Child slaves (restavéks) and domestic servitude is still prominent in Haiti. Today, there are an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 restavék children in Haiti, according to Free the Slaves. Children as young as 5 years old.
Restavèk is a traditional system in which children from impoverished homes are sent to live with other families and work for them as indentured or domestic servants. Parents do this often out of desperation. It is a way to ensure their children will survive, eat, and have better chances at opportunity. This kind of indentured work is given in return for meals, education, and equal treatment in the host family. But more often than not, this is not the case.
Most restavék children spend up to 14 hours a day, with no pay, working in their ‘masters’ homes, fetching heavy buckets of water, hand-washing clothes, cooking, cleaning, working in the fields, and performing household chores. These children often sleep on the floor, dress in rags, eat leftovers, and suffer beatings.
Two-thirds of restavéks are girls. Many are viewed by men in the family as convenient objects for sexual exploitation. As a result of this system, generations of Haiti’s restavék children have grown to adolescence on foundations of shame, neglect, and abuse.
When myLIFEspeaks first came to Neply, there were a significant number of restavék children in our village and surrounding communities.
Through love and education, while respecting the Haitian culture, we were able to teach these “masters” little by little of the moral ills of such servitude and treatment of children, especially by Biblical principles.
We also started a program specifically for restavék children to empower and support them called Redemption 72:14, based on Psalm 72:14.
"He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight."
We convinced many masters to let “their” restavéks to come to our Redemption 72:14 programming which included vacation Bible school, feeding programs, tutoring/mentorships, and educational opportunities to develop LIFE skills.
Little by little, over the years and through kindness, respect, but unwavering in our belief that child servitude of any kind is wrong, the number of restavéks today is almost zero in our commUNITY.
This goes to show the impact of leading by example, conscious cultural education, and the conversion and transformation of hearts through the love of Christ.
Today is World Day Against Child Labor hoping to raise awareness and fight child slavery and labor on an international scale. We believe that every person regardless of ability, disability, wealth, age, or status deserves all that LIFE has to offer. We will continue to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8).
Footnote: We’ve worked so hard to get this program, Redemption 72:14 to where it is and it has impacted so many young lives over the years.
Right now due to lack of funding and budget cuts across the board with COVID and the absence of teams coming to Haiti, we have had to temporarily halt this program. We are deeply saddened to have to make this tough decision but at this time we have to focus funding to keep other more urgent, LIFE-depending programs like feeding and medical care going.
We hope, God-willingly, to re-launch Redemption 72:14 in the near future as soon as possible. Please continue to pray for wisdom, discernment, and provision as we continue to make tough decisions during these uncertain times. Thank you.