“Restavek” is a system of domestic servitude in Haiti. Long tolerated in the culture, it is finally being brought into the light and recognized as a form of child slavery.
When I first began as Director of ICCM in 2008, I learned about the restavek arrangement, whereby extremely poor parents, usually from the countryside, send their children to work for a family in a town or city. They expect the child will receive food and housing in exchange for their work. But hundreds of thousands of these children live in dire poverty with no hope of an education and in grave risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They have no way to leave and no advocate to whom they can report abuse. In reality, they are slaves.
Missionary Jeannie Acheson-Munos was an advocate for these children until her death in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. A young girl named Fanya had stolen Jeannie’s heart. Jeannie did everything in her power to set Fanya free from her owners, without success. In 2007, Fanya burned to death while tending a charcoal fire. She was only one child living in restavek, but her death compelled Jeannie to help others in restavek. ICCM’s anti-trafficking project for 2017 is to partner with “Restavek Freedom,” a Haitian organization aiming to end restavek in our lifetime.
Funds from Freedom Sunday will spreadRestavek Freedom’s message throughout all 130 Free Methodist churches and schools in Haiti by several means.
All school directors and pastors will be trained in a 12-week Justice Curriculum, and then lead small groups of church members and teachers through this course. Pastors will have access to a 12-week sermon series on biblical justice.
Restavek Freedom also produces an immensely popular radio drama that educates people about the reality of the restavek system. Additionally, they organize a singing competition in which Haitian writers perform songs of freedom. Our new partnership will bring the children and teachers in our schools into the influence of these powerful communication tools.
Restavek Freedom also supports caseworkers who work to ensure children living in restavek get enrolled in school. In the worst instances of abuse, they intervene to remove a child from the situation.
Jesus came to set the captives free. Hundreds of thousands of those captives are children in Haiti. Let freedom ring!