On Saturday morning, August 14, the catholic parish across the street from Restavek Freedom offices in Les Anglais was holding an infant baptism service when a devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck. The walls and ceiling of the church collapsed, killing one priest, and 18 other children and family members. Across southern Haiti, particularly in remote, rural areas, the devastation rippled through communities. In total, more than 2,200 people died and more than 12,000 are reported injured.
Restavek Freedom, with offices and Child Advocates in Les Anglais, and nearby Les Cayes and Port Salut, immediately rushed to meet the needs of those suffering due to hunger and exposure in the hours and days following. Generous donors supplied aid to the children and families in most need- tarps and food kits were distributed throughout the area.
Ray Conn, Restavek Freedom’s President, accompanied Roslyn Philips, Director of Regional Development and Emmanuella Duclona, Director of Southwest Region on a drive to assess damage in remote areas of the region. “We would be driving down the road and suddenly Emmanuella would tell me to stop. And she and Roslyn would walk up the hills into what seemed like the middle of nowhere, because they knew by heart where the children in our program lived. They would head up these hills to deliver food and check on the situation of the children and families.”
Two Child Advocates, Daquino Duillaume and Robenson Saint-Hilaire were raised in remote villages in the mountains tragically affected by the earthquake. “The reality is that the people most affected by the earthquake are unreachable by most of the organizations offering relief in the area,” said Ray. “What I saw when Daquino and Roberson took me to these villages, Le Prete and Cavaillon, is that about 70% of the buildings were destroyed in these areas and these people need help.”
“But if a child is in our path, we won’t turn away from them,” he said. “Our answer is always, ‘Yes, let’s see what we can do.’”
Devastated families in poor, rural villages like these are at high risk for sending their children into restavek. Often, parents who fear being unable to feed and house their own children see no other way out.
Now, as operations move from immediate crisis relief to longer-term reconstruction efforts, plans include a commitment to assisting our friends in Les Anglais, and to working in Le Petre and Cavaillon to build relationships as we rebuild homes. Through crises and devastation, Restavek Freedom’s commitment to ending child slavery in Haiti remains.