January 31st, 2010
The New York Times mentioned this in an article today; a little poking around on the web found a couple more articles on the arrest of the 10 Americans, mostly from Idaho, who are part of the Idaho-based Christian group New Life Children’s Refuge.
Haiti is well known for the exploitation of children, including internal exploitation of restaveks–children who are given or sold to other families as servants because they can’t be fed or cared for by impoverished parents. Post earthquake concerns that orphaned children, or those simply separated from their parents, are even more vulnerable to exploitation has the Haitian government and NGO’s clamping down on child adoptions.
Having seen how the Cambodian government has spent years not only creating an organization for combating human trafficking, but has had to develop protocol and is still in the training and implementation phase, it makes sense to me that the Haitian government–what is left of it–would be extra guarded as it tries to address child trafficking concerns. Even without the disaster of the recent earthquake, child trafficking is a complicated and poorly-addressed issue in Haiti.
The arrested Americans state this instance is only a misunderstanding; whether or not it is as simple as that, their arrest is a test of Haiti’s resolve to end child trafficking and exploitation. Personally, I feel it is also a cautionary tale to groups who want to help–anywhere in the world. Be informed, do your research, partner with well-established organizations, and tailor your efforts in the best interest of the recipient community, not your own.
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