Stories of Peacemakers: Haiti
There is a growing social movement that demands the respect of children's rights in Haiti, which includes a focus on stopping the practice of enslaving children (restavec), as reported by Beyond Borders, an organization working to develop child protection policies and practices at all levels of Haitian society. Parents who are unable to care for children may send them to live with more affluent families, often in urban areas. The children receive food and housing, sometimes education, in exchange for doing housework. Many of these children never escape poverty, never get an education and endure all types of abuse. Changing cultural practices is a long battle, but through the Mission Giving support of United Methodist Women to Beyond Borders, individuals, neighborhoods and whole communities are being trained on child protection. Work with the Haitian government and other agencies is being done to establish quality foster care and reform laws to end the practice of restavec. One of the overall goals of Beyond Borders in their project of bridging cultures to protect children is to enable Haitians to create child-safe communities. Because of this work, children are taken from abusive living situations and returned home to family members who can care for them. One of the trained children's rights activists shared with Beyond Borders' staff that "Often it is easier to just look the other way rather than risk entering into the messy and threatening saga of child abuse. But we find safety in numbers as neighbor works with neighbor to create a network of child rights activists."
Be a mirror for us, Jesus, of your love for the most marginalized that we may live as you lived, love as you loved and dare as you dared. Take our hands as woman by woman we join together to stop the abuse of children. Hear our joy as the number of hands increases and the number of children in safe communities grows as bountifully as a well-tended garden.
Carol Van Gorp is the executive for international ministries, United Methodist Women.