Like tens of thousands of children in Haiti, Cam-Suze was held as a restavek*, a child slave. Her life changed when she met Free the Slaves’ partner, Fondasyon Limyè Lavi.
When she was recently asked to contrast her life now with a childhood in slavery she said: “Oh my life was in danger! [but now] my life is beautiful.”
The term “beautiful” certainly wouldn’t describe the early years of Cam-Suze’s life. In fact, she says she lived in misery. Now 15 years old, she was first enslaved at the age of 6. Like many restavek children in Haiti, she was forced to work for a family. Looking back, Cam-Suze remembers: “I did a lot of work. I would carry water, I would sweep. I would take the children to school [and] they would beat me, they hit me.”
Her days would start at 4 in the morning, before anyone in the household was awake. She would work until the children were ready to go to school, taking them to classes she couldn’t attend herself. While the children were in school she would do domestic chores, including hauling drums of water from its source, two hours away. “If I took too long, I would come back and they would beat me,” says Cam-Suze. For years she survived this monotony, her days ending at one in the morning.
All of this was before being rescued by Limyè Lavi, Free the Slaves partner organization in Haiti. Now, reunited with her mother, Cam-Suze recognizes that she “went through a lot of misery and it’s thanks to Limyè Lavi that I’m here today, not doing that any more.” She goes on to say that now she’s happy because “I’ve been delivered from the misery and now I’m in school.”
And what would she say to those who helped bring her to freedom? “I would lift [them] up and carry them on my head to tell them ‘thank you for coming and getting me’.”
Looking forward “I’d like to do very well in school so I can help my mother and help other people who are going through that misery too.”
*Restavek is french for “one who stays with.” It refers to a child sent to a household to be a domestic servant. At the mercy of their host family, restaveks are often abused, unable to get away. The restavek system is common in Haiti, where poverty is endemic. Free the Slaves, along with our partner in Haiti Fondasyon Limyè Lavi works to end this abusive system of child slavery.
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