport money from the child advocacy program, none of which her biological children receive. However, thanks to what was discussed at the meeting, she decided to end the abuse she was lashing out to Taina.
Taina has since said that her life has improved. I’ve also seen the results of the changes in treatment at home manifest in the children’s educational performance, as well as in their relationships with children.
As a result of the group meeting, there was great change in the behavior on the part of the host parent. Taina’s aunt, even asked me for forgiveness for the awful treatment she’d given the child.
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Restavek Freedom is one of the top charities working to end the unjust restavek system in Haiti. Click here to learn more about our mission and see how you can get involved in supporting our goal to end child slavery in our lifetime.