When 12-year-old Abdias first entered Restavek Freedom’s child sponsorship program in 2017, he was well-spoken, but everything else about him testified to his life as a restavek. He hadn’t bathed, his clothes were dirty, he had an unrelenting fever, and the physical and psychological abuse of his host family meant that he couldn’t look up to meet the gaze of his child advocate, Rosnette.
“When I was living as a restavek,” Abdias remembered recently, “life was not good at all. My “aunt” would always mistreat me. For example, if I was washing dishes and I did not have time to finish, she would beat me. Sometimes I would feel so discouraged, like I had no hope and my dreams would never come true.”
Once RF began paying for Abdias’ education, he committed himself to his studies. Despite an exhausting list of chores at home and being forced to sleep on the ground, he excelled in school. Relationships with classmates were a little more difficult. As a child in restavek, Abdias was often bullied and ostracized by his classmates.
But Restavek Freedom’s child sponsorship program is comprehensive- child advocates and staff coached Abdias’ host family as well as the teachers and administrators at his school. Over time, his host family stopped beating him, and Abdias began to make friends at school. Slowly, his confidence grew.
Through the hard work of the same staff, RF was able to locate Abdias’ biological family. Abdias learned that, after years of loneliness and hardship, he would be reunited with his mother and father and siblings.
When Abdias remembers getting the news, his face becomes animated and expressive. “The news made so much joy overflow inside of me,” he said. “I never expected news like that- I could not sleep! I would just pray that God would make it so that I could go back to my mother the next morning. I could not wait.”
Abdias, now safely living with his family, is able to look Rosnette in the eyes and remind her of his mother’s reaction to finally seeing him again. “She stopped and said, ‘Look, here’s my son! She was so shocked at how much I have grown. When I came back home, I could not stop crying. I missed hugs and loving touches when I was in restavek.”
“When I was living with my aunt, I was always hungry. But then when I saw my mom, I realized that it was her love that I was really hungry for.”
Abdias continues in his education, thanks to Restavek Freedom’s sponsorship. Someday he would like to be a psychologist.
“When my aunt would mistreat me and say wicked things to me, I had problems mentally,” he said. “Then I would meet with you, and you acted as my mentor and friend and would always sit and listen to me. This has had a big impact on me and I would like to do the same for someone else. I would like to work in a place like this and help kids that were in my same situation.”
“Restavek Freedom has done a big service in my life. I have so much joy now thanks to your help. One ‘thank you’ will never be enough.”