Child servants a blot on Haiti's abolitionist past

Dec 04 2012, 15:32 IST
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The International Labour Organisation estimates that one in 10 Haitian children is a restavek.  (Reuters) The International Labour Organisation estimates that one in 10 Haitian children is a restavek. (Reuters)
SummaryThe International Labour Organisation estimates that one in 10 Haitian children is a restavek.

read and write, malnourished and with scars from beatings. Sexual abuse, including rape, is not uncommon.

"They've all been deprived of love and maternal affection," said psychologist Luckenson Dardompre, who works and lives at the refuge.

"But the source of their trauma is the mistreatment they've received for years, including rape and sexual abuse. Many are beaten by the families they live with, by the father, mother, uncles and aunts."

The abuse, isolation and loneliness restaveks have endured is hard for them to overcome, he said. "Some have suicidal thoughts. Other children will tell you about the abuse they've experienced using exactly the same words every time for weeks. It's something they can't forget," Dardompre said.

SAFE HAVEN

The spacious and clean refuge, with its mountain and sea views, is a safe haven for the children. Here they receive three meals a day, go to school and play.

Inside the girls' plain dormitory are rows of neatly made bunk beds. For the first time in her life, Denois can sleep on a proper bed and not on the floor. She cherishes her few belongings - a toothbrush and cup, a teddy bear, some pens and a change of clothes - which she keeps in her own locker.

"Before I never had the time to play and now I do. No-one bothers me. I found people that love me, they give me what I need," Denois said.

At the canteen during lunchtime, the only sound that can be heard is the clatter of forks on plates as children tuck into a meal of rice and beans.

After lunch, the children play dominoes, cards, and a game of musical chairs. Some crowd around a book to hear the story of Aladdin read aloud by a teacher. Several girls play with a doll's house, others plait each others' hair.

"Some children when they first arrive here, go through rubbish bins looking for food," said Dardompre. "The routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner, brushing their teeth in the morning, washing their hands - this is all new to them." Mondesir and her staff do their best to give the children an education. Inside the brightly painted green and pink classrooms, they learn how to use computers, to read and write, and other skills like sewing.

Mondesir hopes it will allow the children to fend for themselves and get a job when they leave the

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