Child Slavery: Alive and Well in Haiti
CINCINNATI—As a child slave in Haiti, Jean-Robert Cadet
endured horrors that defy understanding. Sleeping on a pile of dirty rags, working
tirelessly for nothing and being savagely beaten for years could rattle even
the sturdiest foundation of sanity and faith, but Cadet refused to lose his
belief in God and search for freedom. Now a book Cadet has written is helping
to push this issue to the forefront of universal concern and shed light on Haiti’s
ugly little secret.
Cadet’s life and ordeals are featured in the July
issue of St. Anthony Messenger. In the article, author
Jim Luken writes of Cadet’s childhood struggles and current plight
to save other Haitian children from the same horrific fate. The
story can also be found at: http://www.AmericanCatholic.org.
The Haitian word for slave is restavec, which is French for
“ones who stay with.” But that connotation evokes a somewhat voluntary undertone;
Cadet’s experiences as a restavec was anything but voluntary. Oftentimes,
extremely poor parents in Haiti “give” one or more of their children away to
wealthier families to secure them better lives.
Cadet was given to an abusive family that forced him
to perform inhuman acts of servitude, such as cleaning the chamber pots and
being kicked violently for resting while scratching his owner’s feet. When Cadet
was 14, his owner moved with her biological son and her restavec to the
United States, where Cadet was able to attend school regularly. As a teenager
in upstate New York, he was befriended by a teacher who arranged housing for
him after he was put out on the streets.
Tasting freedom for the first time, Cadet sought an
education. He received his college degree and began teaching middle-school.
Cadet met and married Cindy and had two children, Adam and Katrina. Recently,
he was awarded a scholarship for doctoral studies at the University of Cincinnati.
Despite a life on the upswing, Cadet is still unable
to forget his years of torment as a child slave. He wrote Restavec: From
Haitian Slave to Middle-Class American for his son Adam and hopes this book
will help to eradicate child slavery in his native country.
With national media interest rising, the wheels of justice may soon begin spinning.
In February of 2000, Cadet was interviewed by Associated Press, which appeared
in The New York Times and other major newspapers. In May of 2000, CNN
flew him to Haiti to film his story. Later that June, Cadet was invited by the
United Nations to partake in a working group on contemporary slavery.
Cadet realizes the value behind the exposure he and his book are receiving.
This may be one step closer to abolishing Haitian slavery. “So many people
are responding to what I am trying to do. I know God has a hand in that.”
Permission is granted to reprint this release.