Restavek Freedom Foundation

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Oct 8

NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN

With only a 48.7%* literacy rate, many Haitians are eager to learn how to read and write. Restavek Freedom’s Literacy Program teaches these important life skills and uses the classroom as a place to discuss the value of human life, children’s rights and social justice issues. Djougine D. St. Hilaire has been working with our literacy program in Port-au-Prince since it began in 2010.

Restavek Freedom’s mission is to end the restavek system in Haiti in our lifetime. Therefore, we incorporate discussions on social issues, the treatment of children, and subjects like respect, forgiveness, and kindness into all of our programming.

The objectives of our literacy program are to teach all of our students how to read and write at a 2nd grade level and to raise community awareness about the issue of restavek. When we speak to community members in our classrooms we ask them not to mistreat any child. We discuss the consequences of having too many children, and host maternity health sessions to teach women about their bodies and childbirth. We make a conscious effort to include many different kinds of people in the literacy program, and at the end of the school year each of our participants receive a completion certificate.

{Women taking their final exams, wearing their uniforms. Go ladies!}

Teaching literacy to adults is different than teaching to children, because many adults are able to function in their daily lives while being illiterate. Our literacy program uses teaching methods that are specialized for them and make the learning process as easy as possible. Illiteracy becomes a problem in Haiti when people are asked to read an important document, sign their name on their child’s report card, or read the Haitian Creole Bible in church. Our participants begin with learning individual letters, reading basic words, and solving basic math problems. The students who sell commerce can complete math problems when they are presented in the form of currency but do not understand 1+9=10 when it is written. After two years in our program most participants are ready to begin first grade and wonder why they didn’t start the program several years earlier. When our students are able to write their name on a document instead of using a cross or a dot for the first time it is a dream come true.

From 2010 - 2013 we educated more than 300 women and 25 men. Two of our students, Anita and Madam Jo, recently shared with me how the literacy program has impacted their lives. Anita began our program last January when she decided that she wanted to be able to sign her name on her marriage license. She had heard about our program from a friend and came to check it out for a few days. She ended up staying the rest of the year! Anita shared with me that she has “five children and I cannot read and write that’s a shame” she went on to say “the father of my children met me when I was very young, he went to school and did not finish but he certainly won’t look like an illiterate fool on our wedding day; I will.” Anita now knows not to only how to read and write her own name but also her children’s names as well. She shared with me how much happier she is now that she doesn’t have to ask her children to read and write for her. Madam Jo was also happy to read and write for herself after completing our program. Madam Jo is married to a voodoo priest and has 8 children. She told me she used to have her children write her lottery numbers for her whenever she had a dream about them. She began coming to our program in the beginning of last school year. She was always embarrassed to ask her kids to write on her behalf. She told me “Madam, I am a grown woman and I always feel like a child asking my children to read and write for me.” Madam Jo worked so hard during the school year and now she can write her own name and the names of all her children. She no longer needs to ask her children to write down lottery numbers for her! The literacy program also gave her a place to form new friendships and learn many new things about maternity and women’s health.

{Happy to be learning to read and write!}

If we can continue to instill self-esteem, self-worth, and the importance of family and education into the women of Haiti they will be less likely to have as many children and less likely to send them into restavek. The literacy program is an integral part of our mission to end child slavery and we are eager to implement it in communities all over Haiti.

*The World Fact Book

{Students receiving their certificates of completion!}

Djougine St. Hilaire, Child Advocate & Special Projects Coordinator