Remember what it was like to be a teenager? You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to that time in my own life! Navigating the jungle of changing hormones, college applications and peer pressure was rough — but imagine what it’s like to be a poor teenager in a developing country? Rather than worry about being popular, most of these kids are focused on surviving!
On a recent trip to Haiti, I met with several teenagers who have faced big obstacles, but are persevering and dreaming about the future in spite of their difficulties. These young men and women are restaveks, Haiti’s version of an indentured servant.
When destitute parents don’t have the resources to care for their children, they will send them into the city to work as a domestic servant in another family’s home. The idea is that these restaveks will have a place to stay, be able to eat regularly and have their basic needs met.
Unfortunately, these teens don’t always end up in good situations. Many restaveks are treated like second class residents of the home, going without food and sometimes experiencing abuse.
That’s why Cross International partners with MEBSH ((Mission Evagelique Baptiste du Sud D’Haiti) Christian schools, a ministry focused on helping Haiti’s restaveks become literate so they can break free out of the cycle of poverty. These schools provide books, uniforms and a daily meal — ensuring students get the nutrition they need.
“The food is important. I come from home starving,” 16-year-old Dadoute Pierre told me. “I know for sure I will get food here. Sometimes there is nothing at home.”
In Dadoute’s case, she told me that father moved her to the city to work as a restavek after her mother died. This floored me. When I was her age, I was worried about passing my driver’s test and getting into the college of my choice, not what I was going to eat for my next meal or working as a servant in a stranger’s home.
Despite her difficult situation, Dadoute knows she can count on MEBSH for support. She has teachers who care about her future and her spiritual condition.
“My teacher is a good teacher,” she told me. “She loves me. Before I came, I didn’t know how to read and write.”
Her teacher has also helped her learn God’s Word, giving her hope in the midst of a dark situation. She draws inspiration from Acts 16, where her favorite Bible story is located.
“I like the story when Paul and Silas are in prison and the earthquake comes, but they didn’t escape, and then the jailor becomes a Christian!” she said. “I like what they did. I didn’t know that people put in prison would still be praising God.”
With a biblical example to praise the Lord in difficult circumstances, Dadoute is overcoming her circumstances with Jesus by her side. Her joy is contagious, her faith is strong and her courage warmed my heart.
Please take a moment to pray for teenagers in developing countries like Dadoute who are carrying heavy burdens. Ask God to protect them, shower them with his love, and provide for their needs.