When Madeline’s father died, he left her mother with twelve children to feed and no means to support them. So, when a woman offered to bring young Madeline into her household in Port-au-Prince, both mother and daughter were excited.
“I thought, maybe I’ll see cars and have new clothes and meet new people and go to school,” remembered Madeline.
Unfortunately, the woman, who became known as Madeline’s “godmother” had different plans for the girl. She never planned to send the girl to school, but instead expected her to fetch water, cook, do the household laundry, clean and care for the godmother’s own children.
“The living situation for Madeline became very hard,” recalls Frantso Sagesse, Madeline’s Child Advocate. “She didn’t have anyone she could talk to when she had pain or was hungry or tired. She slept and ate on dirty rags on the floor.”
“Her godmother would not feed her, and then if she did share food with Madeline, she would make her do even more chores for the food. The circumstances were so dark that I know she thought of ending her life.”
Thankfully, Restavek Freedom stepped in, and a little light began to appear in the teenager’s life. She dreamed of being a doctor someday. So, despite the fact that she didn’t start school until she was 13 years old and had no support or time at home to study, she excelled in school, and was consistently in the top of her class.
“After Frantso made a lot of visits to meet with my godmother at home and she went to a host parent meeting, my godmother began to change. She started to give me more chances to study and do homework,” said Madeline. Even the godmother began to see the light in Madeline’s eyes.
Some things were a little more difficult to change in the household, however. “She didn’t seem to want to participate in any activities,” remembered Frantso. “So, one day I approached her and I asked her why she never seemed to engage. She said it was because her godmother bought new clothes for her own children, but didn’t buy anything for Madeline.”
The shame of not having clothes or underwear or shoes was too humiliating for Madeline. Thanks to the support of Restavek Freedom’s donors, however, no child in the Child Advocacy program has to live with such humiliation.
“Restavek Freedom sends Madeline to school, supports her with food, and buys her underwear, sandals and clothes. She also has a Child Advocate that she can share her troubles with and she knows she’s not alone. She has become a different person these days,” said Frantso with pride.
Now 20 years old, Madeline started ninth grade this year (a rare feat in Haiti), still at the top of her class. Now that she is properly clothed, she goes to church and participates in activities.
“She was so happy to go to church! And her godmother sees that people see the light in Madeline’s eyes and respect the person she has become,” said Frantso. “As her Child Advocate I want to say ‘thank you’ to all the people who support Restavek Freedom. Because of you, she now knows that she is a person and worthy of love and respect.”
$22 sends a gift of socks and underwear to a child like Madeline this Christmas. Will you help?