Rally Against Restavek
One of the challenges of working in Haiti is the reality of injustice and exploitation, the legacy of hundreds of years of slavery and colonialism. One of the most painful examples of this is restavek, the exploitation of as many as 200,000 children across Haiti. Poor families, unable to care for all of their children, send some away to wealthier families on the promise of care and education. But all too often, these children are exploited as domestic servants, mistreated and abused in every possible way.
A Movement is Growing
But across Haiti, a growing movement is standing up for the rights of children and working to end restavek, and Haiti Partners is proud to be a part of this movement of God’s love and justice as we work to mobilize churches and Christian leaders on this key issue. Since 2006, a network of organizations and communities have held the National Day against Child Servitude every November 17. Haiti Partners has participated in this event in a number of different ways, but this year, we held our first Rally against Restavek to raise awareness and inspire hope. Over 500 people attended this 2-hour event filled with beautiful singing, joyous dancing, and humorous, poignant skits that engaged both mind and spirit for the work of justice. And all of it was led and put together by the Haitian staff and Micah Scholars of our Holistic Churches Program.
Our two charismatic emcees were Brunel and Erwin, both 4th year Micah Scholars who will graduate this May. They did a fantastic job of setting the tone and keeping the audience engaged throughout the entire event.
Job Fleurimond, kicked us off with a beautiful song, a cry for justice that looked forward to the day when no child would be exploited or abused. Job had been a contestant in Songs for Freedom, an American Idol-style competition to raise awareness about restavek.
Gueldy Rene, a folk singer-songwriter from Cite Soleil fighting for social change was up next. His unique blend of English and Haitian Kreyol weave together a poetic vision of a new Haiti.
Our very own WOZO Choir was a huge hit, singing and dancing while led by Alex Myril, Co-Coordinator of the Children’s Academy.
Celisianne Cineuis and Ruderno Bathon, slam poets with incredible energy and passion, dropped powerful verses raising the call for Haitians to join the fight against child servitude. They’re a part of the church that one of our Micah Scholars, Jean Josue Saintilien, is a leader.
We mixed things up a bit by hosting a panel to discuss the issue of restavek and child servitude in more depth. We were excited to have Pastor Ilfryd Jean, a leader in the Nazarene Church, and Marie Jolène Bazelain Yzma a student at STEP Seminary and former program coordinator for World Relief with us. They talked about the international and Haitian laws regarding the rights of children, and discussed ways that the audience could get involved with the work to end child servitude.
After that, our Micah Scholars took the stage. The women of the Nazarene Seminary jumped in with a song they had written, and by the end of the song, Enel Angervil had joined in too!
We capped off the night with a funny but poignant skit put on by the Micah Scholars, telling the story of a teenage girl who finds herself living as a restavek. But through the intervention of some Haiti Partners staff and Micah Scholars, the family that’s exploiting her learns about God’s heart for children, and how their mistreatment goes against international and domestic laws. They ask her forgiveness and begin providing the care and education that they promised all along. Everybody’s reconciled, but not before she asks for forgiveness too, for spitting in their water!