When I was a young girl, I could not stand the idea of children being treated like slaves. When Restavek Freedom Foundation first began in Haiti I knew I must be involved. I’ve always known that the system of restavek is unacceptable and must change. I felt like this was my opportunity to contribute to social change and improve the lives of children throughout the country so I left my job at a school to join the RFF team.
I have spent many years working with RFF as a Child Advocate and each year becomes more rewarding then the last. Although I miss the children I used to teach, I find working with children who are in restavek fulfills me and my job is enjoyable. The transformation I see in a child, after a year or two, is amazing and I feel overjoyed!
There is a little girl I worked with for nearly three years. When I first met her she was in the seventh grade and now she is a junior in high school! When I see how much her life has changed over the past three years, I feel satisfied. Another child I worked with, Jean Robert, just graduated from vocational school where he learned to lay ceramic tiles. Now he has financial independence and the capacity to create a brighter future for himself. There are many children I am proud of and thinking about them encourages me to continue my child advocacy work.
Working as a child advocate comes with many times of joy as well as frustration. It breaks my heart to see a child spend three years in the same class without succeeding or when all efforts are made to convince a host parent to send a child to school and they don’t help the child. Standing up for freedom is not easy and there are frustrations and challenges along the way but we won’t give up! We believe now more than ever that we can end the system of restavek in our lifetimes!
Francoise Leon, Office Manager / Child Advocate