In Haiti, FTS works with:
  • Fondasyon Limyè Lavi

Fondasyon Limyè Lavi is a Haitian organization dedicated to ending the restavek (child domestic slavery) system.

Slavery has been illegal in Haiti longer than in any other nation (Haiti abolishedslavery nearly sixty years before the United States). Yet the sending of children to work for other families continued. And as Haiti’s economy collapsed (it is now the poorest nation in the western hemisphere), the system of restavek mushroomed, now affecting as many as one in ten of Haiti’s children, according to the UN.
Model Communities Project
Reduces Restavèk Slavery
This video is also available in Haitian Creole here.
Download full project report (English or French)
Download executive summary (English or French)
Helia was enslaved in an abusive household as a child. After her husband disappeared during political unrest she couldn't take care of her own six children and sent them to "live with others." After working with Fondasyon Limyè Lavi for a short time she brought them home. Read more about Helia here.
Life on the street is dangerous and difficult. But, many kids like this one choose to run away from slave owners and scavenge for food rather than stay in slavery. This boy washes cars to make money. He has a small bucket to catch dirty water in the gutter, to use in washing cars.
These women were all enslaved as children. Most of their children are also enslaved. Just meeting each other through Fondasyon Limye Lavi and sharing stories for the first time has done wonders. They are learning their rights, and are determined to change the system in Haiti. Many of them are trying to get their children back.

Diminishing lives, damaging communities

Children in the restavek system suffer a kind of apartheid, reduced to a subjugated and even sub-human status in their household and in society–sleeping on the floor, dressed in rags, eating leftovers, and often beaten. Three-quarters are girls, and many are viewed by men in the family as convenient objects for sexual exploitation. Girls are often abruptly expelled from the household if they become pregnant. Successive generations have grown to adolescence in this atmosphere of shame, neglect and abuse–and LimyèLavi believes that this is not only diminishing individual lives but is causing uncalculated damage to the development of communities and society as a whole.

Ideally, the child is enrolled in school by the household he or she is sent to, and treated like one of the family. In practice, this rarely happens: the child’s day is filled with chores, and even the youngest children are expected to fetch heavy buckets of water, hand-wash clothes, carry loads to and from the marketplace, and work in the fields–often working 14 hour days for no pay.


First, break the silence

Fondasyon Limyè Lavi’s first task is to break the taboo surrounding the restavek system: the practice is so woven into the fabric of Haitian life that it has rarely been talked about or addressed within communities. It is often seen as inevitable. Also, because of the hunger, lack of schools and lack of jobs in the countryside and slums, even parents who are aware of the conditions faced by children in servitude can convince themselves that they are doing their child a favor by letting them go away. For Fondasyon Limyè Lavi, there are no quick fixes: instead they enable communities to face up to the effects of restavek, and decide on their own ways to address the root causes. They match this community-based process with larger-scale initiatives: for example, to raise awareness about restavek, and push for school systems that work for all Haiti’s children.


Strengthening grassroots leaders, building a national response

Since 1993, Fondasyon Limyè Lavi has assisted thousands of children in the restavek system, through its educational support to 57 literacy centers run by a partner organization.

Now Fondasyon Limyè Lavi wants to do much more to bring the system to an end. It is:
  • Running training sessions for Creole-speaking grassroots leaders (church pastors, health workers, teachers, activists, etc.) where they learn how to raise awareness about child slavery and how to take action together to protect vulnerable children.
  • Arranging “Open Space” dialogues and follow-up work in communities most affected by the restavek system. These dialogues are proving to be a channel for genuine and deep engagement, as people start to speak frankly about the impact of the system on their own lives and the abuses they are seeing.
  • Linking up with Haiti’s most popular radio station for monthly broadcasts to raise awareness. For example, through former child slaves speaking about their lives, and phone-in discussions about the problem and what communities are doing.
  • Leading a national network (based in Port-au-Prince) called Down with Child Servitude, through which over 25 organizations active on education and services to children can have dialogue with the government and share ideas for reducing child slavery and protecting victims. Fondasyon Limyè Lavi is replicating this network in regions where they are carrying out training.