The Haitian Social Service arm of the government has decreed that orphanages and transitional homes are not allowed to have children in our care that are 18 or older. This has posed a problem for many as there are few resources for those who are older and cannot read or write or have experienced a lifetime of abuse…..especially those who have lived as restavek for most of their lives. This is a painful story that represents the issues our child advocates face on a daily basis. Yet they continue to fight for the things they can for each child and young adult they serve. They are my heroes……Joan Conn
From Magdala, Child Advocate:
Rose is an 18 year old girl from the northern part of Haiti. She was given away after her father died and her mother could not take care of so many children. Rose was given to a woman in Port au Prince who promised her a better life.
I met Rose last year. When I first saw her I could see how disappointed she was. During the 5 years that she has lived in this house, she has been faced with the worst days of her life. Every morning she was the one to be up earlier than everyone in the house to fetch water, go to the market, prepare the breakfast, clean the house and then prepare the dinner. Sometimes before all that she had to do the dishes, laundry and many other hard chores. Can you imagine how painful a typical day is for Rose. Despite the abuse she endured her days were filled with mortification and disappointment.
After a long period of pain, she rebelled against her host and all the martyrdom that she endures. Rose rebelled, telling her host aunt to free her from slavery, and asking her to stop mistreating her for nothing. She understands that her situation of constant abuse is not normal but abuses are the reality of every single day of her life.
Now her life becomes more complicated and she suffers for her rebellion. Her whole body is tattooed with the scares of the birch rod as they whipped her until she bleeds. Her host aunt decided to send her back to her hometown but her mother did not want her to return because she no longer had a home for her to return to and she believes Rose is the only hope for the whole family. Her mother advised her to endure the pain with wisdom.
Anger and sadness are the only emotions you are able to read in Rose’s face. She cries, weeps and grieves all day long. She feels sometimes like she is losing her mind. Rose believes in a better future and she is ready to sacrifice so that one day she can get out of all her pain and suffering and be able to live a decent life.
Restavek Freedom is helping Rose by giving her an education, being there for her and trying to encourage her in every way possible. Unfortunately, this is not enough….Rose is still suffering, she is still mistreated, whipped and insulted.
This is why it is important to work on the attitudes of the host families and biological parents…..on the attitudes of the entire country to be willing to stand up to protect the rights of others. We will not be able to foster every child in restavek in Haiti or protect them by moving them to our transitional home. The problem is too great. We must call for change.
Rose is one of thousands just like her. We are working on solutions for Rose and others in her same situation because I know she cannot endure the pain much longer. In the meantime we will continue to provide what we can and be there for her to keep encouraging her and help her to believe that she is valued and loved. To learn more and to see how you can help, visit www.restavekfreedom.org.
Magdala Antoine, Child Advocate