A Child Trafficking Story of Rescue and Reunification
There is a 6-month old baby boy in the north of Haiti. He was named after me for one month of his life but he will probably never know it, and I like it that way.
It started as we approached the small town of Ferrier, in the northeast of Haiti very near to the border of the Dominican Republic. Ferrier is a dusty and humid town that lies on the lowland-coastal plains of the island. We were already exhausted from an almost 8 hour trek up the coast and over the mountains from Port-Au-Prince, but that didn’t matter when we showed up. The kids had known we were coming and were anxiously waiting to spring on us the moment we set foot out of the vehicle. They were ready to braid hair, sing songs, and play tag on their new playground. This is Ferrier Village.
The village is home to 25 children who have all been rescued from some form of trafficking. This is an incredibly large, though not well known, problem in this area of the island. Children are taken from their homes every day and sold in the DR for various purposes, none of them being good. The village works alongside IBESR (Haitian Social Services) and the border police to take in children who have been rescued at the border from the hands of traffickers. Every child’s story is different, though all are equally horrific and tragic.
At this point, I have gotten to know all of the children at the village pretty well. I know all of their names and stories, and they know mine….or at least they pronounce it as closely as they can in Kreyol, which usually comes out sounding more like “Banana.” This time was different though, there was someone new. When we walked up to the village I was met by our village director, Rosena. She was carrying a young baby boy and handed him to me. She told me that his name was Brennon, and that he had been named after me because he had never been given a name before. I didn’t know what to feel at first; shock, confusion, gratitude, honor, anger that such a small child went through something horrible enough to bring him here. I looked at him and told him Bonjou Brennon, mwen kontan we ou. Ou gen yon bon nom! (Hello Brennon, I am happy to see/meet you. You have a good name!).
We sat down with the baby and Rosena, along with Pastor Martel who also helps run the village. I asked them to tell us the story of Brennon and how he came to be at the village. They told us that he had been taken by his father, without his mother and other family members knowing. His father had made contact with a woman in the DR who traffics children. He had agreed to sell the baby for some small amount. The woman had crossed over into Haiti and picked the boy up, but when she tried to cross back over she was caught. She, along with the father, were arrested and now stand trial for attempted human trafficking. Baby Brennon was then taken to Ferrier Village to have a temporary home and be well looked after by the incredibly loving and hard working house moms there. His story absolutely broke my heart, and it took me a while to make sense of it. How could a parent be willing to sell their child into slavery, knowing full well that he would experience a life full of suffering and pain? Even more, how could a system be so broken that it drives parents to make these desperate decisions? This is the poverty we must stare in the face. This is the poverty we must break. I couldn’t take it. Knowing though that Brennon was now in the care of the village did give me some hope. I knew that they would pour love into his life and do everything possible to ensure he grew up to be the best that he could be. His stay, however, would not last long.
I returned to the village a short month later to find baby Brennon gone. I knew that this was a possibility due to the chance that IBESR had found his family, but I hoped that I would get to see him at least one more time. I asked Rosena if this had been the case, and she confirmed that they were able to find Brennon’s mother and family and were able to reunite him with them! I felt something of a mix of emotions. I was sad that I would probably never see him again, but I was so excited that he was able to return to his family. I was also afraid though. Afraid that he would now again be vulnerable to the possibility of another trafficking attempt. Thankfully, the IBESR works hard to make sure that the child will be safe and well taken care of before they allow them to return home. This put my heart at ease, knowing that he would get to grow up at home with his family, free from the fear or worry of being taken again. This is the absolute best possible outcome of the work we do here at Ferrier Village, and Brennon was the 13th child to be reunified with his family in the past year.
I have no idea what baby Brennon’s name will be now, and I’m sure he will never know that he had mine for a time. That is how it is supposed to be. That means the system worked. He will never have to know that some American who only saw him once did anything for him; instead, he will know that he was rescued and protected by his own people. He was nurtured and cared for by incredible leaders like Rosena and Martel, leaders who he can one day look up to and strive to be like. That is the greatest hope we could ever have here at Help One Now, and I am greatly honored to have been able to witness a small glimpse of it.
However, not all children have the same story as baby Brennon. Some are not rescued so quickly, and some never get the chance to return to their homes and family. The plight of trafficking is vicious and un-relenting. It is estimated that over 10% of all Haitian children are trafficked or are in some form of slavery.
That is hundreds of thousands of children who are stripped of their identity, their rights, their family and their homes. What we are doing at Ferrier Village is just cracking the surface of the problem, but it is a start. It is an opportunity to finally bring to light the atrocities that are being committed every day, and an opportunity for the global community to join together to one day bring an end to slavery in places like Haiti.
We have recently finished 2 more homes at Ferrier Village, which will allow us to take in 10 more children. We will still be working to build 3 more homes, as well as a new pre-school for the village kids and hundreds of others in the community. If you would like to find out more about our work at Ferrier Village and how you can be a part of it, go to: