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Poverty forces kids into slavery

By January 4, 2010

Haiti (MNN) — Unprecedented
levels of poverty have driven almost 225,000 Haitian children into
slavery.  According to Eva DeHart of For
Haiti With Love
, parents desperate to feed and clothe their starving children
are easy victims for child predators. 

"Most of those parents are not
deliberately selling those children into slavery," she explained. "They're selling them to people who promise
that those children will eat regularly and have a better life."

The enslaved children, known as
"restaveks," are taken from poor homes to the homes of families that are less
poor. The family takes responsibility
for raising the child in exchange for unpaid domestic service.  Most of the restaveks are girls, and many of
them suffer physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their owners. 

"When you're watching your child
starve, and you're wanting to feed the rest of them that are there, this looks
like a good deal," DeHart said. "And so
they take it, not realizing that their child is literally going to be worked to
death."

Two people from For Haiti
recently went out into the countryside to see what was really going in the
lives of the people coming to them for help. What they found was the worst poverty they'd ever seen in Haiti. 

"They were just really in shock
at the increased number of naked, starving children,"
DeHart said. 

The severe poverty is the result
of being battered by a series of hurricanes and a cycle of flooding and
droughts. As a result, crop production is limited to
some rice growing in isolated parts of the country. 

In the midst of all the
suffering, For Haiti's year-round ministry and annual Christmas celebration
provide hope for a better life. This
year's party fed fresh beef, rice, beans, American cookies, and nutritional
drinks to over a thousand people in three sittings. Children from two orphanages also joined in
the feast. 

"They had a lot of fun with it,"
DeHart said. "We have songbooks in
Creole that also have the Christmas story. And they did a
little Bible quiz with the kids that were there…the kids got a special toy if
they answered the questions right. And
then they sang a lot of the Christmas hymns, so it was very, very definitely a
positive birthday celebration." 

DeHart explained that the
celebration of Jesus' birth also celebrates His love shown through For Haiti's
work year-round. 

"They do associate it with the
love of Christ and His reaching out," she said. "It's just the culmination of
what we do all year long, because our emergency clinic, the homes that we
build–they're all representative of how God loves them and can help them even
in the midst of a very, very dreary situation."

For Haiti teaches the people about
the Gospel even as it provides for their physical needs. 

"They really need to not turn to
voodoo, which tends to be their nature when they're in trouble," DeHart said. "It is so entrenched in their background that
when things get desperate, they'll float the other way on you. And so it's kind of a constant reminder that
God really is more powerful than the spirit world, and we really do need to talk
to Him and depend on Him."

The economic instability in the United
States is making it more difficult for For Haiti to minister to the desperately
poor. It faces challenges in 2010 to
continue its work without the support of two major donors. 

"We need some donors to fill in
these gaps. And it doesn't take major
donors," DeHart said. "It takes $5, $10,
$20 — every single one of those helps fill a gap that has been left by the
losses. So people don't need to think that
they need to be able to write a hundred thousand dollar check. Any check helps." 

In spite of all the challenges,
DeHart is optimistic about the possibilities for God's work in Haiti over the
next year.

"We'll have to make some
adjustments because of the people that we have lost, but through prayer and
faith, I see things looking up," DeHart said. "I have a very positive attitude about the impact that we'll be able to
make with whatever we receive." 

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