by Kelly Mertz, Outreach Intern
Earlier this month, I traveled to Haiti for the second time. Since being back home, I’ve been thinking a lot about global inequalities, and what I can do to act in favor of human rights for all people.
During my first visit to Haiti, I felt sadness, guilt, and shame as I passed young children begging in the streets of Port-au-Prince, or met children with visible signs of malnutrition as I hiked through more rural areas. This time, being a return visitor to these communities, I had anticipated it being easier to cope with the grave injustices that produce these inequalities.
But it wasn’t. And while I’m deeply saddened and frustrated that these inequalities exist, I’m glad it wasn’t easier for me to come to terms with them. Instead of simply accepting them, returning to Haiti forced me to ask myself the question:
Well, what can we do about it? How can I act in solidarity with Haitian communities in hope of a better world? What’s next -- where do we go from here?
For me, the hardest part is knowing that I have only seen the tip of the iceberg surrounding children’s issues in Haiti; that a world of suffering exists for the 250,000 restavèk children that I have just only begun to learn about.
Because I passionately believe that all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, or socioeconomic status, have an absolute and tangible right to a healthy and safe life--because I want to know the truth about restavèk and I want to learn about the ways Haitian people are working towards an end to this system of modern slavery--I can’t wait to meet the two speakers of our No Child a Slave Tour, Alina “Tibebe” Cajuste and Guyto Desrosiers.
Tibebe spent her entire childhood working day and night for the woman who took her in as an infant, never getting the chance to go to school. She was publicly abused and humiliated each and every day. The terrible reality that this system continues is one I can neither imagine nor accept.
I’m particularly touched by Tibebe’s story, because I am a woman who was a child not so long ago, and because I am an aunt to a four-year-old boy for whom I want nothing but the best, and because I hope to be a mother myself someday.
I’m struck by her passion and bravery because she speaks publicly about what she does, despite a stigma against those who do speak out against restavèk. She’s said, “When I’m speaking to people out in the community, I feel proud because I’m starting to bring these people who were hidden in the shadows out into the light, people who were once enslaved who are on their way to becoming something else...”
The pride that Tibebe feels when she speaks about restavèk is inspiring for me. Raising awareness about this important issue is one of the greatest steps towards challenging the unequal power dynamics that foster injustice, and so I am humbled by the willingness and courage that Tibebe displays in her work.
You’ve probably heard about Haiti, what is happening there, or what daily life might be like for Haitians. You’ve probably heard Haiti referred to as “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” In reality, Haiti is a living, breathing, dynamic organism that grows and changes each day. It has many faces, it does many jobs.
And now, we have the unique opportunity to hear the passion and knowledge of two Haitians working in their own communities firsthand. It’s one thing to read about Tibebe and Guyto’s amazing work, but it’s another to hear them speak about it themselves.
I want everyone to seize the opportunity to broaden their perspective about Haiti and attend one of Beyond Borders’ No Child a Slave Tour events this spring. As Guyto said, “because we all love being alive, we love life,” I would really love to see other people engaging in this issue, and begin to know one of the many faces of Haiti.
I’m personally so excited about getting to meet such powerful individuals. I’m a part of organizing the No Child a Slave Tour so that I may continue to learn from those bravely working towards a better world, and come closer to answering my question of “what’s next -- where do we go from here?”
What about you?
For more information about how to attend an event featuring Tibebe and Guyto in your area this May, click here.