One Woman Who Loves: Fighting Child Slavery in Haiti

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

“They might not want you, but I do. You can live with me now.” 

By Megan Boudreaux | Twitter: @MeganinHaitiRespire Haiti

Megan! Megan! Come, see! Someone is here for you!” I heard my neighbor yelling from the front gate. As I tried to see who it was through the downpour and the dark, I decided to go outside and check. I ran through the rain and opened my gate. I looked down and saw six-year-old Michaelle, soaking wet, looking exhausted with some clothes balled up in her hand.

I brought her inside and dried her off. What was she was doing out so late and in the rain, I asked.

She finally looked up from the ground and said a sentence I’ll never forget as long as I live: “They said they don’t want me anymore … that you can have me.”

My heart broke. My mind began spinning and my world changed in one second. I looked into her eyes, held her hands and said, “They might not want you, but I do. You can live with me now.” I saw a slight smile from her wet, frail, sickly body. This moment became the beginning of a fight much bigger than myself.

I believe this child came into my life to teach me about the darkness here in Haiti; to show me how to fight for justice and most importantly, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves yet.

This beautiful girl was one of more than an estimated 500,000 Restavec children.  Restavec/Restavek is a French/Creole word:  rester means “to stay” and avec means “with.”

A child becomes a restavek when they are sent, or sold, to live with another family as a domestic servant, literally becoming a child slave.

Usually between four- and 15-years old, these children are responsible for all the household labor: dishes, laundry, cooking, fetching water and more. A restavek is treated as an outsider by the family with which he or she goes to live with and is frequently the victim of verbal, sexual and physical abuse. Most often, these children do not go to school.

As Michaelle and I learned how to work through her past, her abuse, her pain and her scars, I continued to realize the severity of this issue in Haiti. In a country of 9 million people, over 500,000 children are trapped in this vicious system. They are invisible, forgotten, beaten and neglected.

Restaveks are not often talked about, but they are not hidden either. I have known people who served in Haiti for years who did not know about the existence of Restaveks.  Many groups that stop by Gressier for a day have never heard of Restaveks until they walk by one in our community.  When they hear about the disturbing realities of child slavery in this country and see the magnitude of the situation, their world is rocked.

My heart broke every time I would drop something on the floor and then turn to see Michaelle was on her knees cleaning it up. Or the time I stepped in mud and she bent down and used her shirt to wipe off my feet.

Her sweet gestures were rooted in a corrupted idea of what her role in this world is.  After her mother died, she was given to a family to serve them, whatever that took.

The first time I met Michaelle on Bellevue Mountain in Gressier, Haiti she was throwing rocks at a bird because she was hungry and wanted to eat it. It has taken months, but praise God, she is free now. Free in her spirit, her mind and her heart.  She spent the first years of her life serving others.  At the age of seven, she’s finally learned to color, she’s learned to play and she’s learned how to be held and give hugs.

To see how the Lord has transformed her into being a voice for other people, is beyond encouraging. At eight years old she knows that she has what it takes to fight for other children who are in the same situation she used to be in. Now, not only is she my daughter but she is also the biggest encourager and inspiration to me to fight for all children here in Haiti, so they can be free from this affliction of injustice.

Child slavery. Unless we chew on these two words and know that this plague of injustice is real, they are just two words that might make us sad, maybe cringe a bit, but then we move on.

The fact is this injustice–child slavery–is breeding relentlessly here in Haiti and around the world. Unless we raise awareness about this darkness, unless we bring what is in the dark into the light, nothing changes

So, what do you do? How do you stop child slavery? No doubt, these are complex questions that have even more complex answers. But at the most basic level, we have to raise awareness, we have to use our voices to stop this and we have to educate people here in Haiti and around the world until every child is free.

For more information on how to get involved and use your voice, please visit RespireHaiti.org.

About Megan:

I was born and raised in South Louisiana and am a Cajun girl at heart. After graduating from Tulane University in New Orleans, I divinely moved to Gressier, Haiti last year. I am the founder and director of Respire Haiti, a non-profit created to encourage, educate and empower restaveks, orphans and vulnerable children. I am the mother of two beautiful Haitian daughters who have been redeemed from their pasts and are being transformed through Christ. I blog at Blessed with a Burden.

I love to sing, dance and eat. I am a passionate fighter for justice, an advocate for freedom and a loud voice for the voiceless children in this world.

Photo credit: Boy with sticks, by Melissa Breedlove Photography

 

______________________________

Do You Know A Woman Who Loves?

Do you know a woman–young or old(er)–who lays down her life to serve others? A woman who rises to the questions of our time. We’d love to hear about her, so we can feature more women who take their place, becoming the change we all so deeply wish to see in this world.

Email us here to tell us about your (s)hero.

Please include:

  • her full name
  • contact email where to reach her
  • any other information, like a blog or website
  • a sentence or two on why she inspires you.

Let’s cheer these sistafriends on.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Idelette McVicker
If you only know one thing about me, I'd love for you to know this: I love Jesus, justice and living juicy. I also happen to drive a minivan and drink my lattes plain. (My life is exciting enough!) Nineteen years ago, I moved from Taiwan to Canada to marry Scott. We have two teenagers, a preteen, a Bernese Mountain dog and a restaurant. (Ask Scott to tell you our love story.) In 2010, I founded SheLovesmagazine.com and it has now grown to include a Dangerous Women membership community, a Red Couch Bookclub, events and gatherings. I'd like to think of it as curating transformational spaces for women in community. I long for women to be strong in our faith and voice, so we can be advocates for God’s heart for justice here on earth. As an Afrikaner woman, born and raised in South Africa during Apartheid, my story humbly compels me to step out for justice and everyday peacemaking. I have also seen firsthand the impact injustice has had on the lives and stories of women around the world. I refuse to stay silent. I am anti-racist and also a recovering racist. I am a Seven on the Enneagram, an INFP and I mostly wear black, with a dash of animal print or faux fur.
Idelette McVicker

Latest posts by Idelette McVicker (see all)

Idelette McVicker