What's the Word "Restavek" Stands for?
Restavek by definition means staying with… This is a modern slavery system that has affected two out of 15 children in Haiti. Those children often come from low-income families and orphans. This type of slavery system is been around for years and it affects children of all ages. This is how the 'restavek' system works in Haiti. Let’s say a child who comes from a very poor family, often in the mountains, his/her parents can’t afford to send him/her to school and to feed him/her, since there’s no help available to them at a local or government level, they would send that child to stay with an aunt, uncle, or another relative who has better financial opportunity with the hope that he/she would go to school, being fed, having nice clothes, etc.
Sometimes, it could be a close friend to the family or a respectable person in the community who gave promise to take care of that child if his/her parents send him/her to Port-au-Prince to stay with them, instead of staying in the mountains with them and not going to school and without any opportunity to succeed. But unfortunately, research shows that instead of having a better life, most of those children end up living in hell and experienced all kinds of mistreatments from those who promised to take good care of them. They are being used to perform all kinds of works, whether domestics, farm works, etc. Some of them are used as street merchants while others are used to wash cars on the streets. Unfortunately, after the earthquake, the number of Restavek has doubled.
These poor children are often victims of all kinds of abuse, whether physical, verbal or sexual. But, because they are hopeless and helpless, running away is not often an option due to the fact that the only place they could go if they run away in the streets. But living in the streets in a city like Port-au-Prince has its own issues. In fact, it is a very risky choice, because they are often used to perform all kind of criminal activities while on the street, such as prostitution, stealing, and other types of crimes against their will. As a result, even though the 'restavek' situation is bad and shameful, most of them remain restavek until a miracle happens. Can you imagine being a 9 years old 'restavek' where you are being sexually, physically and verbally abused at the same time?
Restavek is a common practice across the country. In fact, this is the life of 300 to 500 thousand children in Haiti. A country that is 1 hour and half away from one of the richest and the most powerful country in the world. But somehow, many of us here are not aware of this shameful situation children are living in Haiti. Many of those we spoke with hope to see their lives change one day. Some of them even have dreams to become doctors, nurses, businessmen, etc. they are patiently waiting for a miracle that may never take place unless concerned individuals decide to help those poor kids. As a result, most of them grow up in that slavery system and give birth to other children who are going to live the same lifestyle, the life of “Restavek.”
Restavek should be seen as a type of internal human trafficking that should not be tolerated by anyone, but unfortunately, no one is saying anything against it. It’s like the Haitian society allows it to be this way. If you are aware of the 'restavek' system in Haiti and not taking a stand against as a human being, regardless if you are part the Haitian society or not, such behavior does not make you any different from those who exploit those poor innocent children.
As a concerned profit organization, we make it one of our top priorities to help those poor children get out of the modern slavery system. Some of the ways we have helped are: providing counseling, health assistance, food, shelter, and education to those children. We have also established programs that can help them rebuild self-esteem and self-values. Being an organization that makes changing lives of those living in poverty our top priority, we are obligated to denounce this form of practice and use every tool available to us in order to stop innocent children from being exploited socially and sexually. If you want to know how to help, please don't hesitate to contact us by phone, email, or mail. We need volunteers and sponsors as well. To learn more, go to get involved or our donate page to help.
Picture of a little angel "Restavek" washing dishes by herself in Port-au-Prince, haiti.
Picture of a little girl taking unclean water on the side of the road in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. No one knows for sure if the water is for drink or other purposes.
Picture of little girls "Restavek"coming from the river with drinking water.