This week marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Free the Slaves has been part of the global humanitarian response, and caseworkers report they’ve reunited nearly 1000 children with their families. Many were in slavery, and others were at high risk of falling into slavery.
Under the entrenched restavèk system of slavery, poor families send a child to a wealthier home, hoping they’ll receive food and an education. In reality, most kids end up as household slaves.
After the earthquake, thousands of unaccompanied children roamed the streets. Our grassroots partners helped identify which children were actually restavèk slaves so they could be returned to their families. This helped prevent global aid agencies from mistaking these children as earthquake orphans, or returning them to their slaveholders.
This child protection team, formed in alliance with the group Beyond Borders, continues to advocate on behalf of child slaves. Nearly 120 case workers are still on the job. They’re training more than 100 community-level child rights groups to prevent more children from falling into slavery. Our team is also providing children with education.
Thanks to your continuing support, our efforts won’t stop now that a year has passed. In fact, we’re expanding. Smith Maximé has just joined the effort as our Port-au-Prince-based Haiti coordinator. “The earthquake increased the many problems faced by Haiti,” Smith says, “and the destruction of families could aggravate the restavèk problem. It’s not spoken of widely—the link between the earthquake and restavèk slavery, so our work is now even more important.”