In Haiti today, more than 300,000 children are victims of domestic slavery. In Haitian Creole they are called restaveks, from the French reste avec or 'stay with'. Many parents who live in poverty are unable to feed their children and give them away to more affluent families, hoping that their child will live in better conditions and will be able to get an education. But, with few exceptions, restavek children become slaves, working in the homes of their 'masters' from early morning until night. They fetch water a day, cook, wash clothes, clean yards and do all other household chores. They are not allowed to sleep on a bed, eat at the table with the rest of the host family or play with other children. Most of the restaveks are not permitted to go to school and are often exposed to domestic and sexual violence. After the earthquake of 2010, the situation in Haiti deteriorated significantly. Thousands of children lost their homes and parents and an a large number of these children became restaveks. Having a restavek in the home isn't necessarily a sign of affluence. Even poorer families keep two or three restaveks often mistreating them even more than more affluents hosts. Several NGOs are working to bring child servitude in Haiti to an end. One of them, the Restavek Freedom Foundation, finds families who have restavek children and convinces their owners to allow them to attend school, offering to pay for the education, school uniforms and books.
But these NGOs are fighting an uphill struggle in the battle to stop child slavery. In Haiti, a nation built by former slaves who fought for their independence from France, the notion of keeping children as domestic servants is widely accepted. Neither the government nor the church, which wields great influence in this highly religious country, are prepared to condemn the practice and Haiti remains one of the few countries in the world where slavery is still very much a reality and the numbers are growing.