When Emmanuella, a Restavek Freedom child advocate, first met 8-year-old Judeley*, he seemed sad and distracted, despite the fun and games of the summer camp around them. He was shy and quiet, but Emmanuella persisted, bringing him candy and cookies and paying him special attention.

As soon as I began to talk about my family and my siblings, his facial expression changed and I could tell something was wrong with his family,” said Emmanuella. “I asked him to consider me as a friend as I had already taken him to be my friend. It was a very sad moment as he started crying before telling me a word about his family situation.”

The little boy told his new friend that his siblings were far away in Port-au-Prince, living with people who did not treat them well, and he missed them terribly. That day, Emannuella and another child advocate drove Judeley to his house and met his mother, who told them how desperate she was for her children.

“I have a sister who would visit them and tell me that they did not eat well or go to school most days,” said Naika, Judeley’s mother. “There was no one to fix my daughter’s hair, no one to take care of them. I was thinking I would go to Port au Prince to get my kids. But when I thought of how other kids would tease my children because I could not afford to send them to school, I decided it would be better to leave them there, because school is important. Even if they were being mistreated, they had the opportunity to be someone someday with school.”

Naika was happy to meet the child advocates- she had heard of RF and the classes and schooling provided in her community. And when Emmanuella asked what the organization could do to help her, her answer was immediate. If she could have help bringing her children back and their schooling paid for, she would be so happy, she said.

Thanks to Restavek Freedom’s efforts, Judeley, his baby sister and his mom have been reunited with siblings, Henry and Lineda. As the children kicked a soccer ball in the grass around the home, Naika remembered when she traveled to the city and first saw them. “I was sad. My daughter’s hair was red (from lack of care), their clothes were dirty and my son had scabies in his hair. I did not have clothes for them so I gave them my clothes to wear while I brought them back with me.”

Now, with all of his siblings together and tuition and uniforms paid for by Restavek Freedom, Judeley’s house is full of hope.

When my kids returned, I felt like I was living again,” said Judeley’s mother. “Restavek Freedom has done the biggest thing. I do not have to worry about where I will find the money to pay for tuition, books, backpacks, uniforms. Now he doesn’t have to be ashamed of not having and education,” said his grateful mother. “Because of your sponsorship,” she said, “all I have to do is find enough money for food and soap, and I can do that.”

I want other parents to know that it is better for them to keep their kids in their hands. They can keep an eye on them- how they sleep, how they wake up, instead of sending them to someone who could mistreat them.”

My heart is happy with my children. I have hope now. If their school was not paid for by the organization, there would be no hope for me and for my children. Now, with all the trouble in Haiti, even family members are not helping each other. But thanks to Restavek Freedom, I have hope now.”

To learn more about Restavek Freedom and find out how you can help, visit restavekfreedom.org