If you know me, even in the slightest, you know that Les Mis speaks to my soul. Deeply. The idea of being so passionate about something that you are willing to fight a losing battle. The deep ethical issues and people facing choices with horrible consequences. It is about fighting for what is right. No matter what. No excuses. Today we waved our flags. We built our barricade. We stood on top and said “Bring it!”
In the last 2 days we have heard a common theme in our group of Haitian colleagues. They keep coming back to the fact that the children of Haiti do not have rights. The government has a child protection unit that ignores children. They have so much passion for change and yet run into bureaucratic barricades.
So we decided, impromptu, to create a Bill of Rights. They were excited. Hands flew in the air. Shouts from every mouth. I asked them: “Who knows most about Haiti’s children?” They shouted “We do!” I asked who are the experts in the needs of children in Haiti?” They shouted “We do!”
Then we created the bill. It was full of great things like Education and Health care and Loving Families. Once they were done, I decided to play Devil’s advocate. I asked them: “Pretend I am the President of Haiti. You just handed me this document and I said: But children already have education and families?” And they angrily jumped in saying “They need GOOD education and SAFE families!” I said pretend I am a family who owns a restavek and you tell me that their child needs a loving family, how would they respond?” And the group realized that the restavek owner’s family would say: “we do love them”. So we talked about “What does Love mean, what does good education mean, what does a healthy family mean?” You could see them processing. So then I just kept going. I was like a Baptist preacher at a revival… I said (pretending to be the President) “You are asking me to help children but we have broken roads and falling down buildings! We have flooding! How can we think of children when we cannot take care of our roads and our buildings? We can ‘t feed everyone and our people don’t have jobs? There are so many problems! We cannot think of children right now!”
You would not believe it. These people were angry! They started yelling in French. The translator could not keep up. They started a chant “Children First! Children First! Children First!” And they just kept going. Chanting and pumping their fists. There were having NONE of my excuses. I had to give in. In this hot stuffy room after 6 hours of training, they were fighting. They were protesting. It was fab.u.lous.
So after all of that excitement, let me present to you the Haitian Children’s Bill of Rights.
- Every child deserves a loving family
- Every child deserves health care
- Every child deserves a quality, free and accessible education
- Every child deserves protection
- Every child deserves a balanced diet
- Every child deserves safe lodging
- Every child deserves time to play
- Every child deserves positive attention
- Every child deserves freedom of self-expression
- Every child deserves the opportunity to participate
- Every child deserves time to rest
- Every child deserves someone to communicate with
- Every child deserves a legal identity
- Every child deserves protection against abuse and neglect
- Every child deserves connection with their biological family
- Every child deserves equality
- Every child deserves the right to life
- Every child deserves the right to be assisted.