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Child slavery prevalent in Haiti

By March 26, 2010

Haiti (MNN) — In Haiti, child slavery has been a widespread issue since long before the Jan. 12 earthquake ever hit. Now, it's still an issue.

Oftentimes parents are unable to take care of their children or simply do not want to. So, they send them to another household, usually far away, where they end up as household slaves.

The Haitians have a term for these slaves: "restavec," which in Creole means "to stay with." And that is exactly what the children do.

Tom Froese of Kids Alive International said these children are forced to live with families they usually do not know. They do the grueling house work, which includes preparing the meals, filling huge water jugs, then carrying them back to their homes and doing the laundry by hand. Additionally, Froese said the kids are the last to receive food and clothing and often sleep on cold cement floors or under tables.

Kids Alive is trying to help these children. However, they have no support from the government.

"The restavec situation is pretty much a cultural thing that seems to be accepted here," Froese said. Authorities do nothing to stop this situation, which often leads to abuse and neglect.

Kids Alive is doing what little they can through their children's homes and schools in the country. They currently have three homes in Haiti: Phillip's Place, Nate's Place and Joseph's Place. Among the three homes, around 30 children are cared for by Christian house parents who show them love and give them an education.

In the homes and schools, children are introduced to the message of Christ, which they might never hear otherwise. Their response to the message has been amazing.

"Just about every child in our homes right now has accepted Christ as Savior, with the exception of a couple who are too young and some that have just come in, in the last little while," Froese said.

Ultimately, this response is the most important thing Kids Alive can ever give these children, said Froese. "I feel that we could give them a good meal and train them as a doctor, but if they don't receive salvation, we haven't really given them anything lasting."

You can help Kids Alive continue their work by sponsoring a child for only $35 a month. Visit kidsalive.org to get started.

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