Many people in Haiti struggle daily due to widespread poverty and lack of education and job opportunities. For one specific group of children, known as “restavek” the circumstances are even more difficult. “Restavek” is a word in Haitian Creole that means “stay with” and is for children who are indentured servants in people’s homes. They typically come from families in the country-side who cannot afford to support all of their children and are given up when a wealthier relative or family friend promises a better life and education for the child. They are usually taken to live in more urban areas but rarely sent to school. Rather they are forced to do manual labor, cleaning, cooking, and other household chores. These children grow up without knowing the joy and freedom of childhood, and are often mistreated. It is a terrible situation in my country that I and many others are not proud of.
Before I left Haiti I taught at a very special school called Foyer Maurice Sixto (FMS). Its mission is to end child indentured servitude because “Tout timoun se timoun” – all children are children. FMS provides free primary school education, vocational training, arts education, and resources for Restavek children around Carrefour. All children receive a free hot meal every day. FMS works to help restavek caretakers understand each child’s potential and allow them to come to school for part of the day. FMS’ goal is to lift these children out of poverty and servitude by providing job and life skills.
For many years I had a dream to provide a music camp for the children at FMS and last summer, with the help of 30 generous GoFundMe donors, this dream came true. FMS held a two-week music camp for about 100 children in choir, band and strings.
Over 500 people from around the community came to hear the final concert, which was a big deal because in this poor area people rarely get to hear music performed live for free. The band played several pieces including the first suite of Holz in E minor and the choir performed The Prayer of the Children and We Are the World by Michael Jackson. The students made a lot of progress in music and music theory and they also had fun working together towards a common goal.
After the camp we asked some of the students about their experience and this is what a young flutist named Pierre had to say:
Not only did the camp help the children improve their musical and social skills, it was a chance to show the whole community that these kids are talented and that they matter.
I need to say thank you once again to everyone who donated last year for carrying these children deep in your heart and giving them hope in a society where some see them as less than a person. Thank you for letting them know that they matter, not only with your words but with your actions.
After the success of last year’s camp we are obligated to continue this progress with another camp this summer 2017. It will take place from August 14-27 and I am very excited that my friend and long-time Haiti volunteer Derrick Londano will co-direct the camp with me. We will also have several Haitian teachers.
I am humbly asking for financial support once again to help make this camp possible. All donations will go to FMS to help with the cost of meals for the campers, clean drinking water, music supplies, and to defray travel costs for the Haitian teachers coming to help us. Our goal is to raise $2,500 by August 4. Donations in any amount are appreciated! We are also looking for donations of music folders, slide oil, rosin, reeds, and pencils. If you are about to help with that please message me.
Thank you for your support and for caring about these children. It means so much to me, and to them.
DonationsSee top donations
- Linda Jennings
- Cindy Kelley
- Dao Vang
- Carolyn Roberts
- Barbara Sublett