Conflict & Justice

Haiti's restavek' children

You'd never know it was a school, but tucked down an alley near a pier in the slum of Cite Soleil, is the Waf Jeremie School. It's about the size of a garage, with Sheet metal walls, tarp for a roof. Inside are about a hundred children, dressed in pink and maroon uniforms. That is where we found Rosaline Durici. She's fifteen and basically a slave.

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Do you live with your mom and dad? No, she says, she lives with a woman who she calls her aunt, but she's definitely not her aunt.

How did you get to live with this woman, I ask. Seven or eight years ago � it was a Friday, Durici remembers � this woman came to her home in the countryside. She told Durici's parents that she didn't have any children of her own, that she wanted to adopt Rosaline, and promised to send her to school.

Her mother wasn't totally happy with the idea, she says, and Durici didn't want to go but her father said she had to, because it would mean she would get a good education.

Where are they now, have you seen your parents since? She doesn't even know exactly where they live.

Contrary to what Durici' parents were led to believe, Durici didn't go to school for 8 years. The woman who �bought� her has four children. Durici is responsible for bathing them, braiding their hair, dressing them, taking them to school. Then she has to do the washing, the cooking, the cleaning � everything there is to do around the house.

The children aren't nice to her, she says, they don't respect her. They call her names just like their mother does, insulting Rosaline about her body, telling her she stinks.

Sometimes the woman mistreats her, she says. Beats her, swears at her. Durici only started attending school this year � and only because neighbors started complaining. They told the woman she couldn't just keep Durici shut up in the house all the time.

Does she ever hug you, I want to know. �Non� Does she do your hair? Yes, when I go to school, she'll do my hair. But if I'm not going to school, I have to do it myself. I ask her wether she's mad at your parents? No, she says. They only made me go so I could go to school. They didn't know how this woman would treat me.

What makes you happy? Nothing, she says. Nothing makes her happy. Because she's far from her mom and dad. No matter how hard things might be out in the countryside, she believes she would be happy there, because they would be together.

Rosaline Durici' story is starting to look up a little bit. She's in school now, she can write her name, her parent's names. That's the only unusual part of her story though � that she made it to school at all. Jurvelle Luckner is a pastor who runs the school that Rosaline Durici attends. He says life for some of Haiti's restaveks has only gotten harder in the months after the earthquake. When some families' homes collapsed, he says they turned their Restaveks out onto the street.

Rosaline Durici doesn't know what she'll end up doing in life. Most restaveks � skillless and illiterate � end up on the street or as domestic servants. Some even stay with their host family through their adult lives. Rosaline just holds out hope that maybe, one day, she'll see her family again.