Courage: A Fight for Haiti’s Future

Season 2, Episode 10

It takes courage just to live life in a failed state where gangs rule the territory and bodies lie in the streets. It takes even more courage to think of anyone other than yourself in such chaos.

The Prime Minister has disappeared. There are no other government officials taking care of the country. Hundreds of prisoners have broken out of the jails, free on the streets. Ninety percent of medical facilities are closed, with patients in the State hospital abandoned with no care. Citizens have fled their houses in fear, and many now exist on the edge of starvation with no way to get food or clean water. And in the midst of this chaos, the Serve the City Haiti team still seeks to volunteer with courage, supplying food, water, hygiene products and medical supplies to people caught out by the crossfire.

(See our GoFundMe campaign below to find out how you can support the Serve the City Haiti team in this crisis.)

In this Serving Stories episode, we explore how Serve the City Haiti has been trying to address the root causes of this crisis over the past several years. The interviews featured here were recorded prior to the March 2024 escalation, but this does not mean that things were fine at that time. Gangs already controlled 70% of the capital city of Port-Au-Prince, and violence and kidnappings bereaved and impoverished citizens on a daily basis. To volunteer to serve in this situation—to even begin to address such issues—requires exceptional courage.

And this team has for many years been working on the very issues that have fed the rise of gang rule. Many children are abandoned on the streets. Or they are left to stay with—“reste avec”—people who will supposedly feed, shelter and educate them, but in reality treat these children as slaves. And even if these restavek children leave their situation, they are prey for gangs seeking to recruit. Behind this problem of abandoned and enslaved children lies the issue of impoverished single mothers, unable to support the children to whom they give birth. These are the issues that Serve the City Haiti has chosen to address, to fight with courage for Haiti’s future.

Listen to this Courage episode now:

Support the Serve the City Haiti Team in relief efforts by donating to buy supplies: food, clean water, hygiene products, medical supplies, and so on. Our goal is 2000 euros… but more would be even better!

Below, you can see Marc Koquillon, Director of Serve the City Haiti running one of the activity days for children that he described in the episode. On these days, volunteers go door-to-door and invite children to come to a day of games and imagination. At least half of the children invited to come are modern slaves, known as restavek children (from the French “reste avec,” or “stay with”).

These are children, often from the countryside, who are sent by their families to stay with a relative or acquaintance who lives in the city, because the parent(s) are unable to support them. The hope is that they will thus have more opportunity—but most often these children are exploited as a free source of labour, never sent to school, and are open to every kind of abuse. Serve the City volunteers plan days that allow these children not only to eat together and to play like regular kids, but also to discuss the dreams that they might have for the future, so that they can imagine freedom. They are asked to discuss, “What would you like to be when you grow up?”

For more information and statistics about restavek children, read this Wikipedia article.

Ludwig Greseau, a Haitian pastor, also told us a story about a restavek girl, now named Dora, that he and his family took in. (She is pictured here with Ludwig and his wife and son.) They rescued Dora from an abusive stepmother and brought her into their home.

Below at left, you can see a picture of Dora when she was 11 years old, not long after Ludwig’s family rescued her. And at right is a picture of Dora today: a 22-year-old with an education, training in cooking, and a bright future.

Marc says that one of the differences between STC Haiti and other charities active in the city is that it is completely Haitian-led, and that they do values-based volunteering in a relational way. (Note the values on the shirts! Marc is in the middle.)

In this picture you can see some of the Serve the City Haiti team that attended our STC Caribbean Forum in the Dominican Republic, where we recorded the audio for this episode. Marc Koquillon is in the blue shirt, second from right, with his wife Marthe next to him in pink. LeConte (second from left) and Jimmy (far right) also shared some thoughts on courage at the end of the episode; Widmay (far right) and Calebre (next to Marthe) complete the group.

If you want to hear another episode where we feature outreach to vulnerable women, listen to Respect: In the Stockings of St. Nicholas, where we recount the story of the Mathare Women Project in Nairobi.

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Podcast Team IntroCourage