Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is child slavery or restavèk? Haitian parents are no different from parents elsewhere. They love their children and want them to grow up at home, well fed and clothed and in school. Still, each year tens of thousands of impoverished rural Haitian parents send their children away to live with families in distant cities, a practice known as restavèk. They do so in the hope that their children will be sent to school. In reality, many end up in homes where they are subjected to exploitation, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, neglect and are often denied the right to go to school. Since 1993, Beyond Borders has been working to end restavèk.
2. How do we help? In rural villages where impoverished families are most likely to send their children away because they lack the means to care for them, we work with our partners to help communities establish Child Protection Brigades. These brigades – made up of 10-15 trained adults – identify the most impoverished families whose children are at the greatest risk of being sent away to live in restavèk and develop an intervention plan to help the family keep their children at home. This might involve pooling local resources in the community to ensure the family has enough food, or helping the family enroll their children in a school equipped to educate older kids who haven’t previously been in school. In the city, we work with communities to establish Child Protection Brigades too. Here though the Brigades are focused on ensuring their neighborhood is a safe environment for all children. Brigade members go door-to-door, getting to know families and children, answering questions about the rights of children, explaining the role of the Brigade and discussing the importance of protecting all children. In instances of abuse and neglect, Brigade members will intervene to protect children, reporting abuse to authorities and helping children living in slavery to get the help they need to escape and return home.
Partner Profile: Chris Adams
It means so much to me to know that children in this neighborhood now have courageous leaders trained and committed to standing up for them. I can’t imagine a more meaningful investment.Chris Adams Partner/Team Leader, Neighborhood Team #1
Chris Adams has never met Marie, the girl Reginald helped free in the story above. And it’s hard to imagine that they have anything common that connects their lives.
Chris grew up in Los Angeles with a stable, loving family and went to excellent schools, securing advanced degrees from Rutgers and Stanford. He’s held a series of high-profile jobs in government and business and now works in Washington DC for a White House agency.
Marie, on the other hand, spent much of her childhood enslaved and abused far from the protection of her own family.
Last spring Chris made a decision that connected his life to Marie’s. Chris responded to the No Child a Slave Campaign by partnering with the neighborhood of Pyèsili. His support allowed Beyond Borders to train dozens of Child Rights Activists in this neighborhood and create the new Child Protection Brigade that intervened to protect Marie from her abuser.
Even before this Chris had something in common with Marie and many other children in Haiti. He was born to parents who decided to give him up to others. What that meant in the U.S. was that Chris was adopted.
Had this happened in Haiti, though, Chris knows that he might have been sent away and enslaved like Marie. And had he been born in the U.S. a century ago, he might have fallen into a form of child servitude that still existed in the U.S. even into the 1920s.
But a social movement in the U.S. made this practice unacceptable and secured broad legal protections for children like Chris. By the time he was born, systems were in place to vet and secure loving and stable adoptive parents.
Chris benefited from the success of the same kind of social movement that Beyond Borders is helping people build in Haiti.
Deeper than the motivation this connection provided Chris is the knowledge and conviction he draws from his faith. “We’re called to love one another as God loves us,” Chris explains. “It doesn’t matter where a child is born. We’re called to love that child and work for that child to receive the same care and nurture we would give our own children.”
Chris recently committed to renewing his partnership with Pyèsili, moved by the success of local activists there.
“It means so much to me to know that children in this neighborhood like Marie now have courageous leaders trained and committed to standing up for them,” Chris explains. “The way Beyond Borders empowers the Haitian people to transform their own communities means that supporting this program will nurture change that is sustainable and enduring. I can’t imagine a more meaningful investment.”