“I look into the eyes of children, and I see angels.”

Salomon Max & Jean Marie

These are the words of Jean Robert Cadet, founder of the Restavek Foundation www.restavekfreedom.org grieving over the plight of restavek children in Haiti. Restavek means “stay with” in Creole, and is a term for the over 300,000 children who are given away by their poverty-stricken parents or abandoned to families who will use them as child laborers or, more accurately, as slaves. (And this practice has been going on for years — far before the latest earthquake crisis in Haiti.)

Cadet knows what he’s talking about – he grew up as a restavek, doing chores from dawn until dark, without knowing his birthdate, his name, or any affection. It wasn’t until his owners moved to New York, taking him with them as a slave, that he “escaped” to school and found the teacher who tutored and inspired him to graduate, then go on to the Army and college. You can hear his story on Oprah: 

In 2007, Cadet founded the Restavek Foundation to bring an end to child servitude in Haiti through advocating for the enslaved, promoting and sponsoring education for all children, and raising awareness of this horrendous practice in which over half the girls are sexually abused. The organization was built in Haiti, invests in Haiti, and uses Haitian companies to build facilities and print books. It has also gathered together the largest group of Haitian leaders to discuss the restavek situation, which is so deeply engrained in Haitian society.

Jean Cadet with a restavek child

The foundation was named a Clinton Foundation initiative last year, and its office in Port au Prince was serving 450 restavek children in 25 schools before the catastrophic earthquake. The office was spared and the foundation has responded by delivering bulk food and supplies to unreached areas, rebuilding walls for their sponsored schools, and locating their flock, one precious child at a time.  

100% of all donated funds go directly to relief efforts, so my $100 today goes to the Restavek Freedom Foundation. And let’s hope all the good people who want to help Haitian orphans and restaveks can find a respectful, responsible way to show their compassion.