The secret power you have to free children like Sonia from slavery

Dec 29, 2019 | Our Blog, Uncategorized

Before I tell you about the secret power you have to free children from slavery, I want to tell you what led to this discovery. Just over 30 years ago I unwittingly watched a Haitian girl become enslaved. At the time I thought I was witnessing an act of kindness. The Haitian family I was living with was visiting a very poor rural village. They offered to take in the 9-year-old daughter of a Haitian woman, explaining that they would ensure that she attended school and would be well cared for. What became clear after a few weeks, though, was that this was no act of charity. Little Sonia was a source of free labor for the family I was living with.I was new to Haiti, and while I did my best to show her kindness, I felt powerless to really help her. The level of exploitation and abuse continued to increase until she ran away. I would never see her again.That deeply troubling experience was part of what led to the enduring commitment of Beyond Borders to help free enslaved children like Sonia and to prevent other children from ever becoming trapped in domestic servitude. What we’ve learned during this time is that ending the practice that leads to one in six Haitian girls and one in 10 boys becoming enslaved is not simple. There are layers of complexity.This practice is deeply rooted in a range of complex social problems confronting Haiti — extreme poverty, the lack of quality primary education, the weakness of the Haitian government, social norms, etc.Just because this is a complex problem doesn’t mean that it can’t be overcome. In fact, we believe that we’ve discovered the secret to both freeing children like Sonia from slavery and bringing a lasting end to child slavery. 

Dorsilia, a leader in the Adult Survivor of Child Slavery Network

We’ve employed this at the local level and have seen whole communities free their children and bring an end to the practice. In 2020 we will be working to scale this from a community-based strategy to a regional strategy. This photo is a clue to the secret. The name of the woman pictured is Dorsilia. She’s smiling holding her diploma from our Family Graduation Program. When we first met Dorsilia, she told us about becoming enslaved as a child and how the trauma she experienced haunted her into adulthood. “I got pregnant at a very young age. I couldn’t read. I didn’t have any way to earn a living or feed my children. I didn’t see any road forward.”Desperate, homeless, and struggling to care for her own children, Dorsilia sent two of her four girls away to live with other families. Both became enslaved just as she had.“I had no hope,” Dorsilia said.Then Beyond Borders launched work in her community of Nan Kafe on Lagonav Island. With critical support from someone like you, who sponsored Dorsilia in our 18-month Family Graduation Program, she was able to build her own home, begin raising animals to breed and sell, and start earning a living. She also participated in our six-month Child Rights Training Program.All this led her to search for the two daughters that she had sent away and to bring them back home. “I went to get them so they would no longer suffer like I did,” she said.Now, Dorsilia is raising all of her children at home. They are well fed and in school. Beyond caring for her own children, though, Dorsilia is active in the local chapter of the Survivors of Child Slavery Network and was elected to serve with her community’s Child Protection Brigade. In this role Dorsilia’s helped lead the effort to ensure every child in her community is able to attend school and no child is sent away and enslaved. The secret to freeing Haitian children like Sonia from slavery is investing in local grassroots leaders, especially adult survivors like Dorsilia, who can navigate all the complexities of this practice. They know how to intervene to get parents to find and free children who have become enslaved, how to intervene when they see a child in their community being exploited and abused, and how to address the root causes of this practice to bring a lasting end to child slavery. There’s no better moment than now to invest in new leaders like Dorsilia. Through our campaign, Beyond Borders is raising the funds needed to launch a new regional approach in 2020 that will greatly increase the numbers of communities and children we can reach through local activists like Dorsilia.Make a gift between now and 11:59 pm on Dec. 31st and a generous institutional donor who believes deeply in this approach will match your gift.As of today, we still need to raise $100k to support our work to form new leaders like Dorsilia and equip them to stop the cycle of slavery and violence that girls and boys in Haiti face.With your generosity and this special matching gift opportunity in place, I believe we can reach our goal, but time is running out.Please use the power you have to free children like Sonia from slavery by making a gift now. 

With deep gratitude, David

 PS – Please don’t let this matching opportunity go by. Your gift to the campaign made by 11:59 pm on Dec. 31 is doubled, as is your check, dated Dec. 31 or earlier, and mailed to: Beyond Borders, PO Box 2132, Norristown PA 19404.

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