Meet Robenson, a Restavek Freedom Child Advocate who probably understands the situation of the children he serves more than most. Had it not been for the love and perseverance of his grandmother, he could easily have ended up among the population of children in restavek.
Robenson grew up in a tiny, remote village in the mountains above Cavaillon. Before the gang violence and kidnappings, Robenson would travel the long and arduous distance home to see his grandmother and sister every weekend. However, long-distance travel was nothing new for Robenson. As a boy, he would travel five hours back and forth to school each day as the closest high school was miles away from his mountainous home.
I asked him how he had the fortitude to study after his long journey each day. “Ah, that is why I love my grandmother,” Robenson said. “See, my grandmother cannot read or write. But she wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity to attend school and graduate. So, she always managed to make sure my tuition was paid, and she found enough money for a little fuel every night for my little lamp. I would come home and study all night with that light.”
Robenson attributes his success to his grandmother’s perseverance. Today, hundreds of children who have come under his care during his eight years working as a child advocate have reaped the benefits of his success.
“I love the work I’m doing,” said Robenson. “When I was young, I realized I could better serve my country if I had a university education. So I worked hard and made the sacrifices necessary and I am using my degree to help others. Now I tell all the kids my story to inspire them to continue to work hard and to give them hope.
“Two children under my care graduated from Philo (high school) this year and called to thank me. ‘After God,’ one of them said, ‘I am here because of you. May God continue to bless you and your family. May God keep you in His protection.’ It was very, very sweet.”
This August, when the earthquake hit Robenson’s beautiful village, it destroyed his grandmother’s house and nearly every other building in the community. The effects were devastating. To add to the difficulties, Robenson’s weekly trips to his hometown had to cease. Gangs have taken control of the only road heading south, making the trek too dangerous on most days. From afar, Robenson was able to rent a home for his grandmother that would shelter her until he could do something more permanent for her. As Robenson told me of his grandmother’s situation and the destruction of their village, I shared in the pain that he was experiencing.
There were no other organizations trekking up those mountains. The area was unknown to most and would have probably remained unknown to us had it not been for Robenson. As our advocates mounted motorcycles and hiked in with food, hygiene packs and tarps, the light began to shine again in the eyes of the villagers as they welcomed us into their community.
Looking ahead to a new year, we are committed to supporting the rebuilding of homes in this remote area. Robenson told us that many children living in restavek come from this area. Our goal is to invest in these families and make it possible for them to keep their children safe at home and stem the tide of children leaving this village and entering a life of restavek.
Robenson is multiplying the investment that his grandmother made in him. Her sacrifices are being rewarded in her grandson’s commitment to make a difference in the next generation.
We invite you to be part of changing generations of children’s lives in Haiti. These are not just “poor” children, they are children living in some of the most acute poverty you will ever witness. Please consider making a gift this holiday season. I promise you that your investment will be life changing for children who desperately want to go to school and have hope for a future.
Visit restavekfreedom.org to invest in the lives of families in Haiti today.