Children are the future, as it is often said, as we truly believe.
We also believe that children need to get a chance to go to school, to learn, to play, to explore; to be a child. In many places, as we know, children do not get to fulfil these needs and in turn they have to work on the streets, on the fields or even inside a house, as domestic workers.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that child labor in Latin America and the Caribbean totalled 9 million children.
Depending on the country or culture, children doing domestic work carry different kinds of labels or names. In Haiti children living in domesticity are called ‘restavèk’; that means “staying with” in Haitian Creole. Nowadays there are approximately 450,000 children who everyday have to do all domestic work there is to do, live in very precarious conditions and far from their biological families and whose rights are not respected.
Lejita is one of these children who stayed with a family that was not her own for 10 years.
Her parents and brothers and her 7 siblings live in Carrefour Charles, Grand Anse, the south-western province of Haiti that produces many fruits, coffee, cocoa, etc.
Lejita herself was taken to a sister of her father in Port-au-Prince when she was only 6 years old. During those ten years, Lejita did the dishes, swept, made up the beds, fetched water, prepared food, bought charcoal, etc. Besides this, she didn’t get to eat with the other members of the family in daily basis or go to school as the other children in the house.
Even when Lejita was sick, had a headache or a cold, she was responsible for getting water for the household and bring it back in 25lts buckets. She was beaten many times when there was no water or even for no particular reason. The good thing about fetching water was that she could at least meet her friends and socialize for a while; the water source is a meeting point for restavèk children.
Her situation remained like that until she had the chance to start attending school at FOPJ (Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice) in Carrefour Feuilles in 2012.
FOPJ is a Church World Service (CWS) partner that provides education to restavèk children and raises awareness among host families and biological families about this issue.
Later on, in the summer of 2012, FOPJ, with the support of CWS, reintegrated 21 restavèk children and as a result Lejita had the chance to go back home.
Those ten years of working hard have clearly taken a toll on Lejita, who is behind in both physical and mental development. With her 17 years of age, she does not look older than 13. Luckily, she now enjoys playing with her sisters and is in 3rd grade at school.
Lejita has good memories of FOPJ and says about her teacher: “She was good for me.” Lejita is happy to be home, because “This is where I was born.”
Photo: Lejita (CWSLAC)
Source: Church World Service Latin America and the Caribbean, CWSLAC: http://cwslac.org/8220;happy_to_be_back_where_i_was_born8221;-L2eX95.html
Follow ALC News at www.alcnoticias.net and on Facebook at Alc Noticias English and ALC Noticias