You have probably seen in the news that Haiti is facing a crisis with multiple layers: political instability, a natural disaster, economic uncertainty, food shortages, and kidnappings for ransom. The president was assassinated, a 7.2 earthquake killed more than 2,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes, unemployment has skyrocketed, and gangs control large parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Despite this, Free the slaves and our partner Beyond Borders are building hope in rural communities affected by child slavery on the island of La Gonave. The turmoil in the city has not reached these rural regions, though the longstanding problem of child domestic servitude remains a critical concern.
The good news is that 107 women completed our Family Graduation Program this fall. The program targets impoverished women whose children are at risk of being sent away into restavèk domestic slavery because she cannot support them.
In the program, participants receive a weekly cash stipend; construction materials to build a house, latrine, and water filtration system; support for health care; a goat, pig, donkey, or start-up funds for a small business; and weekly visits from a case manager. The women are trained in asset management and trust-building.
The program has been a remarkable success, with graduates growing their net worth by more than 100 percent over 18 months. They’ve developed stable sources of income to care for their families. The program has prevented 367 vulnerable children from being sent away into slavery.
One of the program’s graduates is Carline, who was a child victim of restavèk slavery herself.
“Through this program I received training and support that allowed me to begin earning a living,” she says. “Now I can care for Claudia and my other children, send them to school, keep them fed, and give them the future I was denied.”
The news gets even better. We’ve just welcomed another cohort of 110 women into the program.
As we close 2021, a very challenging year because of the pandemic and instability here in Haiti, villagers of La Gonave have good reason to hope for a better future. We thank you for helping with our special fundraising appeal this fall to make this work possible. Building hope requires teamwork. We can’t do it without you.