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7266: Children of the Shadows (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

published Miami Herald Monday March 5, 2001

>Film chronicles youths' plight
>                         Haitians toiling as servants
>                         BY NICOLE WHITE
>                         nwhite@herald.com
Their tales have been reported extensively in local newspapers, national 
magazines, radio and television and documented in a 1998 report by the 
United Nations.  But for the more than 300,000 children who continue  to 
toil away as indentured servants in Haiti -- the restaveks -- the publicity 
has done little to change their plight.

Through their faces, creased with weariness from the hours they spend each 
day sweeping, mopping, cooking,fetching water, ironing and washing for 
families not their own -- their lives of servitude are chronicled in a 
documentarytitled Children of the Shadows.

Filmmaker Karen Kramer spent three years following some of the children aged 
four to 14 years old. They are children sent away by families from the 
interior of the island to cities like Port-au-Prince, Jacmel or Les Cayes in 
the hope that they will live a better life. Kramer hopes Sunday's screening 
at the Tap Tap restaurant in Miami Beach will help raise the $20,000 needed 
to finish and distribute the film.  ``The thing that this film points out is 
many of these families who give away their children do so because they  
genuinely think the child will be better off,'' Kramer said.

For families burdened with raising six, 10 and in some instances 15 
children, on a farm where food is often nonexistent, the idea that at least 
one child could fare better with a stranger seems better than the life that 
child would have with his or her natural parents.

``What we have to understand is that even in poverty
you have hierarchy,'' said Leoni Hermantin, executive director of  the 
Haitian American Foundation, who helped organize the fundraiser. ``The 
decision may seem irrational to many but it makes sense to the parent who 
has six children and no food to offer them.''

In the hourlong film, Kramer gives these children a
voice.  You hear of Herode's desire to be a mechanic when he
grows up, but see his ambitions fade away as he slowly
comes to realize that there is no hope of his ever
achieving that goal.

He does his chores diligently, bathing the young
child he is responsible for, even becoming a substitute father
when the child's father dies. His ``aunt,'' the name many of these children 
give their benefactors, glowingly admits that he has been a
great worker, who has helped her with ``adult tasks'' that
she has no time to do herself. And that is the plight of the
restaveks, who are often physically and sexually abused. The
film's painstaking honesty was too much for West Palm Beach
resident Cosy Joseph, who emigrated from Haiti at

For Joseph and many Haitians, the restaveks are
simply a part of Haitian culture and landscape. Overcome with
tears at the end of the film, she realized that her
ambivalence had perhaps contributed to this lingering problem in the
island.``I have never really thought of the psychological
impact this had on their lives,'' said a teary-eyed Joseph. ``I
knew it existed but I never stopped to think how bad it must
be for these children.''

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