Stories

I know you are, but what am I?

When traveling to Haiti, I always carry a deck of cards. You’d be amazed how quickly a small crowd gathers when the cards come out – there is something universal about kids, always ready to laugh and play. Kids being kids.

So when something is out of kilter, it shows. On one trip I started some magic tricks and saw, out past a circle of smiling faces, one girl standing off by herself. I waved her over, but she had no emotion, no response, would not join the fun.

Come to find out, the other kids knew what I didn’t – she was not welcome, because she was a restavek. Taken in by a family who could afford to keep her, in exchange for work. Even when restavek children are not physically abused or neglected, they are always pushed to the fringe, reminded privately and publicly that they do not belong to the family or the community. Just like other children around her, but totally alone. This takes a tremendous toll.

We work with partners like the Restavek Foundation to prevent abuse and atrocities from happening to these children. But we also work to change foundational perceptions, by simply valuing these children as people. Paying for school uniforms or creating afterschool programs are actions that move someone from exclusion to inclusion – and so are statements of value.

We work with restaveks because they are kids, because they are people. Even if a host family, school system or country doesn’t notice right away – you can bet that the child does. And in that moment she just might start to wonder, and imagine, and feel what it means to be a kid again.

- JS

Learn about preventing abuse and changing perception for restavek children by visiting the Restavek Foundation

HELP FOR THE HELPERS

Standing before a group of conference attendees made up of staff of organizations working with trafficking survivors, Helen Sworn, International Director of Chab Dai Coalition, lays a rope across the floor to represent the edge of a cliff. She asks those in the room to rise and move to a place in relation to that cliff that represents the well being of those in their care. “Are they at the edge of the cliff? Have they gone over?,” she asks.  Many stand at the edge of the cliff, several move over the cliff.

Then Helen asks everyone to stand at the place that represents their own well being as caregivers of these survivors. Perhaps not too surprising, many of these caregivers quickly move to the edge, some with their toes hanging over; one even goes over the edge. Working with traumatized victims of trafficking often leads to secondary trauma for caregivers of these victims. To continually provide such care in an isolated environment increases the likelihood of staff burnout, thus reducing the level of care for trafficking victims.

Chab Dai (“Joining Hands” in Khmer) is a coalition of over 50 organizations in Cambodia working together to end sexual abuse and trafficking. One of the many activities of Chab Dai is to offer support that builds the strength and capacity of caregivers who are looking over the edge of the cliff.  Creating an environment where they can come together for mutual support and learning reduces isolation and the dangers that such isolation creates. Working in collaboration also increases access to information, expertise, and financial resources as well as improving effective programming.

Collaboration of numerous organizations working on a variety of projects is crucial for addressing the complexities of human trafficking.

- JF

Learn about joining hands with Chab Dai, Connect with Equitas. partners working in Southeast Asia…