Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Haitian Child Abuse Prevention, and Other Tidbits

Friends and fellow Haiti-lovers,

Lots going on.

Today I took a (really long) walk up Delmas to a really exciting meeting with my friend Irene, who is Quisqueya's guidance counselor. We met with staff members from Beyond Borders, a nonprofit working to end child abuse in Haiti. They have a numbers of programs to address child slavery in Haiti (did you know there are currently 300,000 child slaves in Haiti called "restaveks"?) as well as child abuse.
"The Importance of talks between adults and children"
 The Beyond Borders folks interviewed hundreds of Haitians before creating these books that help communities start a dialogue about child protection. The books cover topics like sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, communication between parents and kids, and positive parenting. They use illustrations to tell stories that are common in Haitian culture (as reported in the hundreds of interviews). For example, one story features two neighbors who observe a mother disciplining her child using humiliation and beating. A facilitator can then lead a group in a discussion of the actions in the story. What should the neighbors do? If they decide to confront the mother, who should be present at the conversation? What should be said? Role-playing can lead to having the confidence to actually act out these scenarios in real life.

Irene and I were there to think about how Quisqueya can further protect children from abuse. There is a crisis component, in which there are specific cases of abuse/neglect going on within our school community. Then there is the larger issue of empowering our school community (parents, staff, and even students) to be more aware of what counts as child abuse, and what they could do if they suspected it. At the end of our meeting with their staff, we brainstormed ways that we might adapt some of Beyond Border's ideas and methods to our own unique school situation.

I'll get real with you here. There are times when a student writes something in a book report that sucks your breath away. There are times when a student hangs back after class and tells you how they've been hurt. In the States, we know just what to do: abuse = call CPS. But in Haiti, there is no CPS. There is no 911. I have no idea how to call the police, or if they would even care. I can love a student, listen, offer comfort... but I have no personal power to make it stop, or remove you from the situation. The desire to attend this meeting today came out of that place.

Other things going on:

Tonight we went to a goodbye party for a girl whose NGO had to cancel her contract early due to lack of funds. We currently have four friends who have been put on notice that they may suffer the same fate. Many nonprofits who were flush with cash following the earthquake are now running out, causing them to downsize.

Ben's birthday is coming up in two weeks. He'll actually be gone, chaperoning a senior class hike up to the mountains of Seguin. I did that hike last year - remember when I sought shelter from a rainstorm in a random Haitian farmer's shack? Remember when the drunk grandpa so kindly assisted me in brushing the dirt off my butt?

My discipleship group is having a sleepover in March at one of the girls' houses.

Our dear little puppy Jefe comes to live with us right after Valentine's Day.

We will have a week off of school for Haitian Karnival in late February.

In two months we take 13 of our students to Washington, DC!

And we're teaching. Ben starts All Quiet on the Western Front with the 9th grade soon, and I'm in the middle of Night and Great Gatsby with 10th and 11th grades, respectively. I had a junior take the SAT last Saturday, and she said there were five words on the test that she learned from my vocabulary list last semester. Six of our 24 seniors have now gotten a "yes" from a college. For the first time in my two years of teaching, every single student turned in their outside reading assignment for January.

Small victories, people, small victories.



  1. Thanks for sharing the story of abuse there. There is a danger of us only reflecting on the lack of material possessions in countries like Haiti.

  2. I was just wondering if there was a way to help out with one of the students that may need funding for the rest of the school year?

  3. Hi Anonymous friend! There are two schools we love: Quisqueya, where we work, which is a school for missionary kids and Haitian business class kids. The other is TeacHaiti, where extremely poor Haitian children go because they have generous sponsors who pay for them. If you're interested in being a TeacHaiti sponsor, their website is teachaiti.org. The deadline for new sponsorships is in July each year- I'm not sure if a donation received now would be used right away (ie, find a new student), or if they would hold it until next summer. Check their website!




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