Do you think that any 10 year old that you know would have any difficulty answering that question? Even as an adult, I know that I can answer that question with ease. I have a list of most favorite things to do. As a matter of fact, I cannot even just choose one, there are too many. I love to fly fish. I love to snowboard. I love to play my guitar. I love to play with my children. I love to go to the movies when my wife and I have our date night. And the list goes on and on.
I know that I am no different than you. We all have our favorite things to do. I know that my 2 little girls have fun answering that question. Isabela would say her favorite thing to do is play with her friends and dress up like a princess. Susana would say her favorite thing to do is play with her baby dolls, especially Brown Baby. As a matter of fact, I often ask that question to children I meet just as a way to get them to start talking. That’s the question that I asked Santalin the last time I saw her. Her answer was one that I have never heard from any other ten year old ever.
The first time I saw Santalin, I was visiting the home of my Haitian friend who lives with his wife and two children in a very poor two room concrete home. Santalin caught my attention as soon as I walked in. She was not dressed like the other children in the home. She had on a ragged dress that was filthy dirty. She was not playing with the other children in the home. She was washing the floor. I heard her very softly humming a song to herself, so I spoke to her in Creole and told her that she sings very nice. Then I playfully asked her to sing a song for me. Almost mechanically, without question or change of facial expression, she just stood there and started singing. It was rather weird. I knew that something was not right. She told me her name was Santalin and that she was 10 years old.
The next time I was at my friend’s house, I saw Santalin once again dressed in rags and working in the home. I asked my friend who this girl is. He told me that she is his wife’s neice. Her mother abandoned her and so my friend’s wife thought that she could come live with them and that she would be able to help out around the house. I learned that Santalin does attend school, but not at the regular time that the other children attend. This was all becoming too clear…
You see, Santalin is a restavek, a child slave. This girl has abuse written all over her face. She comes from way back in the mountains. Whether she was abused and forced to work just in her own home or was forced to work in other people’s homes I don’t know. But I do know that she has suffered a lifetime of abuse, and she is still being presently “abused” just by the fact that she works non stop in their home even though my Haitian friend fails to notice. I know that he wants her to have a good life, but he has not yet seen that his wife is taking advantage of the fact that this girl has been programmed to work. Unfortunately, restaveks are almost woven into the Haitian culture. It is accepted by many. But it is still dead wrong.
Santalin is working every single time I see her. She goes to school in the afternoon so that she can work in the home during the day while the other children are at school. She sleeps on the concrete floor. She will do anything that is asked of her. She will sing on command. She will dance on command. She would probably even hop on one foot and bark like a dog if asked to do so. She is mechanical. She is dirty all the time. She is a child slave. She is created by God. She is beautiful.
God has really burdened my heart for this girl. Every time I see her, I give her a little bit of money and tell her to buy something just for her. When I give some clothes and resources to my friend and his family, I make sure that I give her some things that are really nice, such as sandals and sun dresses. Last time I saw her, I held both of her hands and told her in Creole that Jesus loves her very very much and to always remember that. I think I saw a tiny trace of a smile.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise you now what her response was to the question. I asked her in Creole, “Santalin, what is your most favorite thing in the world to do?” She paused for a moment, and then without much facial expression gave a one word reply, “work.”
This is why we are in Haiti. These are the kids God has called us to rescue for His own. And we will not rest until little boys and girls come up with some different replies. – Cody